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Councilmania

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

By Edward Ericson Jr. | Posted 4/8/2009

On the agenda for March 30

Bill 09-0124--Razed and Vacant Houses--Notice to Disconnect Utilities. This resolution asks city housing and public works officials, plus Baltimore Gas and Electric's boss of billing, to report to the City Council their notification processes for disconnecting water and electric utilities to vacant or demolished properties.

The read: This is a perennial complaint: Because of the way Baltimore City bills its water users, owners of long-vacant and even demolished houses can face thousands of dollars of past-due water bills even though their water has been shut off for years. They get billed for the privilege of having a water meter buried in the ground until they spend $235 to get the thing dug up and removed. "Citizens can still be charged with water bills even with no water use," Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake noted as she introduced the resolution. "It's important to have proper notice" of a demolition--and of the fact that a water meter may still be present, because without it, "the owner of that property gets billed and billed and billed." Councilwoman Belinda Conaway (D-7th District) lauded the resolution and reminded the council that she introduced a bill last year to require the city itself to cut off water service to vacant properties in order to prevent dangerous floods in their basements.

Resolution 09-0125R--Baltimore City Council Complete Count Coordination. Resolution "exploring how the Baltimore City Council can best assist the Administration in securing an accurate population count in the 2010 Census."

The read: Every 10 years the Census Bureau undertakes a count of every person in the United States, and as soon as it's finished, nearly every city mayor claims the count is far too low in their jurisdiction. The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights claims that the 2000 census missed 3 million people--mainly poor and minorities--while it over-counted wealthier and whiter suburbanites. Every year, Baltimore City challenges the new census estimate as too low, wrenching from the federal government an 8,000 or 9,000 upward revision. The reason for this is money: Federal aid to towns, states and cities is based on the census; the more people, the more money. Councilwoman Sharon Green Middleton (D-6th District) is frank about this fact in her introduction of the resolution, saying that "since we know our districts," council members can help guide the census-takers to oft-undercounted populations, such as immigrants and "people not within the banking system" to "make sure the money gets to us." As ammunition she cites Social Compacts Drill Down study, released last fall, which estimated Baltimore City's population at 663,717--some 23,000 more than the current Census Bureau estimate. (see also, "Shadow Players," Feature, Jan. 28)

The next City Council meeting is scheduled for April 20 at 5 p.m.

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