On the agenda for Oct. 4
Despite the slim agenda,
more TV news crews were in attendance at the latest City Council meeting than usual. They were not there because of anything up for discussion, but rather to capture footage of Councilmember Helen Holton (D-8th District), who earlier in the day pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges. The charges had to do with a deal Holton struck with local developers during her 2007 re-election campaign. As the meeting drew to a close, Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young (D) read a prepared statement in which he declared his intention to remove Holton from her position as the chair of the Taxation, Finance, and Economic Development Committee. (Councilmember Carl Stokes [D-12th District] has been appointed in her place.)
Following his written remarks, Young said, “This is something that was really, really painful. The councilwoman who chairs this committee did a very, very great fine job guiding this committee.” Holton sat through the meeting with a faint, fixed smile on her face and exited the chambers quickly as the meeting ended, followed by a horde of reporters. She declined to answer any questions.
Bill 10-0603 Fire and Police Employees' Retirement System - Minimum Benefits
Would repeal a length-of-service requirement for the minimum benefit provided to beneficiaries whose spouses died or retired before 1996 while employed by the city’s fire or police departments.
This summer the Council passed a bill that increased benefits for people whose spouses, while working for the fire or police departments, died or retired prior to 1996. The legislation indicated that beneficiaries would not receive the increased benefits ($16,000 annually) unless the employee had served for at least 20 years. But some employees died or were injured in the line of duty, and thus were unable to serve 20 years. This new bill attempts to address that oversight. It would apply only to about 100 spouses. “We have a group that will never be larger than its current number,” said Councilmember Mary Pat Clarke (D-14th District), who co-sponsored the bill.
Bill 10-0604 Transit and Traffic - Obstructing or Impeding Traffic
Would reduce the fine for double-parking from $250 to $100.
Councilmember William Cole (D-11th District), the lead sponsor of the legislation, said double-parking fines have become too onerous. “In many cases, people unloading groceries or going to pick up their toddler . . . are coming out to find $250 tickets on their windshield,” he said. Several months ago, the Council raised double-parking fines from $77 to $250, in one of many attempts to plug a gaping budget hole. Cole argued that the city should be more lenient on double parking than on other related traffic offenses, such as “blocking the box” at intersections. “The crime no longer matches the penalty,” he said.
Bill 10-0605 Urban Renewal - Upton - Amendment
Would extend the Upton Renewal Plan, initiated in 1970, by another five years.
Resolution 10-0226R Informational Hearing - One PLUS ONE
Would ask representatives from the departments of Public Works and Housing and the Bureau of Solid Waste, as well as the deputy commissioner for code enforcement, to report to the Council on the effectiveness of the city’s “One Plus One” trash and recycling system.
Last year the city began picking up both trash and recycling once a week, rather than picking up trash twice a week and recycling twice a month. Since then, recycling rates have increased while trash rates have decreased. And in the seven-week period after the program was started, there was a 473 percent increase in the number of citations issued when compared to the previous year. Young, lead sponsor of this resolution, said he’s been hearing complaints from community members about such citations, as well as other matters having to do with trash and recycling. “We feel that this system is still not working,” he said. “This is not to say that One Plus One is not a good system. There might be some things we could look at and tweak.”
Resolution 10-0227R Approving the Submission of an Application to the State of Maryland to Approve a Project to Conduct a Community-based Crime and Conflict Resolution Initiative in Baltimore City Designed to Prevent and Reduce Crime through the Use of Community Conferencing
Would do exactly as reads above.
The Community Conferencing Center, a local nonprofit organization, wants to start a crime-reduction project in Baltimore using a conflict-resolution model based on community involvement. The organization has applied to the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development for the allocation of tax credits for donors who contribute to the project, but the department requires the approval of City Council to go forward. The resolution was immediately adopted at the meeting.
The next City Council meeting is scheduled for Oct. 18 at 5 p.m.