Paper Trail Bill Likely to Pass

Good news.
Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said he plans to support a bill requiring that e-voting machines provide a paper trail, just months after opposing a similar measure.

Miller said he had opposed legislation filed earlier this year to require a paper trail of electronic votes because the bill was filed too close to last month's general election.

The senator said he had feared that local officials wouldn't have enough time to meet the requirements of the bill. With the next major election two years away, those officials should have plenty of time to ensure that e-voting machines provide a paper trail if such a law were enacted next year, he said.

Now just make sure you pass the damn thing, Mike.


Think Equal.

Thats how I hope the Maryland Court of Appeals is thinking. New Jersey is currently dealing with their own Gay Marriage issues and an organization by the name of Blue Jersey has started a media campaign to press the issue:

Check out the Think Equal website.

Also, I really like the Blue Jersey website. I wonder if it would be possible to set up something similar for Maryland? I don't really have the knowhow or the time to run something like that (or whether Marylanders would take advantage of something like that) but its neat to think about. I certainly think a more concentrated liberal/democratic/progressive internet presence in Maryland would be a good thing.

Update: A critical look at the State's argument against Gay Marriage, via The Sun. Hat tip to David Lublin at Maryland Politics Watch.

Councilwoman Clarke Declares her Support for "Strong" Affordable Housing Bill

I have gotten word by email that Baltimore City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke is both a co-sponsor and big supporter of the "strong" version of the recently discussed Affordable Housing Bill.

Good to know my Councilwoman is on the ball!

By they way, here is another article about the housing bill. It makes it seem like the bill has a good chance of passing. I only hope that its the "strong" version that passes and not the watered down, developer friendly, "weak" version.

In The News

SADDEST NEWS OF THE DAY (for me at least)

Darren Brown, AKA Wiz of the AMAZING bands Mega City 4 and Ipanema has passed away. I just saw these guys play a few months ago and this is breaking my heart. From a messageboard:

The sudden and tragic death of Wiz (Darren Brown) has been announced.

Wiz died in hospital on 6th Dec 2007. His closest friends and family were with him.

Wiz was dearly loved by all his friends and family. He was a greatly respected and extraordinary musician and writer who touched the lives of many.

He will be deeply missed.

A page has been created with further news and comment.

Please leave your messages there.


Yeah, this has ruined my whole day. Wiz and his music have been a large part of my life for the past few years, and this is just stunning and horrible. It will be an all Wiz day on the ipod and then on the turntable at home.


A suit has been brought to the Circuit Court of Baltimore that
"seeks to call attention to the reality that any person arrested in Maryland should not expect legal counsel when they first appear before a judicial officer," said Doug Colbert, a University of Maryland, Baltimore law professor assisting Venable's attorneys.
Apparently, poor defendants are being sent to their bail hearings without a public defender. I am not a legal scholar (+perhaps some of the more lawyerly MD bloggers can help me out here) but this doesn't seem very fair.


Maryland is having budget problems.
Del. Murray D. Levy, a Charles County Democrat who is one of the Assembly's budget experts, said part of the problem is that Maryland's basic tax structure hasn't changed as its economy has evolved. Services are exempt from the sales tax, for example, but the economy is growing steadily more dependent on the service industry, Levy said.

Maryland could solve some of these problems by raising some taxes and lowering others to make revenue track more closely with the economy, but the process would be politically difficult because some people would inevitably come out winners and others losers, Levy said.

Franchot says he will beef up the revenue forecasting office, which he said has been off by as much as $1 billion in recent years.

"On the one hand, you appropriate money that turns out not to be there, and you have to cut dollars, or you are told money will not be there, so you make cuts in programs and then the money appears too late to be allocated," Franchot said. "The point is, these programs affect real people, so you want the figures to be as correct as possible."

First, its nice to know that Maryland will have progressive Peter Franchot as our new comptroller.

Secondly, what a shame it is that Martin O'Malley has been saddled by budget issues at the start of both his mayoral and gubernatorial careers. It makes me wonder what O'Malley would do differently if he had a budget surplus. One of his first tests it appears, is whether or not O'Malley can turn the State's financial situation around.


Despite what some national media coverage would have you believe, Baltimore City still has heroes.
A heroic rescue took place in West Baltimore Wednesday morning, as a sweeping fire swept through the second and third floors of a row homes on West Pratt Street.


Quick acting neighbors Nicholas Matkins and Jeff Kuhn were outside on the street as the fire spread inside the building.

"There were five kids at the window," said Matkins. "As they were jumping we were catching."

When they saw young children standing by a window ready to jump, Matkins and Kuhn were there to catch them.

Moments later, Kuhn climbed up to the window and began pulling the children out and handing them down to Matkins and other bystanders who were gathering around the building.

"I saw one of the kids jump and hit the small roof," said Kuhn. He added, "I figured one of them was gonna get hurt. I climbed up on the roof and just started grabbing them out the window and passing them down to the next people."
All involved in the fire, including the family dog, are alive and well save for some bruises.


Great news for Death Row inmates, Maryland may be recruiting the best and brightest doctors around....

...to kill you.

Yeah, yeah, its not all that doom and gloom and I have a rather cynical view here. Still, it just turns my stomach to see the death of a human being discussed in such a detached way. The moratorium seemed like a fine idea to me and it would help our courts avoid the difficult discussion of how gently they should carry out state sanctioned revenge killing.


If You Read One Story About Barack Obama This Year

Read this one.

I am still skeptical of Senator Obama, but after reading this article, I appears that that skepticism is exactly what the Senator expects.

Maryland Voting Machines may have Paper Trail by '08

Lets just hope it actually happens.

Not too much else to say about this. What a waste of money those electronic machines have turned out to be.


Community Supported Affordable Housing Bill Faces Challenges

Someone is undercutting the public interest as it relates to an affordable housing bill in the city.
The leaders of some city agencies are pushing to significantly restrict legislation that would require developers to include affordable units in all Baltimore residential projects, but the City Council sponsors of the bill are sticking by their original plan.
The bill, in its original form, the form community advocates refer to as the "strong" bill, is a progressive piece of legislation.
The bill - formally introduced last night - would require residential developers who get major subsidies or who benefit from significant rezoning to reserve as much as 20 percent of the units in a project for low- or moderate-income people. Developers working without subsidies or rezoning would have to offer 10 percent of their project for affordable use.

The legislation would also create a funding stream for an inclusionary housing trust that voters endorsed on the Nov. 7 ballot. Twenty percent of the city's transfer taxes and recordation fees could fill the fund with $10 million or more a year.

The bill also would set up an inclusionary housing board to consider exceptions to the law and measure its effectiveness.
I like this bill because it gives the city a stronger hand when it comes to development deals. If the city is going to go out of its way to give a developer subsidies and the luxury of relaxed zoning rules, that developer needs to be compelled to give something back. 20% of their units seems appropriate, if not a little low.

Its also nice to see the will of the voters expressed with the "inclusionary housing trust".

None of this will matter however, if several city departements have their way.
Late last week, the agencies drafted a substitute ordinance that, among other things, eliminated the funding for the trust fund and the housing board. It also would let developers who do not get subsidies or rezonings off the hook for affordable units.
First, why even have a ballot initiative if the policy behind that initiative is going to be eliminated? I don't even know how to address that.

When it comes to letting "independent" developers off the hook, I am ambivalent. It would be nice to require all new development in the city to provide affordable housing. I am not sure the difference between the amount of subsidized and unsubsidized development in the city. If most development is subsidized, then we shouldn't worry about getting the unsubsidized developers to include affordable units. However, if the majority of development is unsubsidized, it will be necessary to require these developers to include affordable housing.

Advocates of the original "strong" bill will accept nothing less than a bill that targets all development.
"There are too many people working in this city who cannot afford to live in this city, and that injustice cannot continue," he said. "This bill is justice."

The crowd insisted that not just any bill would do. Only a "strong" one.

And by that, said the Rev. Karen Brau, pastor of Amazing Grace in East Baltimore, they mean a bill that includes both a trust fund and a board and targets all residential development.
Supporters of the "strong" bill have been emailing their council members. You can do the same.