Monday, November 20, 2006

Baltimore City Council Tonight

The Baltimore City Council meets soon for only the second time since this month's elections. The results have settled in and members are taking the lay of the land as many jockey for the newly contestable Mayor and Council President positions. Over the next year, personalities and politics will make an interesting concotion as current President Sheila Dixon tries to prove herself as Mayor while other contenders for the spot muddy her reputation and build their own. And then there's the small crowd with their eyes on the Council Presidency.

Posturing bills, fluffy speeches... The race is on tonight!

But first, Councilmember Robert Curran (3rd) held court as his Judiciary Committee considers his short-sighted proposal (05-0073) to ban smoking at most indoor bars and restaurants. Curran's goal is noble and smart - smoking poses a serious public health problem and many patrons deserve smoke-free hang outs. But at a time when the Council is considering keeping bars open to 4am to attract young people and artists, banning smoking will take away one more characteristic that makes Baltimore unique among large East Coast cities. And prohibiting smoking in restaurants won't save health costs because smokers will keep up their habits at home. Council could easily address the legitimate concerns by making a smoking ban the norm while salvaging the business and cultural benefits of cigarettes by allowing bars and restaurants to opt out. From this reasonable compromise would emerge a largely smokefree city with bastions of freedom for smokers and those who enjoy the ambiance of a smokey club.

No exciting bills slated for final passage later on in the day when the full council gets together. A couple of good bills are making progress, including Mary Pat Clarke's bill (06-0358) to reconstitute the the Baltimore City Commission for Women. And one of The League's favorites also gets its second reader tonight: 05-0115R would encourage the City's Purchasing Agent to use local small businesses to fulfill government contracts. We complained last week about the city's awarding of contracts businesses located outside of Baltimore, effectively pushing tax dollars out of the city. 05-0115R is a step to solving this problem.

from The League: Reassembled

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