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

By Edward Ericson Jr. | Posted 6/10/2009

Correction: Due to a fact-checking error, this story initially misreported that Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (D) was not present for the vote on One on One trash service and that Councilwoman Rochelle "Rikki" Spector (D-5th District) was among the "yes" votes. City Paper regrets the error.

Council Meeting June 1

09-0339--General Fund Operating Appropriation Transfer--Department of Public Works (Program 515--Solid Waste Collection) to the Baltimore City Police Department (Program 201--Field Operations Bureau)--$3,546,000

09-0340--Supplementary General Fund Operating Appropriation--Police Department--$2,964,000

Together these move $6.4 million into the police-overtime budget.

The read: This is an annual ritual: The city budget is re-balanced at the end of each fiscal year to reflect higher police costs, mostly relating to overtime. Every year the police department budgets overtime at, say, $20 million and every year police overtime exceeds about $25 million, and every year the council appropriates the money, and every year Councilman Bernard C. "Jack" Young (D-12th District) makes a speech saying they ought to get it right at the beginning of the budget year. But this year, as city sanitation workers (some of them facing layoffs due to the One Plus One reorganization and budget cuts) looked on, Young modified his speech to note the irony of taking money from the solid waste division to give police for overtime, asking, "What's wrong with this picture?"

09-0342--Speed Monitoring Systems--Establishment.

Paves the way for speed cameras in Baltimore City.

The Read: For years, Montgomery County drivers (with the notable exception of Montgomery County Police officers) have chafed and complained, but mostly paid, the $40 pseudo speeding tickets they're issued by county traffic-enforcement cameras. In April, the state legislature passed a bill to allow speed cameras to go statewide. Baltimore City, where speeding (to say nothing of wheelie-popping) motorists have little to fear from time-pressed patrol officers, apparently wants its cut of the fast money. Speed cameras ticket the vehicle's owner, not the driver, which can make for some dicey situations, and not just when Junior trashes the Family Truckster. Because of the Shadow Economy, lots of Baltimore City vehicles are driven habitually by people who appear (on paper at least) to be completely unrelated to the owners. How the speed-camera system proposes to track the numerous unregistered, uninsured vehicles driven by unlicensed drivers is not clear from the bill, which was referred without comment to the council's Judiciary and Legislative Investigations Committee.

09-0346--Charter Amendment--City Council--Independent Counsel

Would fund the appointment of an independent lawyer for the City Council.

The Read: For years some City Council members have disagreed with some of the legal interpretations made by the City Solicitor, and have noted that the City Solicitor is appointed by and works for the mayor. The Council wants a second opinion, and this bill would fund a lawyer for them starting at $100,000.

09-0284--Sanitation--"One Plus One" Collection Program

Will change the trash collection schedule to once per week while doubling recyclables collection to once per week.

The Read: This was the most time-consuming agenda item even though its passage (this was its third read for final passage) was preordained during the last council meeting. The event began outside City Hall before the meeting, where about 100 sanitation workers and firefighters protested the coming budget cuts and the changes "One Plus One" will bring to the sanitation workers' lives (earlier start times, less overtime, possible layoffs). At the council meeting, Councilman William Cole (D-11th District) gave an impassioned speech outlining his "grave concerns" that the city's central districts aren't ready for the changes. After that, every council member present also explained his or her vote. The item carried, 8-5, with Councilwoman Sharon Green Middleton (D-6th District) passing (her husband, Glen, heads the union of sanitation workers, AFSCME Local 44). Rochelle "Rikki" Spector (D-5th) was not present. Voting "yes" were Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (D), Council Vice President Ed Reisinger (D-10th District), James Kraft (D-1st), Nicholas D'Adamo (D-2nd), Robert Curran (D-3rd), Bill Henry (D-4th), Helen Holton (D-8th) and Mary Pat Clarke (D-14th). The "no" votes were Belinda Conaway (D-7th), Agnes Welch (D-9th), Cole, Young, and Warren Branch (D-13th).

The City Council met on June 8, and meets next on June 15

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