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City Council Passes Neighbors Against Predatory Dumping Act, Begins Budget Process

Colin Ford/Flickr
A sign in Baltimore's Highlandtown neighborhood reads "NO DUMPING, THROW TRASH IN YOUR OWN NEIGHBORHOOD."

The Baltimore City Council passed a bill to double fines for first-time illegal dumping citations and officially began its review of Mayor Brandon Scott’s first budget plan during a Monday night meeting.

The Neighbors Against Predatory Dumping Act, introduced by Councilman Zeke Cohen, raises first-time civil citation fines for illegal dumping from $500 to $1,000.

“Across Baltimore, there is an incredible frustration about the amount of illegal dumping we see in our communities,” Cohen, a South Baltimore Democrat said at a hearing for the bill last month. “People are tired of our neighborhoods being treated as a dumping ground. We know that blight causes increased toxic stress and adds to trauma and is unfair. We need to hold perpetrators fully accountable.”

The Department of Public Works received 57,008 calls related to illegal dumping last year, ranging from bags of household trash discarded in alleys to furniture dumped in vacant lots.

Staffers from the city Department of Housing & Community Development told the council last month that the pandemic has limited the work of 12 city investigators tasked with monitoring and prosecuting illegal dumping.

The agency presses criminal charges whenever the evidence allows; the civil citation fines the Neighbors Against Predatory Dumping Act seeks to double do not appear on criminal records.

The council also passed the city’s first bill introduced on behalf of a Comptroller. Bill Henry, who entered the office last year, wrote the legislation, which aims to modernize city real estate records. In part, the bill seeks to amend the city charter to maintain real estate records in an online public database instead of what it currently mandates the records be kept in: a “well-bound leather book.”

Mayor Brandon Scott’s $4.3 billion fiscal year 2022 budget was introduced in three pieces of legislation: the Ordinance of Estimates, the property tax ordinance and the budget for the Board of School Commissioners.

Now that the bill is before the legislative body, Council President Nick Mosby will oversee budget hearings to evaluate the proposed spending of each city agency. They will also hear from Baltimoreans at Taxpayers’ Night on May 27, where residents can offer budget feedback and suggestions.

The council must pass a budget by June 25. Members can cut spending, but cannot redirect their cuts to other places. City voters overwhelmingly passed a charter amendment in 2020 to give the Council the authority to reallocate money; the law does not go into effect until next year.

Scott also nominated Jason W. Mitchell to lead the embattled Department of Public Works. Mitchell began serving as Acting DPW director earlier this month, replacing Matthew Garbark, who served as Acting Director for over a year after longtime DPW head Rudy Chow retired in 2019.

Mitchell most recently served as the Assistant City Administrator for the City of Oakland, where his portfolio included the Departments of Public Works, Transportation and Planning. The council must formally approve him before he can permanently oversee DPW.