WYPR News
12:06 am
Tue March 25, 2014

City Hall Notebook: Final Vote on ‘Ban The Box’ Pushed To April

Originally published on Tue March 25, 2014 8:48 am

The Baltimore City Council put off a final vote on a bill that would prevent criminal background checks until after job interviews at the request of Councilman Nick Mosby, the bill’s sponsor.

The vote on the “Ban the Box” bill was expected at Monday’s meeting, but probably won’t come until the April 7 meeting.

Mosby said he hopes the delay will allow a fair chance for people to talk about the bill and how to provide jobs to those convicted of a crime that have been shut out of the job market for a long time.

“I thought it was best to just provide folks with an opportunity to show their approach,” said Mosby who added he is interested in hearing from people who have viable options to provide jobs to ex-offenders.

Last Week, Greater Baltimore Committee President Donald Fry, wrote in a letter to The Baltimore Sun, that the GBC’s Board of Directors feared the bill would hurt the business climate of the city and would do more unintentional harm than good.  Mosby says existing policies have had a negative effect on folks for decades.

“It’s time for us to start driving policies that are consistent with human capital development in the City of Baltimore,” he said. 

Davon Neverdon, an advocate with the reform group Out For Justice, said he is praying for the passage of the bill next month.  Two decades ago, he was accused of first-degree murder and was later convicted of drug charges.  He does not see the delay in the final vote as bad because business leaders are listening.

“This is called time to sit down,” he said, “If they wasn’t listening or if they wasn’t having any concerns or if they wasn’t even looking at us, that’s when I would have a concern.”

Neverdon says the bill is not “a felon ticket” to get a job, but it’s to help those convicted of lesser crimes.

“That college kid that got that one marijuana charge - $10.00 bag they call it – and that young kid cannot go on to the pursuit of their degree because of what their charge states, but we know that may have been a little slip up in school or something; that kid should not have be punished [like] myself,” he added.

Council Wants Money Back

The administration sent a bill to the council to use money from the city’s general fund to pay back $3.7 million to the federal government as the result of an audit of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s homeless prevention grant program.

At the same time, two members introduced a resolution calling for a hearing on the audit’s findings.

Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke and Council President Jack Young, the sponsors, said money from the general fund could be used for police, fire and other city services.

Clarke, who encouraged the council to read the HUD audit, said it hurts to pay the money because the city did not do a good enough job of overseeing grant recipients. 

“People were telling the truth about what they were doing with the money; some of it didn’t meet the guidelines; they didn’t know that,” Clarke said.

Clarke said she believes Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who stated in February that HUD was vague about rules governing the grant. Clarke added that the city should fight to keep the money if that’s the case.

Young voted as a member of the Board of Estimates to pay the money back to HUD.  He also wants the city to recover some of the money from organizations involved in administering the grant.

“We need that money; we’re a poor city,” He said. “We don’t have that money to just give back to the federal government.”

Young said he is opposed to dipping into the general fund to pay the federal government back.

Other notes

The council unanimously voted to ban smoking within 50 feet of a playground, school yard, athletic field and public swimming pool.  Members also voted unanimously to give permanent subpoena power to the Judiciary and Legislative Investigations Committee, which is investigating what went wrong with the city’s speed and red light camera program.

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