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April 2012 Baltimore City Update
Bill No. 11-0002 – Renewal of Downtown Management District and
Downtown Management Authority
Summary: The Downtown Partnership of Baltimore is a non-profit corporation whose mission is to create a more vibrant community for businesses, property owners, residents, employees, and visitors.
For about 25 years, Downtown Partnership programs have sought to increase investment, grow the numbers of residents, restaurants, and retail stores, improve quality of life, provide solutions to transportation challenges, improve parks and green spaces, and increase workforce development opportunities.
The Downtown Partnership oversees the 106-block Downtown Management Authority (DMA) and the delivery of programs to it. Commercial property owners in the DMA fund these services through an annual surcharge of 21.39 cents per $100 of assessed property value.
This ordinance would renew and continue the Downtown Management District and Downtown Management Authority for an additional 5 years.
Status: Approved by City Council 3/19/12, and signed by the Mayor 3/22/2012
Bill 11-0683 - Urban Renewal - Market Center –
Amendment to Renew the Market Center Urban Renewal Plan
Summary: The Market Center Urban Renewal Plan, which encompasses much of Mount Vernon and downtown Baltimore, has been in place since 1977. It was meant to revitalize the area as a mixed use neighborhood linking the University Center area with the Central Business District. This bill renews the plan through Dec. 31, 2014, and re-authorizes the Plan’s powers of acquisition and condemnation.
Status: Approved by City Council 6/20/11, and signed by the Mayor 6/24/2011
Bill No. 12-0009 – Fees for Plans or Drawings
Summary: This ordinance would increase the fee for permit or certificate applications that require the
submission of plans or drawings from $25-125 for 1- and 2- family residences; and from $50 to $150 for all other plans. The Bill has an effective date of May 1, 2012.
Status: Assigned to Judiciary and Legislative Investigations, no vote yet.
Bill No. 12-0018 - City Property Taxes
Summary: Councilman Carl Stokes tried to get this passed by 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). His concept would be to 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 opposes this measure.
Status: Assigned to Judiciary and Legislative Investigations, no hearing scheduled
Bill No. 12-0023 - Election of the Mayor, the Comptroller, and the President
and Members of the City Council in 2016
This bill would provide for the election of the Mayor, Comptroller, City Council President and Council Members in 2016 and in every succeeding fourth year and adjust the terms of office for those elected in 2011. Currently, City elections are on a 4-year schedule, with the last election having been in 2011. Municipal elections cost about $3.6 million to stage and voter turnouts are only in the 20 percent range. This bill requires both a city charter amendment and action by the state General Assembly. Senate Bill 597, which authorizes the change, passed the General Assembly and awaits the Governor’s signature.
Critics, including the Baltimore City League of Women Voters, have opposed this schedule in favor of holding Baltimore elections on gubernatorial election years (2014, 2018, etc.) instead of presidential election years (2012, 2016, etc.). The arguments are that the presidential cycle leaves the current Council members in place for five years, instead of three. Also, presidential primaries are in April—seven months before the general election in November—meaning that the primary winners (who are almost always the general election winners in the City) would have to wait a lengthy period before taking office the following January (the gubernatorial primary is in June).
A significant consideration is that, if the city moves to the presidential schedule, city and state officials will be able to run for each others’ offices while hanging on to their current positions. If the election cycle moves to the gubernatorial schedule, the politicians will risk their present electoral office in order to run for another office. For example, state Sen. Catherine Pugh (D-40th District), ran for mayor in 2011, lost, and was able to return to her senate seat for the 2012 session.
The switch will extend the terms of Mayor Rawlings-Blake and the sitting Council members by one year. That means she and Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young— who came into their positions after Mayor Sheila Dixon's resignation and served two years before being elected — will hold office for seven years, although they were only elected to a four-year term.
Status: Assigned to Judiciary and Legislative Investigations, no hearing scheduled.