Monday, February 11, 2008

City Council Meeting(s) Tonight, 2/11/08

Normally, as we all know from our 8th grade civics class, the second Monday in Annapolis is reserved for the legislative meeting of the city council, and a 7:30 pm arrival at city hall. That is indeed happening tonight, but there is another scheduled meeting of note. There will be an emergency public hearing for O-27-07 Revised "D", A.K.A. the comprehensive environmental bill. This will start at 6 pm.

As we all also know, O-27-07 has been before public hearing before, and normally bills are not subject to double jeopardy. However, if a majority vote of the council determines that there have been 'substantive changes' to the bill, it must go before public hearing again. And since the original bill was to ban plastic bags, whereas this bill proposes to sacrifice chickens*, here I stand before you, making plans to power up the laptop for a live blog at 6 pm.

(*The bill actually mentions nothing about sacrifices, or foodstuffs. Instead, it is all about the environment, but has nothing to do with its original self.)

Remarkably, the bill is also on the legislative agenda for the normal meeting that starts right after this public hearing ends!! I would say that if you want to have your say before this bill is passed, your chance is 6 pm tonight; however, I doubt that will be the case. The bill is on the agenda due to a time requirement (the 120 day rule), and most of the committees have withheld their opinions pending the public hearing. I suspect the vote will be postponed, but I've been wrong before**.


To see the full agenda for the legislative meeting, click HERE. To see a few highlights, or lowlights depending on how the votes go down, read below.

Second/Third Readers (Vote Happens Today):

-O-06-07: Review Time For Legislation. I read through this bill and almost fell asleep...and that was after 2 cups of coffee. From what I can tell, it places a distinction on legislation that affects the zoning map, and attaches a different time requirement for such legislation to be reviewed and acted upon. Good or Bad: I have no idea.

-O-27-07 Revised "D": Environmental Omnibus Bill. Good or Bad: bad. Read why. Technically, and only technically, this is a revision of the plastic bag ban. This bill does not ban anything, which is good, and provides some directives to do reasonable things like increase recycling, which is also good. But, the bill goes farther, mandating various environmental standards without regard to economic consequences, and further directing city purchases of local or environmentally friendly materials with specific knowledge that the cost will be higher and without stipulation of correlation to benefits.

-O-47-07: Parking Issues. This would limit non-residential parking in residential parking districts 1-5 to 2 hours, for all times between 8 am and midnight. The current law has the same 2 hour requirement, but for a smaller time window. Good or bad: good first step, I guess. The problem is not during the day--that is when the residents are working and their cars are not there. The problem is at night, when they come home from work. I know there are people who get paid to study parking, but it strikes me that the perfect bill (for residents) would ban outsider parking from 4 pm to 10 am. This, of course, would disrupt the delicate balance of residents vs tourists, and force the city to build more parking garages (or find other ways to get people here), which isn't a bad thing.

-R-24-07: Running City Water To A County Fire Station. The county is building a fire station on the Annapolis Neck and asked the city to run its water there. This bill would do that. Good or bad: goofy, and seemingly inadequate. The city/county relationship is very weird. Why wouldn't they combine departments? R-24 makes no mention of the county paying the city for the water, and the last I checked, fire departments use a lot of water. What gives?

-R-04-08: Giving Parking Meter Money To The Homeless. This bill dresses up outright granting of money. It says that the money derived from 5 parking meters downtown, from November 1 through February 28, will be given to the homeless. But really, the same thing would be accomplished if that money went into the general fund (which it does), then a specific amount from the general fund was given (which is what will happen). Good or bad: bad. Let's back up: helping the homeless is not bad; this bill is bad. First of all, it doesn't tell us how much money this amounts to. That would be nice to know. Also, "the homeless" is quite the vague recipient. How, you might ask, is the exact distribution of the money determined? Well friend, it is "dedicated solely to homeless assistance within the city based on the recommendations of the Housing and Human Welfare Committee". I have no idea who is on that committee, or even what level of government the committee comes from. This bill is too vague, and vagueness=corruption of the system.

-Union Contract. This is not a legislative item, but appears under 'business'. Now, this is important because like 85% of the city's budget is spent on salaries and wages--which are negotiated in the union contract. Let's see what we find out.

First Readers (Almost Always Passed And Referred To Committees)

-CA-2-08: Requirements For Director Of Public Works. This charter amendment would delete the requirement that a DPW has to be an engineer. Now, cynics would say that this is to allow Bob Agee to continue to be the Acting DPW, but reassurances have been made that this is a phenomenon with precedent, as the position is evolving to a managerial one.

-O-6-08: Parking On Cornhill St. This would allow only residents to park there during road and sidewalk construction.

-O-7-08: Membership Of The Retirement Plan Commission. This might as well have been written in Latin, because I have no idea to what this refers. I'll get the research staff right on it---oh, right....I'll put a post-it note on the fridge.

-O-8-08: Requiring English Speakers On Work Crews. If I remember correctly, The Capital did a piece on this. Anyone with eyes can see that most work crews are Hispanic, but most people who need work done speak English. This could create a problem, especially if the work is dangerous/urgent. So, this bill would require at least 1 English speaker per crew. This travels with R-06-08, which sets a fine of $100 per day for breaking the rule.

-R-7-08: Naming A Park. They want to name the park here...............

View Larger Map

....................."Commodore John Barry Park".

-R-8-08: Arts And Entertainment District. This would give preferential tax treatment to artistic types who live in the district, which would stretch nearly the entire lenght of West St., as I remember. However, rumor is that people currently living in the proposed district are pissed because they are being pressured to leave.

Tune in for the fabulous, 3rd ever live blog...unless I get stuck painting my house.

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