Summer is usually when Baltimoreans take vacations, things slow down, and people recharge their batteries. The City Council, however, has been hard at work introducing legislation to improve our City.
On Monday, July 16, I introduced three bills that will protect residents and increase government accountability.
My first bill would strengthen the ethics law that regulates the solicitation and acceptance of gifts by individual Councilmembers. The legislation would require individual Councilmembers to avoid solicitation or acceptance of gifts from persons who do business or seek to do business with the City or any agency of the City. Current rules only require Councilmembers to avoid solicitation or acceptance of gifts from persons who do business or seek to do business with their agency, which is the City Council.
My colleagues on the City Council and I are serious about upholding the trust of the citizens we are elected to serve. This piece of legislation shows a continued willingness on the part of this Council to hold itself to only the highest of ethical standards.
Baltimore City Board of Ethics Chairwoman Linda B. “Lu” Pierson said that the legislation would help to further inform citizens about the rules regarding solicitation or acceptance of gifts by their elected officials.
“Although the City Councilmembers represent residents in specific districts, the Ethics Board recognizes that these elected representatives strive to represent the interests of all citizens of Baltimore and we believe this broad interpretation of their ethical responsibilities is more appropriate,” Chairwoman Pierson said.
I also urge legislative reference, Board of Estimates staff, the Bureau of Purchasing and all other relevant agencies to think creatively about how and where to post a user-friendly list of all of the individuals who would be covered by this law. Not only should elected officials and staff be able to search a database to identify those persons who do business with the city or who are registered as lobbyists, our constituents should be able to identify that information easily and without having to drive down to City Hall. This is one more tool we can have to ensure that we are operating with transparency and honesty.
My second legislative effort would require a public hearing be held prior to the Fire Department consolidating, relocating or closing any fire suppression, emergency medical care or truck companies. The ordinance requires that citizens be notified in advance of the public hearing and be provided with information used to determine the outcome.
In addition, I'm calling on Fire Chief James S. Clack, Finance Director Harry Black and City Solicitor George Nilson to explain how the recent fire company closures impact the Comprehensive Fire Protection Plan, which is required by law.
When it comes to public safety, we have to be absolutely sure that any proposed changes are fully vetted. We owe the citizens of Baltimore a full explanation of these changes and a complete review of the Fire Protection Plan, which is the blueprint for how our brave firefighters save lives
Finally, I'm calling on the leaders of the city’s five largest agencies to appear before the Council to discuss the feasibility of adopting recreation centers that are slated for closure.
This resolution requests that the Departments of Finance, General Services, Housing and Community Development, Police, Public Works and Transportation develop partnerships with the Department of Recreation and Parks and commit to sponsoring two recreation centers each in order to keep the centers operating beyond this summer.
Providing recreational services to our children and seniors should absolutely become a priority for Baltimore’s five largest agencies. I believe that these agencies should incorporate into their core mission the development of programs and services that are tied to the Department of Recreation and Parks.
As you can see, I'm using this summer to make substantive changes to city government and city services. Continue to send your ideas for legislation to CouncilPresident@baltimorecity.gov.