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Baltimore City Council always playing catch up with major issues like Pimlico

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh is suing the owners of Pimlico Race Course, the Stronach Group. The lawsuit filed Tuesday is an effort to block them from moving the Preakness Stakes or using state bonds for Laurel Park improvements.

Where was the City Council when the Stronach Group was investing in Laurel Park instead of Pimlico (“In Baltimore's lawsuit, we get a preview of the endgame for Pimlico and the Preakness,” Mar. 20)? Hadn’t they noticed how rundown Pimlico had become? Didn’t any of them ever take a trip to Laurel to see that track? Numerous Baltimore Sun articles over the years have mentioned the upgrades at Laurel. But it wasn’t until The Sun’s investigation of spending between Laurel Racetrack and Pimlico that the City Council noticed it. This is the most significant annual sports event in Baltimore, yet the City Council didn’t notice it drifting into oblivion.

Where was the City Council when money allocated by the Board of Estimates to speed up police recruiting went mostly unspent? The funds were intended for background checks for potential applicants, but shortly after the program started, the police ended it, saying it didn’t help. Doesn’t the City Council track any funds allocated by the Board of Estimates (which the president of the City Council chairs) or the outcomes of those allocations? And are they not asking questions about police recruiting efforts? It can be argued that crime is the number one issue in this city, and the police department is short of officers. Why isn’t this worth tracking?

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Where was the City Council when the Baltimore City Fire Department got in such bad shape that trucks in need of repair caught fire and stations had to temporarily close? When they had to move personnel around so much to cover shifts that they overspent their overtime allocation by millions of dollars?

Where was the City Council in May of last year when The Sun first reported the tax problems of former Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa? Apparently, he “willfully failed to file federal tax returns” for three years. Did the City Council vet him? Did they ask for any background information? How could this not have come to light while he was being considered for this post? What information did they have when they took the vote to approve him? Didn’t anybody ask any questions?

It seems like the City Council is playing catch-up with every major issue facing Baltimore. If they are not on top of basic needs like fire and police protection, and not paying attention to major funding sources like the Preakness, then who is? The council needs to set top priorities with the help of city residents and develop a way to keep on top of these issues with the heads of city agencies.

Playing catch up after the damage has already been done is a fool’s errand.

Kris Appel, Baltimore

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