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

By Edward Ericson Jr. | Posted 3/11/2009

On the agenda for March 2

Bill 09-0291--Gun Offender Registration. In 2007, Baltimore began requiring those convicted of gun crimes to register with the police. The addresses remain on file for three years, and the penalty for not keeping current is a year in the slammer, or a fine of not more than $1,000, or both. This would expand the registration requirements to include some juvenile offenders.

The Read: The bill looks like a cleanup of the original language, but includes some curious provisions. The bill changes the time a gun offender is required to acknowledge their duty to register from when-convicted to "when requested to do so." Also, in the definitions section, the bill changes the word "adult" to "person," presumably to include juveniles charged with gun crimes in the adult court system. The council sent the bill to committee without comment, but the bill, submitted by the mayor's office, raised eyebrows during the council's work session, according to Councilman Bill Cole (D-11th District). "I was incredulous," he says. "I don't understand how, if a juvenile was charged as a juvenile, I don't know how you could compel them to register," because juvenile case records are secret.

Bill 09-0293--Downtown Management District--Adjustment of Boundaries. This would extend the Downtown Management District--a special taxing district that provides enhanced cleanup and security in exchange for a 13-cents per $100 of assessed value property-tax surcharge--one block west from Howard Street to Eutaw, from the 300 block to the 800 block.

The Read: Tom Yeager, executive vice president of the "clean and safe" program for the Downtown Partnership, says his organization has been cleaning the streets at no charge for about two years anyway, as part of the partnership's efforts to bolster Lexington Market. "We sent letters out to all the property owners" seeking comment on the move to start charging, he says. None of the 29 business property owners came to the Jan. 30 public hearing, he says. (Non-profits, and the 53 residential properties in the area, would be exempt from the tax.)

08-0252--Snow and Ice Removal--Sidewalks. This is to transfer responsibility for clearing the sidewalk from tenants to property owners.

The Read: The idea is that the property owner is always responsible; the bill, now in third reader, would make the city's snow-removal ordinance conform to the other ordinances involving property maintenance. It is still legal for a lease to require a tenant to shovel the walk, but if it doesn't get done, the owner will get cited, not the tenant. Says Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke (D-14th District): "I would just like to say to those watching on TV, this bill is being voted on now--go shovel your walk."

"It's free to every child in Baltimore City, from the federal government, so let's eat!" --Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, endorsing expansion of the school breakfast program in Baltimore.

The City Council's next meeting is scheduled for March 16 at 5 p.m.

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