Wednesday, October 10, 2007

10/8 City Council Meeting Summary

The sparsely attended legislative session began with a cute slide show from the Rec and Parks department to remind the council how much they like summer camp, and quickly moved to a united show of triathlon disapproval by several local clergymen. St. John Neumann on Bestgate Rd. reported attendance at the beginning of services of 12% of the normal level for the 9:00 mass!

(The sparsely attended legislative session ended with AP leaving city hall sans laptop, and retrieving it from the mayor's office the next day. In what would be a foreshadowing of how awful Tuesday would be for yours truly, we could not find my laptop while I was there, and I was called back to city hall only 20 minutes later. At least we found it.)

Legislation Passed

CA-03-07: Acting Directors. This was amended slightly. Before, you could be an 'acting' director forever, without the same scrutiny that a full director would have. Now, if you are an acting director, you have to be re-approved every 6 months by the council. Good or bad: good. Why? Increased checks and balances on mayor, improved transparency of government.

O-05-07: Taxicab Permits. Any person who has been incarcerated in the past 7 years for a crime committed against another person, or a substance abuse crime, cannot drive a cab. Good or bad: good. Why? Reduces chance of getting robbed or getting into an accident in a cab.

O-12-07, R-21-07: Sidewalks. Private property owners are now responsible for the expense of installing sidewalks for the first time. They are also responsible for keeping sidewalks clean, well maintained, and well lit. The city will maintain sidewalks on private property that were traditionally used by the public, but will assess a fee to the property owners when the city repairs a public right of way! Good or bad: bad. Why? For goodness' sake, what do our property taxes go to? Special projects? Sister city trips? We pay property taxes so the city can maintain roads, sidewalks, and pay police and fire. This is like city management 101 here. What's worse is that the city is creating a 'Sidewalk Fund' to deal with the fees and expenses occurred by sidewalks. Sidewalk only butt. It's the same as saying 'we are going to put a toll booth at the bay bridge, and use that money only for bridge maintenance'. Doesn't happen. The city will use that money for what it needs--this is common practice for enterprise funds.

O-18-07, R-29-07: Fees For Solicitors. I don't know what the definition of solicitor is in the code, but before people could solicit for free and now they have to pay $30. Good or bad: greedy. (I just refused to answer my own question.)

O-21-07: Swimming In City Dock Water. You may wonder why this has not been passed yet, as you are acutely aware that the triathlon already happened. You will be happy to know that a provision allowing swimming in that water was included in the lease with the triathlon people, so when the council approved the lease, it preempted this ordinance. Any person wishing to swim within 150 feet of Susan Campbell Park must get permission from the harbormaster. This ordinance passed despite objections from Alderman Stankivic, who cited the need for more research. Good or bad: mundane. People can already swim off their boats, and there is precedent (i.e. Ocean City) for cities not being liable when idiots hurt themselves while swimming in city waters, PLUS the harbormaster has to approve anybody who wants to swim. City council: if it makes you happy, go for it!

O-28-07: Zoning Notifications. Any decision made by the planning and zoning director must be sent in writing to anybody who provided recorded testimony about that particular issue. Good or bad: good. Why? Helps people know what's going on, specifically people who have shown that they are interested.

(At this point, I took a restroom break. I believe that a bill concerning reestablishing water service after a termination was passed during this time.)

(I also bought a soda, which cost $1.25.)

R-51-07: Waiving Fees For Harry Potter/Halloween Festival. Originally the festival was called a Harry Potter Festival. Apparently somebody decided that the public would not like giving them a free ride, and Alderman Israel quickly sponsored an amendment to call it a Halloween Festival, probably because it seems more inclusive. They don't have to pay up to $650 in parking meter fees for the event. Good or bad: bad! I mean, why even have fees if we are going to waive them? "Let's waive the fee to earn some political points, then let's raise taxes for everyone to cover the money we just lost." Sound like a good idea? Good? Good. Because that's what will happen. The purpose of street festivals is to help some specific interests, usually the businesses on said streets. I don't think that justifies enough of a benefit for the entire public to waive a fee.

O-37-07: Requiring A Fiscal Impact Note When Waiving Fees. This one is going to break your balls (pardon the expression). This ordinance does exactly what it says. Great, you think, now we can see the fiscal impact of waiving fees for the above festival. Not so fast!!! At the beginning of the meeting, Alderman Israel made a motion to take the Harry Potter/Halloween bill under consideration out of order--earlier than expected. The other Aldermen, largely still trying to get comfortable in their seats, went along with the motion and the stinking Harry Potter Halloweeny Fee Waving was passed BEFORE the legislation requiring discernment of the fiscal impact of waving those fees! Alderman Israel was elected to serve his ward, which he did, but this was kind of BS.

Several more bills passed, but let's get serious people--this post is getting kind of long.

Lightning Round:
-Fire Prevention and Rail Feasibility Task Forces
-Clay Street and Bates: Still Community Legacy Areas.

Interesting First Readers:

(First readers are bills that are introduced for the first time. Bills almost always pass on first reader, because that's how they get studied in committee. So, when these come up for second reader and the pointless and redundant third reader, we will discuss them at that time.)

-Acknowledging the public service of John Patmore, which is funny because Mr. Patmore was fired, which means that he didn't serve the public very well. This was introduced by the Mayor!
-Open Air Market Lease.
-Lease for Race Across America, which is basically a steroid-boosted Triathlon situation, only with all bicycles.
-Richmond, North Yorkshire, UK--New Sister City!!

Legislation That Failed

An Eastport zoning change because they want to do it in the Comp. Plan, and some other thing that was made moot by the APFO.

Next meeting: 10/22 public hearing.

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