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Councilmania

On the agenda for June 13

The big speeches tonight were about whether to impose a new sunset regulation on the inclusionary housing bill. Let’s break that down: “Sunset” is a provision that nullifies the law on a certain date unless the Council votes to extend it. It’s the opposite of what is usually done, when the Council passes a law and it lasts forever unless it’s repealed or amended. “Inclusionary housing” is the latest term of art for the policy that says if you’re a developer of a certain size (30 housing units or more, in this case) and you receive some special government dispensation to do your development (like a tax break or a zoning change) then you have to include some (up to 20 percent of the total, in this case) units that are affordable to poor (or middle-income) people along with your high-class digs.

The Council passed the law in 2007, just as the real estate bubble popped and housing developers began retrenching or going bankrupt, their dreamy projects put on indefinite hold. So far the law has resulted in the creation of 20 affordable housing units. The current bill, 10-0600, was made simply to repeal the sunset on ordinance 07-474, which originally had a five-year lifespan. But an amendment to extend the sunset for eight years instead of repealing it passed Second Reader by a vote of 9-6, with Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young (D) and councilmembers Mary Pat Clarke (D-14th District), Bill Henry (D-4th District), Warren Branch (D-13th District), Carl Stokes (D-12th District), and Belinda Conaway (D-7th District) voting no, all on the basis that the law should not sunset. “You can always repeal it, or put in another bill,” Henry said. “We can do that at any time anyway. With the sunset provision, all we are saying is that we still do not believe that this is so important that we’re going to make it the law for good.”

11-0294R Informational Hearing – Nuisance Abatement Tools Asks for city agency heads to meet with the City Council to discuss best practices and strategies.

The read: The city has several nuisance-abatement tools, including the padlock ordinance. “Unfortunately, knowledge of what options are available to deal with these nuisances, and how to best use these legal tools, is not spread equally throughout the City,” the resolution says. Solution: a meeting.

11-0295R Lead Abatement Review Commission Requests Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake appoint a commission to review the city’s lead-abatement efforts and recommend improvements.

The Read: Resolution sponsor Councilmember William “Pete” Welch (D-9th District) says Baltimore City has the country’s premier lead-abatement program, but the city lost federal lead-abatement funds this year because it did not use previous grants to fix up enough houses. That prompted a revamping of the program and a reassigning from the Health Department to Baltimore Housing, announced in April. Since then workers at one city-owned house have come under investigation for their alleged failure to comply with federal lead-abatement regulations (“Dust in the Wind,” Mobtown Beat, June 8). Welch says he wants to “bring us back to a premier position in lead abatement.”

11-0298R The Promotion of Community Safety and Trust Between baltimore City Residents and Local Law Enforcement Agencies Asks Maryland’s congressional representatives to oppose the enforcement of the federal Secure Communities Initiative, which requires city and state police to forward the fingerprints of all arrestees to federal authorities.

The Read: Lead sponsor Councilmember James Kraft (D-1st District) says that last summer a series of vicious attacks on Latinos led to an effort by local police to build trust in that community, and that the federal law, which is part of the homeland security effort, would damage that trust. “An attack on one of our citizens is an attack on all of our citizens regardless of . . . when they came here and where they came from,” Kraft said, adding that taking fingerprints of arrestees “regardless of the outcome of the arrest, whether it’s a legitimate arrest or not” is not effective, because 83 percent of those deported from the United States “have no serious criminal records” and 63 percent are “classified as non-criminals.”

The next City Council meeting is scheduled for July 18.

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