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On the agenda for Jan. 10

Monday’s short agenda was prolonged by the swearing-in of the Council’s newest member, William “Pete” Welch Jr. (D-9th District), son of recently retired Councilmember Agnes Welch. Early in the meeting, a smattering of supporters trooped down one floor for the ceremony, though less than half of the sitting councilmembers attended. Welch’s nomination was approved by a 10-3 margin, despite controversy over his criminal record.

Bill 11-0634 Charter Amendment - City Council - Age Requirements Would ask voters whether the minimum age requirement for members of City Council should be lowered from 21 years to 18 years.

The Read: This bill is a reintroduction of one that was introduced in 2004 and subsequently failed to pass in a referendum. The vote was close, about 76,000 to 66,000. Councilmember Robert Curran (D-3rd District), who introduced the current bill and co-sponsored the previous one, says, “These young men and women serve our country, are able to put their lives on the line for us. Why aren’t we allowing them to have a say in their municipal government? Hopefully this gets more people involved at an earlier age.”

Bill 11-0635 Rezoning - 3700 Pennington Avenue (a Portion of the Property) Would change the zoning of a piece of property in South Baltimore from residential to manufacturing.

The Read: Council Vice President Edward Reisinger (D-10th District) sponsored this bill at the request of Pennington Commercial LLC. The South Baltimore company has a commercial structure on the front lot that it would like to expand to a back lot, which is currently zoned as residential. This bill would change that zoning to allow for the expansion.

Bill 11-0636 Zoning - Conditional Use Convalescent, Nursing, and Rest Home (Assisted Living) - 3604 White Avenue Would allow the establishment of an assisted living facility on a property in Northeast Baltimore.

The Read: The Warm Heart Care Assisted Living Facility—owned by Elizabeth Onyejiaka, also the owner of the Ibis Tavern on Harford Road—is already operating, according to Onyejiaka. She says this bill would simply allow her to expand from four residents to 12. (The bill says nothing about this, and Councilmember Nicholas D’Adamo [D-2nd District], its sponsor, said he did not know why the facility was already operating.) The facility, despite its diminutive size, racked up numerous “deficiencies” from a June 15, 2010, surprise complaint investigation by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Office of Health Care Quality. According to the resulting report, the administrator had failed to run criminal background checks on employees, failed to properly train those employees, did not keep sufficient track of patient welfare, and failed to administer medication properly, among other problems. Only two residents lived there at the time. (A subsequent complaint investigation visit by the Office of Health Care Quality in August found the facility to be in compliance, at least with the particular [undisclosed] complaint under investigation.) D’Adamo had this to say about the reported deficiencies: “That’s not my responsibility. That’s a state matter. All I know is the community association has been there twice and they told me they liked how the place was run.”

Resolution 11-0241R Informational Hearing - Laws and Policies Governing the Baltimore City Public Schools in Providing the Safe Transport of Special Needs Students by the School System and its Contractor Bus Companies and Recommendations for Additions to Existing Governance Requirements Would invite representatives from Baltimore City Public Schools, the Maryland State Department of Education, and the Maryland Disability Law Center, as well as interested parties from the community, to answer questions regarding the transport of special needs students.

The Read: On Dec. 8, 2010, a 6-year-old special-needs student named Jeremy Jennings Jr. died after falling from a moving school bus. This resolution, introduced by councilmembers Warren Branch (D-13th District) and Mary Pat Clarke (D-14th District), would ask the invited representatives to explain existing regulations regarding the transportation of the city’s 5,000-plus students who are eligible for “curb-to-curb” transportation services, and to discuss changes that might further protect those children.

Resolution 11-0242R Informational Hearing - Baltimore City Tax Lien Certificate Sales Would invite the director of Finance and the chief of the Bureau of Revenue Collections to provide details to the City Council on the tax lien certificate sale program.

The Read: The tax lien certificate sale program is a method of collecting delinquent real estate taxes or other unpaid municipal fees owed to the city by public sale of lien interests on properties. As this resolution, sponsored by Belinda Conaway (D-7th District), points out, the City Council has a vested interest in the program, in more ways than one. On the one hand, the Council has sought to prevent the unnecessary seizure of homes from “fiscally burdened constituents,” and on the other, it has sought to make sure the city is getting all the revenue due to it from those seizures. This resolution would require the invited representatives to give a thorough presentation on how the program works.

Resolution 11-0243R In Support of Proposed State Legislation - Higher Education - Tuition Charges - Maryland High School Students Would support the introduction of state legislation granting in-state tuition to students from tax-paying families who attend and graduate from Maryland high schools, regardless of their immigration status.

The Read: During the 2003 session of the Maryland General Assembly, a bill that would have allowed certain illegal immigrant students to pay in-state tuition was adopted but vetoed by then-Gov. Robert Ehrlich. In 2007, a similar bill was approved by the House but the Senate failed to consider it. This resolution, introduced by Mary Pat Clarke, would urge the Maryland General Assembly to take up the matter once more in 2011.

The next City Council meeting is scheduled for Jan. 24 at 5 p.m.

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