Wandering Eye: The vaping debate continues, scandal in the Environmental Control Board, and Baltimore signs explained

Luke Broadwater's piece in The Sun about the Baltimore City Council's bill to ban the use of vapor products wherever smoking tobacco is already prohibited provides a good summary of the controversy surrounding electronic-cigarette use. It reports that the bill, which is expected to pass its first full-council vote today, has been amended to allow bars and restaurants to opt out of the ban, and to exempt vape shops as well. While it appears vapor products are helping people quit smoking tobacco (this writer included), efforts to scientifically study the public-health effects of using this relatively new technology have only just begun—though peer-reviewed studies are being published at steady clip, such as this one, which found that intensive vapers were six times more likely to quit smoking compared to smokers who only vaped occasionally, or not at all. (Van Smith)


The Baltimore Brew lets us know about a city Inspector General's report, quietly released late Friday, which details the alleged theft of city time by Sandra E. Baker, a lawyer who headed up the Environmental Control Board (i.e. "Trash Court") until she was fired Aug. 1. Baker made $97,000 a year but often went to the office late, preferring to spend her time in salons and/or out of state. In the city's time card system she charged the taxpayers for at least 81 hours she had not worked, the IG report says. And that's a low estimate because the IG had to check a lot of things to say for sure what hours were worked and what were not—including surveillance video, airplane tickets and email records. Office staff (who Baker abused, according to the report) told investigators that Baker was physically present in the office for as little as 15 to 20 hours a week—and that she explained her absences by saying that "as a mayoral appointee and a member of the Mayor's Cabinet, she can come to the office as she pleases as a perk of the position." Baker signed off on her own time cards. When confronted by investigators, she said she did a lot of work from home. Investigators, with evidence, disagreed. The States Attorney's office declined to prosecute the case, the Brew reports, and as of yet the Attorney Grievance Commission has not disciplined Baker. (Edward Ericson Jr.)


Blue-light specials . . . Wall pissers . . . hoodies and bandit signs. It's all right here on the Baltimore Chop's five-part series on urban semiotics. Part 1 explains the why: Many young people are asking, "where are the good neighborhoods? Where are the sketchy?" So rather than telling them outright, our intrepid blogger teaches them to see for themselves by breaking down the subtext of the common signs posted in various neighborhoods. Part 2 deals with the generally sketchy and/or poor: test strip sales, the white X on the red background. Part 3 is perhaps the most interesting, as it unveils the so-so neighborhoods that may be going up or down, depending on one's perspective. "This sign is for a cooperative garden in Station North. It's a double edged sword as well because what underlies it is that there are enough community minded activists around to change land from an empty lot to a productive garden, but also that the land isn't worth enough for any development beyond a garden." Part 4 is for "good" neighborhoods. "In a good neighborhood most of the signs one sees have something to do with parking," says the Chop. Oh, but the rest of them! You will laugh. Part 5 is the leftovers and isn't the best post of all but it has a shocker, so read it all the way to the end anyway. You will cry. (Edward Ericson Jr.)

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