Tue November 26, 2013
Possible Winter Weather, Thanksgiving Travel, Gansler’s Eyeglass Initiative, and Young Grills Batts
Parts of Maryland could see some winter weather today, as Thanksgiving travel gets underway. Gubernatorial hopeful Doug Gansler proposes offering eyeglasses to disadvantaged students. Baltimore City Council President “Jack” Young grills Police Commissioner Anthony Batts. And more.
Winter Weather: Commuters around Maryland could wind up spending some extra time in their cars today. The storm system that is sweeping into the area this morning could bring a mix of rain, snow, sleet, and freezing rain to areas north and west of Baltimore – which are under a Winter Weather Advisory through 4 this afternoon. The National Weather Service now says those areas could see up to half an inch of snow and sleet accumulation – and maybe a few hundredths of an inch of ice. And while there shouldn’t be any frozen precipitation for the evening commute, it’s expected to be very wet – with heavy rain expected to continue through the night.
Thanksgiving Travel: The Thanksgiving travel season gets underway today. And even if winter weather doesn’t materialize, the region’s roads are expected to fill up. The Maryland Transportation Authority is predicting a 1 percent uptick in travel at the state’s highways, bridges, and tunnels between now and Sunday night. Looking to beat the traffic? The MdTA’s newly appointed Executive Secretary, Bruce Gartner, says you should travel in “off peak hours” -- before 6am and after 11pm today and tomorrow, and between Thursday through Sunday, you should be able to avoid congestion by traveling before 9am and after 9pm. The skies are expected to be busy as well… the group Airlines For America says the number of passengers traveling through Monday is expected to be up by 31-thousand this year.
Young Grills Batts: Baltimore City Council President “Jack” Young took city Police Commissioner Anthony Batts to task last night over the city’s escalating crime rate. Young also tore into a recent consultant’s report that outlined plans to modernize the department. Batts tells the Baltimore Sun that he's battling a shortage of officers and placing those available in high-crime areas… and that he’s working with the police union to fill shifts that are currently short-staffed. WYPR’s Kenneth Burns has more.
Gansler Proposes Offering Glasses To Disadvantaged Students: Offering eyeglasses to disadvantaged Maryland students is the latest a policy initiative from Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Doug Gansler. As the Baltimore Sun reports, Gansler’s proposed program would see mobile vans bringing eyeglasses to disadvantaged students around the state. Gansler says the initiative will help students with poor vision see the blackboard – and close the achievement gap among Maryland students. The Washington Post reports that the glasses would be paid for with a combination of Medicaid funds and private sector funding. Gansler’s vying for the Democratic nomination with Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown and Montgomery County Delegate Heather Mizeur.
Minimum Wage Legislation To Get Vote In Montgomery: The Montgomery County Council is likely to pass legislation today raising Montgomery County’s minimum wage. But as the Washington Post reports, it’s unclear exactly what the legislation will contain. Last week, a committee approved a bill that would increase the rate from its current $7.25 an hour to $11.50 an hour over three years, and then tie it to inflation for future increases. But some Montgomery County lawmakers want a longer phase in period, or a rate lower than $11.50 an hour, or no inflation index… or some combination of the three. A vote is likely today on some form of the legislation. Two jurisdictions that border Montgomery– Prince George’s County and the District of Columbia – are also considering legislation raising their minimum wages. And the statewide rate could also go up – with many lawmakers, including Governor Martin O’Malley, saying that the General Assembly should consider setting a higher minimum wage when it convenes next year.
Board Of Estimates To Vote On Salary Increases: Baltimore’s Board of Estimates is set to vote tomorrow on a proposal that would increase the salaries for the Mayor and the 12 members of the City Council. The officials’ paychecks would go up 2 and a half percent under the plan, which was set by Baltimore’s Compensation Commission for Elected Officials – the Daily Record notes that the commission was created by a charter amendment that city voters approved in 2006. If approved, the raises will take effect on January 1st.
Natural Gas Pipeline Gets FERC Greenlight: Federal officials have approved the $180-million expansion of a natural gas pipeline from Baltimore County into Harford County. The decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will allow upgrades to the existing pipeline that runs from Owings Mills in Baltimore County to north of Fallston in Harford County. The existing line passes through Gunpowder State Park; the upgraded line will pass north of the park. The Columbia Pipeline Group says it’ll start construction on the 21.3 mile pipeline next year. The project is controversial, and has been opposed by lawmakers including Baltimore County State Senator Bobby Zirkin; the Democrat tells the Daily Record that he thinks influence of oil and gas companies has allowed it to move forward.
Balancing the City’s Development: As many as half the houses in some of Baltimore’s toughest neighborhoods are vacant—a far greater number than usually assigned to the problem, says Jay Brodie, a 40-year steward of development in Baltimore. In this installment of our series “Baltimore: Bright Promise, Sobering Challenge,” WYPR’s Fraser Smith reports that Brodie finds deplorable neglect in these areas – neglect of people living there as well as of the houses they live in.
Plans Move Forward For Express Toll Lanes: The Maryland Transportation Authority says it wants to create “Express Toll Lanes” on I-95. They would be “through” lanes for drivers traveling to destinations north and south of the Baltimore Beltway. Tolls for the seven mile stretch of highway would be collected electronically. The MdTA says the “Express Toll Lanes” could open late next year.
Pantelides Looks To Trim Annapolis Government: Annapolis’s Mayor-elect says he’s looking to eliminate some city government jobs when he takes office next month. Mike Pantelides tells the Capital Gazette that he thinks that there are “a number of political or contractual positions” that could be eliminated or consolidated. Pantelides says no decisions have been made yet, but adds that he thinks Annapolis’s government is “bloated in certain areas.” Pantelides will take office on December 2nd.