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Keeping tabs on the City Council's activities so you don't have to

By Edward Ericson Jr. | Posted 10/15/2008

On the Agenda for Oct. 8

Bill 08-0213 Vacant Lot Registration--Exceptions This would allow people who buy vacant lots from the city to extend their yard or create a parking pad next to their home to forego the $25 "vacant lot registration fee" otherwise charged to such land owners. It also allows for no fee if the lot in question "extends into Baltimore County" or connects to any nonvacant lot (not just a principal residence) owned by the same person.

The Read: "Folks have been charged registration fees for lots that they have been taking care of for years, side lots used for parking," 3rd District Councilman Robert Curran says. Charging these good citizens a $25 vacant lot fee "is, I believe, an injustice."

Bill 08-0214 Illegal Dumping--Penalties--Enforcement Increases fines for illegal dumping.

The Read: "We need cleaner and stronger neighborhoods," City Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake says. "We need to be tough on those who completely disregard the law and deface our city." She proposes that they pay the cost of cleanup, plus up to double that, plus a $200 fine. And if the culprit was a city contractor, they're not anymore.

Resolution 08-0070R Informational Hearing--Vector Control Asks the city's rat patrol to brief the council on its battle plan.

The Read: "When I walk in the neighborhoods, people generally want to show me where the rat holes are," Rawlings-Blake says. A Baltimore Sun story on the matter posited that the city may harbor 3 million rats, and said a comprehensive rat census has not been taken for 50 years. But a City Paper reporter two years ago ("Rats," Feature, Oct. 18, 2006) spoke to Judy Easterbrook, a Johns Hopkins Ph.D. candidate who did her own rat census and published her results in the journal Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases. Her count: 48,420 rats in the city's residential neighborhoods, within a margin of error of 14,833 rats.

Budget Your Time

Council members asked that several "voter education" city budget meetings be postponed because Mayor Sheila Dixon's office had not coordinated them with council members. The meetings--conceived as a way to bring the budget process out to the neighborhoods well in advance of the traditional "taxpayers nights"--were coordinated through the Mayor's Office of Neighborhoods, and council members praised the concept. But when the initial meetings, planned for Oct. 14 at Pimlico Race Course and Oct. 21 at Mount Royal Elementary School, were announced at the council meeting, several council members said they could not attend. "I think these things should be canceled and rescheduled," First District Councilman James Kraft said. Twelfth District Councilman Bernard "Jack" Young called the lack of coordination "an affront."

Looks like the council got what it wanted. "The first round of dates were preliminary," says Ian Brennan, a spokesman at the mayor's office. "We're still working on coordinating the dates."

We'll let you know the whens and wheres as soon as we know.

City Council Quote of the Week

"This may well be the law, but it's not what happens every day." --James Kraft, in explaining his vote against Bill 08-0140, which is meant to tighten regulations on commercial trash haulers near residences.

The next City Council meeting is scheduled for Oct. 27 at 5 p.m.

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