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

By Andrea Appleton and Edward Ericson Jr. | Posted 1/20/2010

On the Agenda for Jan. 11

Bill 10-0436 BMore Streets for People Program--Establishment

Would establish the BMore Streets for People Program, allowing for periodic street closures throughout the city for use by pedestrians and cyclists.

The Read: Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke (D-14th District) led the charge last fall to close the southbound lanes of Roland Avenue between Cold Spring Lane and Northern Parkway for five hours one Sunday morning. The event was a pilot project for the city, and it attracted hundreds of bikers, skateboarders, and walkers. This new bill, also spearheaded by Clarke, would open the door to similar events throughout the city, as proposed by an advisory board that would report to the city's Department of Transportation. Advocates hope to take to the streets this spring, on a route connecting Lake Montebello to Druid Hill Park, a distance of about five miles.

Bill 10-0438 Police Vehicles--Recording Devices

Would require police vehicles to be equipped with digital video- and audio-recording devices.

The Read: At the meeting, Councilwoman Belinda Conaway (D-7th District) brought up the case of West Baltimore barber Lenny Clay, a 73-year-old community leader who was pulled over by police in December and somehow ended up with a broken arm. Clay's version of what happened differed from that of the officers. If the police car had been equipped with a recording device, Conaway says, the truth would be known. Such devices, she thinks, would cut down on false allegations and prompt "those officers who are a little bit on the fringe" to restrain themselves. The law would require that all new police vehicles be equipped with recording devices, and 20 percent of the existing fleet would have to be retrofitted with the devices every year. Conaway introduced virtually the same bill several years ago, with no success.

Bill 10-0434 Stormwater Management

Would overhaul the city's rules for stormwater-runoff systems in developments larger than 5,000 square feet.

The Read: In 2007, the state legislature passed the Stormwater Management Act. Bureaucrats have been busy ever since, writing new rules for developers to follow. The idea is to clean up the bay, says Bill Stack, acting chief of the Baltimore Department of Public Works' surface water management division. The state, he says, "gave us until May 4 for each of the jurisdictions to revise their existing stormwater-management plans to comply with the act." The new rules will be sweeping: The old way of handling stormwater involved collecting it in one spot and piping it away. The new rules will (wherever practical) require natural buffers--earth and plants--that mimic nature and allow rain to percolate slowly into the bay. Stack says the costs to developers will likely increase by five to 10 percent, but the benefits--both in prettier developments and a cleaner Chesapeake Bay--should be worth it.

Bill 10-0439 City Streets--Naming an Unnamed Alley Jazz Alley.

Would call an alley near Hollins Market between South Carrollton Avenue and South Carlton Street "Jazz Alley" to support a new jazz club.

The Read: "Thanks to our live-entertainment ordinance, we are able to have a jazz club," says Councilwoman Agnes Welch (D-9th District), who sponsored the bill. "We have our liquor license." City Council President (soon-to-be Mayor) Stephanie Rawlings-Blake acknowledges that the live-entertainment bill, which she shepherded through the Council, is leading to development that will "enhance the art and culture" of the city. This may be true, but the owner of the building in which the club will reside, Errez Segman, is facing foreclosure actions on at least three of his West Baltimore properties, online court records indicate. He owes more than $800,000 on three properties he purchased for a total of less than $180,000, court and tax records show. The company through which he owns 1131 W. Baltimore St., called the Real Estate Investment Fund, LLC, was forfeited for failure to pay state taxes. Segman, who apparently resides in College Park, could not be reached for comment.

City Council Quote of the Week

"If I were you, I'd have someone test that." --Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to Councilman Nick D'Adamo Jr. (D-2nd District), as she handed him a gift bag full of candy for his birthday. D'Adamo immediately offered the bag to District 4 Councilman Bill Henry.

The Next City Council meeting is scheduled for Mon., Jan. 25 at 5 p.m.

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