Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Baltimore City Council's Judiciary and Legislative Investigations Committee Hearings (September 12)

from The League: Reassembled

As its name suggests, The Baltimore City Council's Judiciary and Legislative Investigations Committee has two jobs: one is considering law and crime bills, and the other is conducting investigations. Yesterday, it wore both hats.

The Committee voted to approve 05-0218, sending the legislation onto the full Council. The bill establishes a sunset provision for the Civil Citations Ordinance (03-595) which passed two years ago. The Civil Citations ordinance allows law enforcement officers to issue citations instead of arresting those in violation of public order codes like ticket scalping, obstructing a street or alley "in any manner," and playing ball in prohibited areas. The ordinance also allows officers to issue citations without warning. The sunset, which is set to go into effect retroactively September 13, will end some of the practices established by the Civil Citations ordinance. Officers should be encouraged to correct nuisances via citations to avoid the over-crowding that plagues Central Booking, but police should also use discretion when issuing citations to avoid further deterioration of the relationship between law enforcement and the public.

Approving the sunset was boring compared the excitement caused by the investigation into allegations that the Baltimore Development Corp. improperly sold property for a price far below its appraised value. The Baltimore Sun's coverage emphasized that Councilmembers, especially Robert Curran of the 3rd Dist., were harshly critical of the "decision to sell city-owned property at less than the appraised value and for striking a deal with a developer who owed the city back taxes and rent." The investigation comes amid growing concern that the development agency's semi-independent status allows it to make important decisions without Council or public oversight and accountability. The panel's criticism provides support for Council's current proposal (05-0244) to bring the Baltimore Development Corp. under the scrutiny of the public by placing it within the purview of the Public Ethics Law.

from The League: Reassembled with revisions

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