Tue November 19, 2013
Mizeur Proposes Marijuana Legalization, Major Penn Line Delays, and Baltimore City Council News
An Amtrak train derailment on Monday night has led to significant delays for Penn Line MARC trains. Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Heather Mizeur wants Maryland to legalize and tax marijuana, and use the funds to expand pre-K education. Plus: news from the Baltimore City Council, and more.
Amtrak Train Derailment, Penn Line Problems: Penn line MARC trains are going to be running late today… the delays are a result of an Amtrak train that derailed just south of Baltimore at around 7 last night. As the Baltimore Sun reports, the front wheels of the train came off the rails, but the passenger cars remained upright. No injuries were reported, and an investigation of the incident is underway. That investigation has led to significant delays on the Penn Line… at one point this morning, Amtrak shut the rails down. The MTA has the latest on delays here. And the MTA says it’ll reimburse passengers who had to take taxis to complete their journeys last night.
Mizeur Proposes Legalization Of Marijuana: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur is unveiling a proposal to legalize marijuana in Maryland. A recent Goucher College poll found a narrow majority of Marylanders is in favor of legalizing the drug… and while the General Assembly has approved the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, that program isn’t expected to be up and running until the year 2016. Mizeur tells the Baltimore Sun that the criminalization of marijuana has been a “failed policy for us as a nation,” and the Montgomery County delegate claims the drug is QUOTE “safer than alcohol or tobacco.” Mizeur’s proposal would allow people 21 and older to possess and use marijuana legally. She’s calling for an excise tax and sales tax on the drug, and says she expects marijuana sales could bring in more than $150-million a year… money that she wants to use to pay for an expansion of the state’s prekindergarten programs. The delegate is pointing to Washington state and Colorado as examples; those states approved plans to legalize and tax marijuana last year. Mizeur’s rivals for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination are also considering changes to the state’s marijuana policy, but neither appear willing to go as her plan; state Attorney General Doug Gansler says he’s “looking at options,” and Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown says he “welcomes a… discussion” of decriminalizing small amounts of the drug. Two of the three Republicans in the Governor’s race – Harford County Executive David Craig and Anne Arundel County Delegate Ron George – say they’re opposed to legalization; Charles County businessman Charles Lollar says he’s undecided. There’s more here from the Washington Post. And a programming note: we’ll be talking with Delegate Ron George about his bid for governor today at noon, on Midday with Dan Rodricks.
Baltimore Panhandling Bill: A bill that would greatly limit panhandling in Baltimore has been sent back to the committee. The measure would have banned panhandling in traffic as well as other public places – and it was planned for a preliminary vote in the City Council last night, with an amendment clarifying the number of feet allowed between panhandlers and outdoor dining facilities. The bill’s sponsor, Councilwoman Rikki Spector, says that with it the measure back in committee, she hopes its opponents will become supporters. But opposition remains strong… those against the measure say it’s less a public safety strategy than an effort to kick poor people out of downtown Baltimore. Many of them are staging a protest this weekend at McKeldin Square.
Young Calls For Investigation Into Police Staffing: Also at last night’s Council meeting, Baltimore City Council President “Jack” Young introduced a resolution calling for an investigative hearing into the city police department’s staffing plans. Young says that with a recent rise of violence, he wants to make sure that resources are being used wisely. Young adds that he is expecting to be briefed on a consultant’s report on the police department on Wednesday. That report is slated to look for efficiencies in the department. A hearing on Young’s resolution is scheduled for next week.
Baltimore’s “Taxi Tax”: A resolution to delay implementation of Baltimore’s so-called “taxi tax” was introduced in the City Council last night. The tax went into effect in October, requiring people who ride in a taxi, limousine, or for-hire sedan to pay a quarter-per-trip tax. Some drivers say they don’t have a means of collecting the tax, and say they won’t pay it. If approved, the resolution – introduced by City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke – would delay implementation of the tax for six months.
Councilmembers Call For Investigation Into Tyrone West Case: A Baltimore City Council committee is preparing to search for reasons why a cause of death has yet to be determined for a man who died in police custody. Tyrone West was pulled over in Northeast Baltimore back in July when a struggle ensued. He was taken to the hospital after police said he was suffering “medical distress” where he later died. Councilmen Bill Henry and Warren Branch introduced a resolution calling for Baltimore Police and the Chief Medical Examiner’s office to explain why a cause of death has not been determined – four months after the West’s death. A hearing on the resolution will take place on December 11.
Bill To Reduce Anne Arundel Stormwater Fee Voted Down: The Anne Arundel County Council has voted down a bill that would have lowered stormwater fees for county homeowners to 1-dollar per year. The vote on the measure was 4 to 3. The Capital Gazette reports that some council members want some sort of alternative funding for stormwater cleanup projects to be in place before it changes the current fee schedule.
Baltimore County Council Rejects Low Income Housing Project: The Baltimore County Council has rejected one-million-dollars in state funding for a low income housing development project. As the Baltimore Sun reports, “Homes for America” has been seeking approval for their plan to build townhomes and single family houses on ten acres near McCormick Avenue in Rosedale. Last night’s unanimous vote came after neighborhood groups strongly opposed the proposal, saying they were concerned about a possible increase in crime.
New Recycling Facility Opening In Cockeysville: Baltimore County officials will cut the ribbon today on a new $23-million dollar recycling sorting facility in Cockeysville. Officials say the high-volume facility will process residential mixed paper, bottles and cans efficiently and generate millions of dollars in revenue for the county. The new single-stream operation will be able to process up to 35 tons of recyclables per hour, with the capacity to handle up to 70-thousand tons per year. The Baltimore News Journal has more.