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


By Edward Ericson Jr. | Posted 5/26/2010

On the agenda for May 17

The big news at Monday's council meeting was what didn't happen--the council postponed a vote on a measure that would tax small bottles of soda (10-0474 Beverage Container Tax, still on second reader). Most of the new business involved street closings. The story behind one of them shows how administrative language can be misleading, if not alarming.

10-0510 City Streets--Closing--A Portion of Greenspring Avenue

10-0511 Sale of Property--Portion of the Former Bed of Greenspring Avenue

Related bills would condemn and close "a portion of Greenspring Avenue, extending from Northern Parkway, Southeasterly, 949.2 feet, more or less" and sell that property, "which is no longer needed for public use."

The Read: A glance at the map tells us that closing Greenspring for 950 feet below Northern Parkway cuts off a major through street and possibly access to parking at Sinai Hospital. We contacted the hospital to ask if the closure was part of a planned expansion, and at first were told that the hospital knew nothing about it. But while awaiting word from the mayor's office, council president, and other councilmembers, Sinai spokesperson Betsy Haley called back and explained that the road to be closed never was a road at all. The city bought the land from Sinai's corporate precursor back in the 1970s, planning to revamp the intersection of Greenspring Avenue and Northern Parkway. But the city never made the planned changes, and so the land remained city-owned green space in the hospital's front yard--more than two acres' worth. This year the hospital asked to buy the property back--for administrative costs, Haley says--and the city agreed. "The road closure is just the administrative term for the road that was going to go in but never did," she explains. "It's just paperwork." So Greenspring Avenue is not going to change at all, from a driver's point of view. Just goes to show: Don't believe everything you read on a City Council agenda.

10-0206R Funding from Oversize and Overweight Trucking Permits for Maintenance of City Streets.

Asks the Board of Estimates to raise permit fees for oversized trucks.

The Read: Sponsor Bill Henry (D-4th District) says doubling the permit fees could raise an additional million dollars for street maintenance, taking a big bite out of the estimated $3.6 million shortfall in the street maintenance budget. The big trucks, many of them going to and from the Port of Baltimore, "frankly do a lot of damage to roads they weren't designed for," he says. His bill says the extra fees would mean the trucking companies would pay their "fair share" for road maintenance. One curious note in the resolution, which passed unanimously: It says the council "believes [in] maintaining the city's current 48 hour response time for pothole repairs."

10-0207R Investigative Hearing--Are Our Children in Danger from Bullying in Baltimore City Public Schools?

Asks schools CEO Andrés Alonso and other officials to appear before the council to answer that.

The Read: Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young (D) introduced this resolution with a reference to recent news stories about school bullying, including a 2008 in-school murder and an April incident in which three elementary school students were suspended for bullying a third grader with cerebral palsy. "We cannot tolerate our kids being intimidated by bullies when they are trying to learn," Young said at the meeting. "They already have to deal with gangs." The resolution asks for testimony from Alonso and Marietta English, president of the Baltimore Teachers Union, and Jimmy Gittings, president of the Baltimore City Public School Administrators and Supervisors Association.

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