Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Baltimore City Council Meeting

Although the Chamber tended to clear out after Baltimore City Council's 9-6 vote approving public financing of a convention center hotel, the legislative body of the Greatest City in America introduced some important bills and passed others.

A number of bills were introduced and referred to the appropriate committees for examination.

The Mayor and President Dixon lived up to their word and introduced a bill (05-0235) intended to create a $59 million trust fund for affordable housing over the next five years. The creation of the fund, beginning with $10 million from the federal Community Development Block Grant, is in response to several Councilmembers' concerns that the City was spending money on downtown development, particularly the hotel, at the expense of residential neighborhoods.

Councilmember Jim Kraft's Lead Risk in Housing - Relocation from Non-Compliant Property (05-0243) seeks to protect those living in high-risk housing from lead poisoning by releasing the tenant from the lease and granting the tenant a reasonable allowance to find new housing. This is a progressive step towards addressing the plague of children growing up in homes containing lead-based paint, which is suspected of causing developmental disorders. Kraft's legislation builds on 05-0045R, which calls on the city solicitor to sue the paint industry.

Bill 05-0244 (Ethics - Baltimore Development Corp.) will bring the Baltimore Development Corp. under the scrutiny of the public by placing it within the purview of the Public Ethics Law. Although the quasi-agency is funded with public money, it is considered an independent organization and so currently closes its meetings to the public. Allowing the public to examine the agency's meetings, lobbying efforts, and conflicts of interest will put us into a better position to consider the influential recommendations it makes on development within the City.

Saying that it builds on the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 by making Baltimore an "equal opportunity district," Councilmember Helen Holton introduced A Commercial Non-Discrimination Policy (05-0249), which requires all firms seeking to do business with the city to have clear and enforced non-discrimination policy.

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