The City Council met Jan. 9 to kick off the 2012 session with two new members: Brandon M. Scott (D), who replaced the retired Nicholas D’Adamo Jr. in the 2nd District, and Nick Mosby (D), who, with help from Gov. Martin O’Malley’s political network, defeated Belinda Conaway to represent a redrawn 7th District. Scott burst from the gate as the lead sponsor of an ordinance (12-0011, Crime and Arrest Statistics Online) and two resolutions: 12-0006R Legislative Oversight—Police Training Programs (see related story on page 7), and 12-0007R Informational hearing—College Access for Baltimore City’s School Students, which calls public school officials to a meeting to discuss “ways to raise awareness of the resources available to increase college access” for the city’s public school students. Councilmember Mary Pat Clarke (D-14th District) spoke in favor of the resolution, saying many students are accepted to college and get some financial aid but not enough to pay the bills. “They end up with huge gaps in financing,” she said. “They find out in August and can’t raise the money by September.”
12-0011 — Crime and Arrest Statistics onlineWould require the Baltimore Police Department to post neighborhood crime statistics on the internet.
The Read: While running for office, Scott pointed out that many other cities already post running crime statistics on the web, breaking them down by neighborhood. “As we all know, the department has made tremendous progress in the use of technology and being more transparent in recent years,” Scott told the Council. “Posting crime and arrest statistics online is a simple but important step in the Police Department’s continued mission to strengthen its relationship with the public.” The bill would require the department to post monthly and year-to-date crime and arrest figures, with historical comparables from the last three calendar years by police district and citywide. Statistics are to be compiled for homicide, nonfatal shootings, rape, aggravated assault, robbery, burglary, larceny-theft, arson, and hate crimes.
Also keeping a campaign promise, Councilmember Carl Stokes (D-12th District) introduced two property-tax bills:
12-0017 Taxes—Homestead Credit PercentageWould raise the percentage by which a homestead’s tax could be increased.
12-0018 Charter Amendment—Property Tax LimitationsWould cap the potential annual property-tax increase for all property, not just homesteads, and establish separate funds (from the increased homestead tax) to be used to lower property taxes.
The Read: Stokes tried to get this through the Council last year, but met with criticism from Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (whom he briefly challenged in the recent mayoral primary before withdrawing his candidacy last spring). The idea is to temporarily raise taxes on long-established homeowners and use that to offset revenue lost by cutting the overall property-tax rate in half, to $1.134 per $100 of assessed value, by 2017. Stokes says this will attract new homeowners to the city and lead to a renaissance, as radical tax reductions did in Boston and San Francisco. The mayor is still against it, and Stokes told The Baltimore Sun (which has lately done some good investigative reporting on the inequities of the current homestead-tax break) that he has a lot of work to do to convince Council colleagues of his plan’s merits. If the measures don’t pass, Stokes says he’ll likely organize a petition drive.
Other bills introduced included one (12-0008) to allow advertising on bike-sharing stations (bike-sharing is similar to Zipcar, but with bicycles; the city is negotiating a contract with B-Cycle of Wisconsin to bring a bike-share program to the city), a proposed $25 increase on some building permit application fees (12-0009), and bills to get rid of an unspecified bit of artwork in the Walter’s Art Museum collection (12-0010), rezone the 2800 block of Remington Avenue to residential (12-0013), allow a secondhand store to open at 5307 York Road (12-0014), and allow a parking lot at 426 Hutchins Avenue (12-0015) and 420 Howil Terrace (12-0016).
The next city council meeting is scheduled for monday, Jan. 23 at 5 p.m.