Wed February 26, 2014
Winter Weather, MD’s 2014 Elections, Marijuana Bills, Dog Bites, & “America’s Coolest Small Town”
Central Maryland’s getting another blast of snow. The filing deadline has come and gone for this year’s statewide elections. Plus: marijuana bills, dog bites, Baltimore ordered to repay federal grant money, and Berlin is named “America’s Coolest Small Town.” Just how is Berlin supposed to be pronounced, anyway?
Wednesday Winter Weather: Old Man Winter’s not done with Maryland yet. The listening area is under a winter weather advisory until noon; the National Weather Service says that 1 to 2 inches of snow could fall before midday. DC offices of the federal government are open, but employees do have the option for unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework, so that might lower the volume on the roads – at least for folks heading down to the DC area.
Baltimore To Approve Snow Removal Contract Extensions: Baltimore City’s Board of Estimates is expected to approve come contract extensions today – for deals with dozens of snow plow operators to keep the city’s street clear the rest of the season. The Baltimore Sun reports that the extensions will cost some $3.6-million. Baltimore’s already spent nearly $5.5-million on snow removal, twice the amount budgeted this winter.
Baltimore Issues Fines For Failure To Shovel Snow: City officials are reminding property owners that they’re legally obligated to shovel the snow from the sidewalks that line their properties. By statute, folks have just 3 hours after snow’s stopped falling to get the sidewalks clear. The Baltimore Sun reports that city housing inspectors have issued about 200 citations this winter. Last winter, they issued just one. Fines run between $50 for homeowners and $100 for commercial property owners.
2014 Elections: The filing deadline has come and gone for this year’s statewide elections. Candidates who have filed have until Thursday to withdraw. Offices up for grabs include all 188 seats in the General Assembly, as well as the posts of Governor, state Attorney General, and state Comptroller. Yesterday, a prominent Republican gubernatorial candidate picked his running mate; Anne Arundel County Delegate Ron George has chosen Shelly Aloi as his candidate for Lieutenant Governor. The Frederick News Post reports that the 53-year-old Aloi is a banking analyst who has served as a Frederick city alderman, a medical researcher, a math and science teacher and director of an Olympic Village in 1996. She ran unsuccessfully for Frederick mayor last year. The George/Aloi team is one of 5 Republican gubernatorial tickets, with the others headed by “Change Maryland” founder Larry Hogan, Harford County Executive David Craig, Charles County businessman Charles Lollar, and retired firefighter Brian Vaeth. And in all, there are 6 Democrats running for governor: Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, state Attorney General Doug Gansler, Montgomery County Delegate Heather Mizeur, teacher Ralph Jaffe, activist Cindy Walsh, and perennial candidate Charles Ulysses Smith. All gubernatorial tickets are listed here. The race for the Democratic nomination for Attorney General has become less crowded. The Daily Record reports that Delegate Bill Frick yesterday dropped out of the AG’s race, and filed to run for reelection to the House. That leaves three Democrats vying for their party’s nomination: State Senator Brian Frosh and Delegates Aisha Braveboy and Jon Cardin. Republican Jeffrey Pritzker is running unopposed for the Republican Attorney General’s nomination. The Attorney General candidates are listed here. And in the Comptrollers race, Democratic incumbent Peter Franchot and Republican William Campbell are running unopposed for their party’s nominations. Meanwhile, former Prince George’s County Delegate Tiffany Alston is campaigning to win her old seat in the House of Delegates. The Washington Post reports that Alston was removed from office last year, after following convictions of theft and misconduct in office; she only served in the General Assembly during two sessions. The Baltimore Sun notes that Governor Martin O’Malley appointed Darren Swain to fill the seat; Delegate Swain is running for re-election.
Marijuana Legislation Debate: In Annapolis yesterday, lawmakers in the state Senate’s Judicial Proceedings Committee began to debate bills that would change Maryland’s marijuana laws. WYPR’s Christopher Connelly reports that several bills are under consideration. One would essentially legalize the use of the drug for adults 21 years old or older, and regulate the cultivation and sale of it. That measure is similar to laws now in place in Colorado and Washington State. Another bill would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of the drug. And lawmakers will also consider legislation that would make changes to Maryland’s existing medical marijuana law; the state’s medical marijuana program isn’t expected to be operational for another 18 months, at least. Recent polls show that more Marylanders are in favor of legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana than support keeping current laws in place. Yesterday’s debate brought out hundreds of people rallying both for and against the proposals. The Baltimore Sun reports that one protest was from a group of police chiefs, sheriffs and state's attorneys who don’t want current laws to change. Members of that group say that even if marijuana was legal, there would still be a black market for the drug and there would not be a reduction of drug violence. They also said that they didn’t oppose making medical marijuana more available to people who need it. One of the law enforcement officials who testified against decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana yesterday is apologizing for something he said. Speaking before lawmakers Annapolis Police Chief Michael Pristoop said a number of people died in Colorado from marijuana overdoses on the first day the drug became legal in that state. Chief Pristoop was immediately challenged on that claim, and he now says he realizes the information is not correct and is, in fact, an "urban myth." Despite the gaffe, Pristoop tells the Annapolis Capital that his error should not take away from the other facts he presented in opposition to legalizing pot.
How State Legislature Might Find Compromise On Dog Bites: WYPR's Joel McCord and Kate Alexander of the Gazette talk about how the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee is trying to compromise with the House of Delegates in order to get a dog bite liability law that is breed-neutral. It’s this morning’s edition of Inside Maryland Politics.
Baltimore Ordered To Repay Grant Money: The City of Baltimore has been ordered to repay $3.7-million in federal homeless grants. In a copy of the order, obtained by the Baltimore Sun, the federal government alleges that the city and its subcontractors cannot account for how the money was spent. Baltimore got some $9.5-million in federal funds, which were supposed to help pay to get homeless people into housing and pay utility bills. City officials dispute the federal government’s findings. They say the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development rushed the grant process and should receive some blame for the poor oversight of its spending. We’ll have more on this story at 9, on Maryland Morning with Sheilah Kast.
Partnership To Help Pay Homeless People’s Utility Bills: Baltimore is joining BGE to help homeless people pay the utility bills they incurred while they had homes. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said yesterday efforts are underway to eliminate payment on past due accounts. The Baltimore Sun reports that the plan is available to people moving from a shelter to permanent housing.
MD Schools Ask To Delay Use Of Test Scores In Teacher Evaluations: Maryland teachers are hoping to avoid evaluation for three years. As the Baltimore Sun reports, school administrators are seeking a delay in using student test scores to grade teacher performance. The state is switching to Common Core standards, but new exams will not be available until next year. School board officials requested a delay from the federal government yesterday.
Canavan Appointed Harford County Schools Superintendent: the Interim Superintendent of Harford County Public Schools is now the system’s permanent superintendent. The Harford County Board of Education appointed Barbara Canavan to the post for four years earlier this week. She’s been on the job since July of last year, and the Baltimore Sun reports that her permanent appointment is effective this July 1st.
Berlin Named “America’s Coolest Small Town: A tiny town on the Eastern Shore now has bragging rights to the title of "America's Coolest Small Town." As the Baltimore Sun reports, the Worcester County town of Berlin beat out 14 other finalists for the title, in a contest by budgettravel.com. The competition included small towns in California, Colorado, New York, South Carolina and West Virginia. Berlin is near the Ocean City beach and the movies "Runaway Bride" and "Tuck Everlasting" were filmed there. There’s no consensus on how the name of the town should be spoken aloud; it was originally named after a tavern called the "Burleigh Inn" and pronounced with a stress on the first syllable, but Berlin is more commonly pronounced like the city in Germany these days.