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

Posted 10/28/2009

On the Agenda for Oct. 19

Bill 09-0413-Water and Sewer Rates and Charges-Domestic Users. Would require that city water bills paid by residents be based only on the amount of water actually used, with no minimum service charge.

The read: Councilman Bernard C. "Jack" Young (D-12th District) notes that he would pay $96 every three months for water even if he spent the year abroad and used no water at all, and that his neighbor would pay the same $96 even while using water. The city's water and sewer rates are based on a fairly stiff minimum charge (about $58), with higher rates depending on the width of the water line and extra charges only after the set minimum usage is reached. According to the current minimum charge table, a homeowner with a _-inch line pays a minimum of $104.18 for water and sewer usage each quarter, whether they use any water or not. Councilman James Kraft (D-1st District), who chairs the Judiciary and Legislative Investigations Committee, pledged to hold a hearing on Young's bill early next month.

Bill 09-0412-Zoning-Cell Towers. Would require applications for cell-phone towers go to the city's Historical and Architectural Preservation Division and Department of Planning first, to see if the proposed location is within a historic district or on a landmark.

The read: Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (D) says the issue of cell towers and other modern architectural accoutrements sullying the city's historic look and feel has been discussed for years. "We have to be careful that the two worlds don't collide," she says. "By requiring this step in the beginning of the process, we can avoid confusion."

09-0164R Informational Hearing-Procurement Approval process Study. Asks representatives of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies and others to talk about a recent study they conducted on the city government's process for buying stuff.

The Read: Councilman William H. Cole IV (D-11th District) says the study, conducted last year by Hopkins' Institute for Policy Studies and the Baltimore Economy and Efficiency Foundation (BEEF), has some interesting findings. The bill itself suggests that the study found the city's procurement process too full of red tape, with too low a monetary threshold for contracts requiring a lengthy approval process. "When municipal charters are not regularly reviewed and updated," says the bill, "inflation causes specific codified dollar amounts to lose the relationship with economic conditions that the charter's framers intended." Translation: bigger contracts to be let in secret.

09-0167R Baltimore City Public Schools-Are Current Physical Education Requirements Enough? Calls in the school officials responsible for the curriculum to brief the City Council on phys-ed requirements for city public-school students.

The Read: Councilwoman Agnes Welch (D-9th District) introduced this one by citing obesity statistics. The bill itself also features some sobering national stats regarding phys ed. For instance, only about half of the nation's high school students attended a phys-ed class in 2007. "We need to bring gym back into our schools," Welch says.

The next City Council meeting is scheduled for Nov. 2 at 5 p.m.

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