Nighttime public hearings proposed

City councilman says such sessions would spur `community involvement'

February 15, 2005|By Jill Rosen | Jill Rosen,SUN STAFF

Baltimore City Councilman James B. Kraft proposed last night that public hearings be held at night instead of in the afternoon so that more working people could attend them.

The First District councilman's bill would require the Planning Commission and the Board of Municipal Zoning and Appeals to meet in the evening once a month. Now, both groups meet twice a month at 1:30 p.m.

"The whole point of being in government is to make life easier for people in the community," Kraft said before yesterday's City Council meeting. "This would increase community involvement."

The first-term council member said he was inspired to draft the bill after people in his district took off from work to attend a zoning hearing only to discover it had been postponed.

Edward A. Marcinko Jr., who tried to attend that hearing, said attending daytime meetings is "a lot of pressure" for people who work. The president of the Upper Fells Point Improvement Association said that the current scheduling of the hearings gives an edge to the business community over working people.

No need for change

Those who preside over the boards, however, don't see the need for change.

Planning Commission Chairman Peter Auchincloss said the commission schedules evening hearings for matters of "global importance."

Both Auchincloss and David C. Tanner, executive director of the Board of Municipal Zoning and Appeals, said that because their meetings are often lengthy, starting them in the evening would mean they wouldn't end until the wee hours of the morning.

"If people don't like coming in at 1:30 in the afternoon, I don't think they'll like coming at 1:30 in the morning," Auchincloss said.

Center for laborers

Also yesterday, the council introduced a resolution proposing that a permanent shelter/center be built for the city's day laborers. The resolution did not specify where the center would be located or how much it might cost.

A recent report by CASA of Maryland and the Homeless Persons Representation Project found that there are 7,000 to 10,000 day laborers in the city. Often these part-time workers earn low wages and are subjected to safety hazards, the report found.

The center would provide a safe place for them to gather to find work and also a forum for advocacy and training.

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