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Campaign Beat

Vote Hellbender 2008

City Bond Issues Include Money For Schools, Bathhouses, and a 2-Foot-Long Salamander in Every Pot

Jeff Humphries, Www.Hellbenders.Org
Cryptobranchus alleganiensis

By Chris Landers | Posted 10/15/2008

You know the drill. On Nov. 4 you'll head down to the polling place, cast your vote for president, maybe weigh in on the slots, and then . . . well, then there's all this other stuff.

The city bond issues--$125 million worth of them. The names are familiar--the zoo, for instance, wants $300,000 dollars, according to the ballot, "for the acquisition of land or property; and for the construction, erection, renovation, alteration, reconstruction, installation, improvement and repair of building, structures, or facilities to be used by or in connection with the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore."

It goes on, but it really doesn't tell you anything other than that the zoo wants $300,000. Everyone likes the zoo, or at least knows what it is, and the bond issue, like almost all of them, will most likely be approved. But what if they told you it was for a new exhibit for the hellbenders--huge salamanders native to Maryland--and to give the prairie dogs a new home? You're pushing that button with a little more political conviction now, right? Hellbenders, yes.

We asked the institutions involved in the bond issues what they wanted the money for. Their complete answers will be posted on our web site, and in cases where they didn't get back to us, this information comes from a brochure from the city Planning Department, which is also available online. The department's Laurie Feinberg says the city will kick off a public-information campaign when the election gets closer, and they're handing out pamphlets at community meetings already, but the information won't be at the polling places, because the city's vote yes brochures would be considered electioneering.

In addition to the hellbenders and prairie dogs, here are the other loans up for a vote and what they'll be going toward.

Who: Maryland Science Center
How much: $400,000
What it's for: A green roof and 6,600 square feet of education space.

Who: Walters Art Museum
How much: $350,000
What it's for: Designing and adding up to 120,000 square feet to the museum.

Who: Meyerhoff Symphony Hall
How Much: $300,000
What it's for: Repairing the roof.

Who: National Aquarium in Baltimore
How Much: $500,000
What it's for: Upgrading the animals' life-support systems.

Who: Enoch Pratt Free Library
How Much: $3 million
What it's for: Improvements to the library branches in Canton, Waverly, and Hampden.

Who: Port Discovery
How Much: $600,000
What it's for: Green building renovations.

Who: Baltimore Museum of Art
How Much: $750,000
What it's for: Museum renovations.

Who: Lyric Opera House
How Much: $1 million
What it's for: Improvements to the technical systems, orchestra pit, and auditorium, enlarging the stage-house.

Who: Baltimore City (Schools)
How Much: $43 million
What it's for: School construction and improvement.

Who: Everyman Theatre
How Much: $500,000
What it's for: Moving to a new building on the west side.

Who: Baltimore City (Community Development)
How Much: $30.5 million
What it's for: Projects include mixed-income housing in Greenmount West, buying and razing properties near American Brewery, Healthy Neighborhood loans, and homeownership programs.

Who: Baltimore City (Recreation and Parks)
How Much: $16 million
What it's for: Rec centers in Cherry Hill and Patterson Park, Baltimore Rowing and Resource Center, and renovating the bathhouse at Druid Hill Park pool.

Who: Baltimore City (Economic Development)
How Much: $15.3 million
What it's for: Projects including west-side redevelopment and School 33 Art Center renovation.

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