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On the agenda for Feb 7

11-0249R Informational Hearing – Community Schools Initiative.

Calls for a hearing before the Council’s Education Committee to “determine how the City can best continue or expand its current level of support of the Initiative.”

The Read: Like most issues facing Baltimore government, this is a budget problem. Early in the initiative, when the budget was more flush, the city invested more than $2 million in community schools. Less than half that amount was invested in the 2010-’11 school year. The schools provide services such as academic mentoring, vision and dental screening, food aid, and art and music instruction during nonschool hours. (“Class Struggle,” Feature, Nov. 3, 2010). The value of these extracurriculars exceed their costs, Councilmember Mary Pat Clarke (D-14th District) says, by more than eight to one. A hearing is scheduled for Feb. 23 at 4 p.m. in the Council chambers.

11-0250R In support of State Legislation – Senate Bill 115/House Bill 227 – Criminal Law – Abuse or Neglect of Animals – Sentencing Conditions.

The Read: This resolution, introduced by Democratic 3rd District Councilmember Robert Curran (who is also liaison to the mayor’s anti-animal-abuse commission), is to let lawmakers in Annapolis know that the city wants stricter penalties for those convicted of animal abuse or cruelty, including a provision that would prohibit an offender from residing with an animal for a specified period of time.

11-0251R In Celebration of Black History Month

The Read: Councilmember Belinda Conaway (D-7th District) introduced this resolution by encouraging her colleagues and viewers of the Council meeting to examine their own families’ histories, then proceeding to detail such august Conaway family milestones as father Frank Sr.’s selling a million dollars worth of insurance, and mother Mary being the first woman in her family to go to college. As the Conaways are, according to the councilmember, “quite possibly” the only American family with four members currently holding political office, “I believe I’m part of the greatest family anywhere,” Conaway concluded. “You should feel the same way about your family.”

11-0252R Informational Hearing – Healthy Start, Inc.

The Read: Introduced by City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young (D), this resolution asks for a briefing by the city health commissioner and the Healthy Start CEO on the state of the program on its 20th anniversary. Healthy Start is a federally funded program providing prenatal care for women.

11-0253R Investigative Hearing – East Baltimore Development, Inc.

The Read: Introduced from the floor by Councilmember Carl Stokes (D-12th District), this resolution demands that EBDI officials explain themselves to the Council in light of last week’s series in The Daily Record revealing that the 10-year-old, $1.8 billion public-private revitalization effort has fallen years behind schedule, shelved the long-planned biotech buildings, and spent lots of public money—including on a big job for Baltimore Housing Executive Director Paul Graziano’s girlfriend—with less than stellar results. “All through this the EBDI organization has refused to share any of its independent audits,” Stokes said. “They are spending more than $200,000 to do a marketing study” to rename the neighborhood, he said, adding that it is “very distressing” for current and former residents to see their neighborhood bulldozed and then renamed.

11-0253R Baltimore Education Coalition – Full Funding for City Schools

The Read: Also introduced from the floor, this time by Councilmember Bill Henry (D-4th District), this resolution supports the planned Feb. 28 rally in Annapolis by the Baltimore Education Coalition, a two-year-old advocacy group fighting against proposed changes to the state funding formula that funnels more state money to Baltimore City schools than would otherwise be the case. Gov. Martin O’Malley’s current proposed budget would cut $15 million from the city’s education funding allotment, but to make the cut he has to get the legislature to amend the so-called Thornton law, passed in 2002, which modified school funding to benefit Baltimore and other poor jurisdictions as part of the settlement to a lawsuit claiming unconstitutionally inadequate and unequal funding. “It’s cliché to say the children are our future, but it’s absolutely true,” Henry said. “This is not the time to cut $15 million from the system.”

The next City Council meeting is scheduled for Feb. 28

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