Baltimore Council passes bills on affordable housing, transportation and diaper changing facilities

The Baltimore City Council passed a trio of bills Monday night that would shape transportation policy, raise taxes to pay for affordable housing and help ensure men and women alike have somewhere to change a child’s dirty diapers.

Councilman Ryan Dorsey, the sponsor of the transportation legislation, thanked supporters who sat behind him in the council chamber wearing matching black and yellow shirts bearing the bill’s name, “complete streets.”

The bill, which like the others was approved without a roll-call vote, requires the city transportation department to create roads that are usable by private cars, buses, and cyclists alike and to prioritize the needs of pedestrians. It would also give communities greater say in the planning of transportation projects.

“This bill is about giving communities the power to work with DOT to build more equitable and healthy transportation infrastructure,” Dorsey said after the vote.

The council also approved increases in property sale taxes, which would be dedicated toward a $20 million annual trust fund for affordable housing. The legislation was the result of a compromise between Mayor Catherine Pugh and activists that involved the mayor agreeing to dedicate money to the fund in her annual budgets.

The last major piece of legislation approved by the council Monday would require most kinds of newly built or renovated businesses with public bathrooms to make diaper changing facilities available to both men and women.

The legislation was sponsored by Councilman Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer, who has described the personal struggles he’s faced finding somewhere to change his young daughter.

Over the opposition of five council members, the council also moved forward with a measure approving the accounting for $21 million to pay for un-budgeted police overtime. The legislation previously failed to get approval from the council budget committee, but five of its seven members switched their votes to “yes” last week.

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