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Councilmania

On the agenda for Feb. 28

11-0650 - Sale of Properties – 601, 603, 621, 701, 709, 750, 801, and 810 McCabe Avenue

11-0651 Sale of Property – 2000 East North Avenue

The Read: The McCabe Avenue houses, off York Road in an area that has its share of well-maintained homes, are going to Habitat for Humanity, according to City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young (D). The 28,000-square-foot North Avenue building is a former elementary school listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is slated for affordable housing and will be sold to the Woda Group, an Ohio-based developer, Young says.

11-0654 Zoning – Conditional Use Convalescent, Nursing and Rest Home (Assisted Living) – 2926 Harford Rd.

The Read: This is on behalf of a new location for Esther’s Place at the Park LLC. “They are very highly regarded in other parts of the city,” says Councilmember Mary Pat Clarke (D-14th District), who introduced the measure with Councilmember William “Pete” Welch (D-9th District). “We’re looking for one for us.”

11-0255R Investigative Hearing – fees for Private Use of Reservoirs.

Invites the director of Public Works to report to the Council on the recreation activities at Loch Raven, Prettyboy, and Liberty reservoirs and talk user fees.

The read: “It’s a piece of property we own,” says Councilmember Bill Henry (D-4th District), who introduced the resolution. “A lot of people who are taking advantage of its benefits are not city residents.” Henry wants to know what (if anything) other counties charge for recreational access to their reservoirs and see if Baltimore can’t make some money. He’s also awaiting resolution of updated mountain-biking rules around the reservoirs, which were first proposed more than a year ago (Councilmania, Dec. 2, 2009). Maintenance of the land around the reservoirs costs money, which hikers and bikers might help mitigate. “We need to think more open-mindedly about how we treat our properties,” Henry says.

11-0256R In Support of State Legislation – House Bill 781 – Crimes – Distribution of Salvia Divinorum – Prohibition and Penalties.

Expresses support of a state house bill that tweaks the law regarding Salvia divinorum.

The Read: “As you know, salvia looks [like] and has the same effect as marijuana,” Councilmember Belinda K. Conaway (D-7th District) said as she introduced this bill. She added that it is “very frightening . . . that people have access to this drug legally.” The drug is widely available over the internet and in head shops in the state, and, despite rising hysteria over it (Conaway proposed banning it three years ago [“Councilmania,” Feb. 6, 2008], the state legislature nearly banned it in 2009 [“Illegalize it,” Mobtown Beat, Feb. 11, 2009], and pop star Miley Cyrus recently apologized for using it on videotape), has been under study by Johns Hopkins University researchers who think it might have some medicinal uses. The new bill—for which there is no companion bill in the state senate—would amp up the penalty for selling salvia—making it a year in the stir for distribution to anyone, not just kids under 21, as the law now states. But the bill proposes to repeal penalties for mere possession. “Sounds to me like the—if I’m correct in that this is shifting emphasis to distribution—that sort of makes sense to me,” says Matthew Johnson, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins who has been studying salvia for several years. “It would—may—be appropriate to put the penalties on the distributor rather than a young person who is trying it.” He says that he and Roland Griffith, who leads the study, have not found any harmful effects of salvia so far when it’s ingested in a carefully controlled setting.

11-0257R In support of State Legislation – House Bill 845 – Criminal Law – Controlled Dangerous Substances – Mephedrone.

See above—but for “bath salts.”

The Read: “When I think of bath salts, I think of ‘Calgon take me away,’” Conaway said in introducing this resolution in support of a state law banning this “fake cocaine.” “It is widely available to teenagers, and it is something that needs to be banned.” The science is more in Conaway’s favor here, says Johnson of Johns Hopkins, noting that drugs marketed under the name “bath salts” are usually cathinone derivatives similar to methamphetamine and Ritalin—and these very likely are addictive. “We really have to think critically when these new drugs pop up,” he says.

11-0258R Informational hearing – Vacants to Value Initiative.

Asks city Department of Housing honchos to “establish reporting mechanisms that will allow the City Council, and the public at large, to track and monitor the effectiveness of Vacants to Value at meeting its goals.”

The Read: “Those of us who have been on the council for a while can recall several programs that have come along to address our vacant and abandoned buildings,” Councilmember Helen Holton (D-8th District) says. “So here we are for at least the third time that I can recall.” Holton says the previous programs tended to focus on the best properties and left many struggling neighborhoods with little to show for the initiatives.

Quote of the week: “This sounds like an ordinary effort but it’s extraordinary—because it does have an effect.” —Councilmember Rochelle “Rikki” Spector (D-5th District), in support of a resolution, introduced from the floor by Holton, to urge Congress to “protect” about $25 million in federal block grant funding for the city.

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