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Councilmania

On the agenda for June 6

A charter amendment bill on second reader garnered the most attention at Monday’s Council meeting. The bill would place a question on the ballot asking voters whether the city charter ought to be amended to create a permanent fund for public-school construction and maintenance. After the bill was initially introduced, the city’s Finance Department objected, arguing that such a fund could hinder the mayor’s ability to tackle budget problems. On Monday, the Council voted to move the bill to third reader, but it now includes an amendment proposed by Council Vice President Ed Reisinger (D-10th District). The amendment removes the Council’s ability to designate general funds to pay for school improvements, leaving it, critics said, pretty much toothless.

Bill 11-0708 Supplementary Motor Vehicle Fund Capital Appropriation - Department of Transportation - $3,000,000

Bill 11-0709 Supplementary Motor Vehicle Fund Capital Appropriation - Department of Transportation - $2,000,000

Bill 11-0710 Supplementary Motor Vehicle Fund Operating Appropriation - Department of Transportation - $3,200,000

Bill 11-0711 Supplementary Motor Vehicle Fund Operating Appropriation - Department of Transportation - $2,300,000

The Read: These bills are crafted to deal with unexpected extra revenue that came into the Department of Transportation during fiscal year 2011. This money—variously from highway users, speed cameras, and car impoundments—cannot be allocated without the approval of City Council. The bills direct the extra funds back to the Department of Transportation, to the vehicle impounding and towing division, to traffic management and safety, and to additional capital projects.

Bill 11-0712 City Streets - Closing - A 10-Foot Portion of Foster Avenue and a 7-Foot Portion of Fait Avenue

Bill 11-0713 Sale of Properties - the Former Beds of a 10-Foot Portion of Foster Avenue and a 7-Foot Portion of Fait Avenue

The Read: An entity known as Greektown LLC is seeking to build 136 market-rate townhomes not far from St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church. These bills would condemn and cede over small chunks of both Foster and Fait Avenues to the LLC for use in the project.

Bill 11-0714 Baltimore City Landmark List - Waverly Town Hall

Would designate Waverly Town Hall as a historic landmark.

The Read: You wouldn’t know it to look at it now, but the neighborhood of Waverly was once a village of its own, where wealthy Baltimoreans would visit to escape the city. The town hall, built in 1873, remains at the corner of Greenmount Avenue and 31st Street. This bill, introduced by Councilmember Mary Pat Clarke (D-14th District), would designate the building as a landmark. The city’s Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) and the Planning Commission have already voted in favor of adding the building to the landmark list.

Bill 11-0715 Towing Service - Trespass Towing

Would change the composition of the Board of Licenses for Towing Services, and would authorize the board to deny, suspend, revoke, or refuse to renew a license if a certain number of complaints had been logged.

The Read: Complaints about towing companies are a perennial matter in Baltimore. In March, for instance, a criminal investigation was launched after spectators at a Ravens game paid for parking in a private lot only to have their cars towed. The motorists suspected they were victims of a scam by the towing company. “Sometimes the problem is that the tow-er is just not following proper business practices,” says Councilmember Bill Henry (D-4th District), who introduced the bill. “We want to give the board the power to address complaints from citizens.” The bill would allow the board to deny a license to a towing applicant if it had received five or more valid complaints of unfair or improper business practices within a six-month period. It would also reconfigure the board to include one representative from City Council and a representative of the property management industry, a frequent user of towing companies.

Resolution 11-0293R In Support of Annual Observance of Juneteenth

Calls on the city, state, and the federal governments to introduce official observance of Juneteenth on June 19, 2011.

The Read: On June 19, 1865, 10 weeks after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas, and proclaimed the slaves free. The date became a time for celebration among former slaves, and 36 states have since made it a state holiday or a state holiday observance day. This resolution, introduced by Councilmember Belinda Conaway (D-7th District), calls upon Maryland, Baltimore, and the country as a whole to do the same.

The next City Council meeting is scheduled for June 20 at 5 p.m.

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