The Baltimore City Council is set to vote on bills addressing panhandling and the new “taxi tax.” Senator Ben Cardin is set to endorse Anthony Brown’s gubernatorial campaign. Plus: speed cameras, Baltimore homicides, Rawlings-Blake’s trip to Panama, Philippines relief, indoor tanning, and more.*
City Council On “Taxi Tax,” Panhandling, More: The Baltimore City Council tonight will focus on the city’s so-called “taxi tax” – set to add an extra 25 cents per passenger per trip in taxis, limousines, and for-hire sedans. The first collection of the tax is set for later this month… but City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke is expected introduce legislation that would delay the collection of the tax for six months. Councilman Jim Kraft says he supports the measure, and argues that the city should not collect a penny until a fair way to implement the tax is in place. Kraft tells WYPR: “The finance department did not think this through and did not develop a proper process for implementation.” Many taxi, limo and sedan service drivers say they are not going to pay the tax. A spokesman for Mayor Rawlings-Blake told the Baltimore Sun last week that the city has every intention on collecting the tax. The City Council tonight is also set to hold a preliminary vote on a bill that would limit panhandling in Baltimore. And the Council will likely hold a final vote on a charter amendment seeking an independent lawyer to represent the city council.
Baltimore Speed Cameras: Baltimore officials appear to be in the process of ending the city's speed camera contract. Sources tell the Baltimore Sun that city officials are trying to sever ties with speed camera vendor Brekford after nearly a year of unresolved problems with the city’s cameras. The city shut the system down in April because of inaccurate speed readings and other problems. The Sun reports that the cameras may remain offline until the middle of next year.
Brown To Get Cardin Endorsement: Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown’s bid for governor is set to pick up another endorsement today; the Baltimore Sun reports that the nod will come from US Senator Ben Cardin. Brown’s campaign has already been endorsed by Maryland’s other Senator, Barbara Mikulski, as well as the majority of the state’s Democrats in the House of Representatives, and scores of state officials including current Governor Martin O’Malley. Also running for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination is Montgomery County Delegate Heather Mizeur – whose endorsements include Baltimore City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke and former Republican Congressman Wayne Gilchrest. State Attorney General Doug Gansler is in the race as well, and has his own slate of endorsements; but Gansler’s downplaying the importance of such support – and telling the Washington Post that Brown’s endorsements only indicate that the lieutenant governor is the “establishment candidate.”
2014 Watch: Why Mizeur Matters WYPR's Fraser Smith and Josh Kurtz of Center Maryland talk about why Heather Mizeur's campaign for governor is reminiscent of Bill de Blasio's run for mayor of New York City. It’s this morning’s edition of Inside Maryland Politics.
AFSCME Endorses Frosh In AG Race: Maryland’s largest union of state government workers has endorsed State Senator Brian Frosh’s campaign to become the state’s next Attorney General. AFSCME, or the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, formally announced its support of Frosh over the weekend. AFSCME represents about 25-thousand state workers and public university employees. The Baltimore Sun notes that Frosh is vying for the Democratic nomination in the state Attorney General’s race with Delegates Aisha Braveboy, Jon Cardin, and Bill Frick. No Republicans have entered the AG’s race so far.*
Baltimore Nonprofits Help In Philippines: Baltimore area nonprofits are assisting in the relief efforts in the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan. As the Baltimore Sun reports, Baltimore based World Relief has been mobilized, working with local Filipino agencies to provide food packets and housing repairs to surviving victims. Catholic Relief Services has more than 20 people in the country, focused on providing necessary non-food items and temporary shelter for displaced residents. Also involved in the relief effort is the Hunt Valley based Foundation for Aid to the Philippines.
Rawlings-Blake To Panama: Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is heading to Panama today to view the expansion of the Panama Canal. Rawlings-Blake is one of several municipal leaders selected to join Vice President Joe Biden on the visit; the Baltimore Sun notes that the two-day trip is being paid for by the federal government. The Port of Baltimore is expected to benefit from the Panama Canal’s expansion, which will allow larger ships to pass through it; Baltimore is one of a handful of American cities that can handle the large size container ships.
Baltimore Gun Violence: Baltimore saw more gun violence over the weekend; four homicides were reported in two days. Baltimore has seen 29 murders over the last 30 days; the homicide total for the year is 210 – at this time last year, the city had seen 194 murders. City Police Commissioner Anthony Batts tells the Baltimore Sun that all of the weekend shootings took place outside the hot zones where increased violence has been targeted by police. Meanwhile, City Council President “Jack” Young is calling on Commissioner Batts to testify before the Council on why a strategic plan to reduce crime is not yet producing results.
Revised Tanning Form For Minors: The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has finalized revisions to a form that must be filled-out before a minor uses an indoor tanning facility. The form warns indoor tanning can cause skin cancer and that skin cancer can be fatal. State health officials tell the Baltimore Sun that tanning facilities will have to use the new form starting December 15th. Minors who get a signed form will be able to go to tanning facilities for up to six months before they need to get new ones. Maryland lawmakers passed a measure back in 2008 that requires a parent or legal guardian to provide written consent for anyone under the age of 18 to use an indoor tanning facility.
MD Excludes Special Ed Students From Reading Test: The National Center for Education Statistics says that Maryland excluded a higher percentage of special education students from taking a reading test than any other state. That means the state's scores on the national reading test may be inflated. Center officials tell the Baltimore Sun that Maryland's scores were seven points higher for fourth grade reading and five points higher at the eighth grade level because of excluding the special ed students.
O’Malley To Tour VEEP Set: Governor Martin O'Malley today will visit the set of the Emmy award winning HBO television show VEEP. The governor will tour the closed sound stage in Columbia where the show is filmed; he says he’ll to highlight the success of Maryland's film tax credits and his administration's commitment to job creation. The series is currently filming its third season in Maryland, and O'Malley says HBO productions has generated $300-million in economic activity in Maryland since 1997.
Baltimore Football: the Ravens fell to the Chicago Bears yesterday; the game went into overtime, and the final score was 23 to 20. The Ravens will host the New York Jets this coming Sunday; the Jets are 5 and 5 for the season; the Ravens, now 4 and 6.
Correction: The original headline of this post named the incorrect Attorney General candidate as receiving the endorsement of AFSCME. As the body of the story says, they endorse State Senator Brian Frosh.