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Councilmania

On the agenda June 20

Due to the need to pass the fiscal 2012 city budget—which it did—the City Council held two meetings on June 20, one at 3 p.m. and one at 5 p.m. The budget, which aims to close a $65 million deficit, includes cuts to youth recreation centers, animal services, and 311 call centers. By the second meeting, with a brief agenda that only included bills on third reader, it seemed councilmembers might sail through and go home quickly. But then, out of nowhere, things got exciting. As a bill that designated the interior of the Senator Theatre a historic landmark unanimously passed, former owner Tom Kiefaber stormed the podium and took the microphone next to Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young (D). He called Baltimore “a banana republic,” and took a seat on the floor next to the dais, threatening to remain there until the police dragged him out. In the end, he left voluntarily with a security guard. “In 26 years, that has never happened,” Councilmember Nicholas D’Adamo (D-2nd District) said afterwards.

Bill 11-0717 Rezoning – 2315-2317 Cecil Avenue

Would change the zoning for the named property from industrial to business.

The Read: Jonathan Melnick, the property manager for 2315-2317 Cecil Ave., a building in East Baltimore, is looking for a new tenant. Until seven or eight years ago, Broadway Services, an arm of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions that provides security and other services, was located in the adjacent building, 901 E. 25th St. Now, Melnick says, he’d like to find a tenant to occupy both properties. “I don’t want anything that doesn’t create jobs,” he says. “I don’t want night clubs, any kind of payday loan operation, no check cashing.” In order to draw in prospective tenants, Melnick wants the zoning changed on the Cecil Avenue building, so that the two properties will “blend together,” use-wise.

Bill 11-0718 Urban Renewal – Middle East – Amendment

Would amend the urban renewal plan to reflect zoning changes in the following bill.

Bill 11-0719 Rezoning – 403-435 North Washington Street

Would change the zoning on the named properties from residential to office-residential.

The Read: This bill, introduced by Councilmember Warren Branch (D-13th District), would relax zoning restrictions requiring setbacks from the road and some uses of the buildings, such as for rooming houses or elderly housing. The change was requested by My Son Development LLC, which was founded by Philip J. Fewster of Glen Burnie in January and whose resident agent is Samuel Mogavero, who is also a member of the company, according to incorporation papers. If the bill is passed, the urban renewal plan governing the area would have to be amended to reflect the changes.

Bill 11-0720 Amending the Urban Renewal Plan for Mount Vernon

The Read: Introduced by Councilmember William Cole (D-11th District), this ordinance proposes to adjust the rules governing building height limits by removing the phrase “for new construction” in one section, and removing the provision that applies the height limits to rooftop “mechanicals” and heating, cooling, and ventilation equipment.

Bill 11-0721 Charter Amendment – Board of Estimates – Local, Small, and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program

Proposes a charter amendment that, if approved by voters this fall, would authorize “the waiver or modification of certain procedures in order to assist local, small, or disadvantaged businesses.”

The Read: Councilmember Helen Holton (D-8th District) introduced this proposed amendment to enhance the city’s effort to give business to local and minority contractors. The language is vague, proposing only to allow the city to “waive or modify” its purchasing rules “with the exception of subsection A.” That subsection establishes that the Board of Estimates will be responsible for awarding city contracts and supervising all purchasing. The other sections establish the nitty-gritty stuff, such as how large a single purchase can be before it must be put out for bid.

Resolution 11-0301R Informational Hearing – Local, Small, and Disadvantaged Business Purchasing Preferences for Baltimore

Would invite representatives from city agencies concerned with purchasing and economic development to address the Council on how the city can encourage the growth of local, small, and disadvantaged businesses.

The Read: According to the resolution, introduced by Holton, “A majority of states, and many large cities comparable to Baltimore, have established formal programs to give local entrepreneurs a real chance to compete for government contracts.” Holton would like Baltimore to start directing its dollars toward “local, small, and disadvantaged” businesses. This is her attempt to get a conversation going on the matter.

Resolution 11-0302R Inclusionary Housing Progress Reports

Would request that the Housing commissioner submit a report to the Council every 90 days on progress toward the goal of providing inclusionary housing for residents.

The Read: A bill that would extend a 2007 ordinance that requires developers to include affordable housing units in certain projects was signed by the mayor last week. Critics pointed out that the ordinance has only been applied to one development in its four-year existence. This resolution, introduced by Holton, aims to keep the city on task in providing affordable housing through the institution of regular progress reports on the subject from the Housing commissioner.

Resolution 11-0303R Informational Hearing – Food Safety Technology

Would invite Health Department representatives and food safety researchers from Morgan State University to brief the Council on advances in food safety technology.

The Read: This resolution, introduced by Councilmember William “Pete” Welch (D-9th District), boasts of the “pathbreaking” work being done by Morgan State University on technological solutions to food safety problems such as E. coli outbreaks. It suggests that Baltimore ought to be an early adopter of these technologies, which are not described in any detail.

The next City Council meeting is scheduled for July 18 at 5 p.m.

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