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Bills would give city more power to force property owners to tidy up

The Baltimore Sun

Mayor Sheila Dixon's administration introduced a package of legislation in the City Council yesterday that officials hope will give the city more power to force home and business owners to clean up their properties.

The three bills, some of the most significant that Dixon has sent to the council since becoming mayor in January, would impose fines on landlords who do not register with the city and would define when a tenant or a landlord is responsible for sanitary violations.

"These are the first in what will be more legislation supporting the mayor's cleaner and greener initiative," said Dixon spokesman Anthony McCarthy. "Mayor Dixon wants to make the education process and the notification process for citizens, when it comes to violations and when it comes to trash and litter, more efficient."

Last month, the administration announced it would move enforcement staff from the Department of Public Works to the housing department. Simultaneously, a 35-member boarding and cleaning crew, which was responsible for trash and debris dumped on private lots, will be moved from the housing department to public works.

Consolidating workers, city officials have said, will make it easier for a given crew to take care of all of trash and litter problems on a given block, rather than relying on separate bureaucratic departments to handle related functions.

Legislation introduced in the council yesterday would allow code inspectors to write electronic tickets so that multiple violations can be recorded on a single ticket -- making them easier to track. Another bill would impose a $100 fine on a landlord who fails to register with the city.

A third bill would make landlords, not tenants, responsible for cleaning up a property if it has received two or more environmental citations in a 12-month period or if the landowner had not registered with the city.

"Hopefully, this will ensure that the responsible parties are ticketed" for litter, said City Council Vice President Robert W. Curran. "We're trying to change the mindset of those who own property in Baltimore."

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