Tue December 17, 2013
Speed Cameras, Harbor Point, The Minimum Wage, Animal Cruelty Legislation, and The Ravens’ Win
Baltimore is looking to end its contract with the company that runs its speed camera program. The City Board of Finance approves bonds for the Harbor Point development. Plus: the minimum wage in PG County, animal cruelty legislation in Baltimore County, last night’s Ravens victory, and more.
Baltimore’s Speed Camera Program: Baltimore City is planning to terminate its contract with the company that’s been in charge of its troubled speed camera and red light camera program since January. The Baltimore Sun reports that city’s Board of Estimates will vote tomorrow on a $600-thousand deal to end its relationship with Breckford Corp. The city’s camera program has been out of commission since April, due to problems with their accuracy. The loss of projected income from the cameras has had a significant impact on the city’s bottom line – Baltimore had expected the system would bring in $15-million this year. City officials say they plan to "re-evaluate the scope" of the program in the coming months… and members of the city council are split over whether the cameras should be used again; Councilman Brandon Scott says that speed cameras are necessary for the safety of Baltimore citizens… while Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke says the city should stop using cameras altogether and instead station more police officers at dangerous intersections.
Harbor Point One Step Closer: The Baltimore City Board of Finance approved $35-million in bonds yesterday for the Harbor Point development, moving the project another step closer to construction. Board members told WYPR’s Kenneth Burns that it will be a good deal for the city. There’s more on this story here from the Baltimore Sun and here from the Daily Record.
Unfunded Liabilities Rise For Baltimore Pension System: The pension system for Baltimore’s police and firefighters saw its unfunded liabilities grow by about $60-million last year, according to the Baltimore Sun. Unfunded liabilities are the obligations that the city wouldn’t be able to pay if they all came due today. Baltimore has recently made changes to its pension system, such as requiring public safety workers contribute 10 percent of their pay to the fund… and a spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake says such changes have prevented faster declines in the system’s health. The Mayor is reportedly planning for more changes next year, such as a new retirement system that would merge a traditional pension with a 401(k) style plan.
Prince George’s County’s Minimum Wage: A bill raising the minimum wage in Prince George’s County is set to be signed into law today. Despite earlier expressing misgivings about the bill, Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker announced yesterday that he’ll sign it into law today, at a ceremony set for 10:30am. The Washington Post notes that the legislation will gradually increase the rate from its current $7.25 an hour to $11.50 by 2017. The measure’s part of a push to raise the minimum wage in the Washington area; Montgomery County has already approved similar legislation, and lawmakers in DC will vote on their version of the bill today. The General Assembly is set to address the minimum wage at the statewide level when it meets next year… but legislative leaders say they don’t expect to raise the rate as high as the $11.50 an hour that’s been approved in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.
Animal Cruelty Bill Approved In Baltimore County: The Baltimore County Council has approved a bill that would increase penalties for people convicted of animal cruelty. It’ll increase fines for first offenders from $100 to $250. And fines for owners of dangerous animals will double, from $500 to $100. The Baltimore Sun reports that the legislation also makes changes to how animal cruelty complaints are handled, and requires people accused of animal cruelty to prepay the boarding costs of seized animals. The bill takes effect on December 29th.
Baltimore Homicides: Baltimore’s homicide total for 2013 is the highest it’s been in four years. As the Baltimore Sun reports, a murder yesterday morning brought the number of victims this year to 224.
“Gift Card For Guns” Program In Prince George’s: Prince George's County police have released the numbers from a weekend gun exchange program. Officials tell the Washington Post that 85 guns were collected in the "Gift Card for Guns" event on Saturday. The program offers gift cards of up to 150-dollars in exchange for firearms. A second gun trade-in takes place this coming weekend at the First Baptist Church of Glenarden in Landover.
Mega Millions Jackpot: Strong ticket sales are pushing that whopping Mega Millions jackpot even higher. Lottery officials tell the Baltimore Sun that the jackpot has been raised to at least $586-million for tonight's drawing, which is the second-highest Mega Millions jackpot ever. The multi-state lottery's top prize has been rolling since October 4th. If no one is a winner in tonight's drawing, the amount on Christmas Eve could top one-billion dollars.
Baltimore Football: The Ravens won their fourth game in a row last night, beating the Detroit Lions 18 to 16. The Ravens are now just one game back of the Cincinnati Bengals for first place in the AFC North; with wins in its final two games, the Ravens would win the AFC North. The Ravens are now locked in the second wild-card spot in the AFC as the team is tied with Miami, but the Ravens hold the tiebreaker after beating the Dolphins in Week 5. The Ravens host the Patriots Sunday afternoon.