Council lowers $1,000 fines for off-leash dogs
Baltimore's City Council voted Monday to lower the $1,000 fines for people who let their dogs roam off-leash. Violators will be charged in a staggered penalty system: First offenders will pay $200, and those caught the second and third times will pay $400 and then $600. Officials also voted to work on establishing off-leash hours in some parks and to lower the fine for those who fail to scoop up their dog's excrement from $1,000 per offense to $200. The leash-law issue came to a head in March, when officers began enforcing changes made to the law in 2008 as part of a broad measure boosting fines for various animal control violations. Dog owners rallied against the fines, collecting more than 1,600 signatures on a petition. Officials said 35 people had been hit with $1,000 fines as of May 8. Mayor Sheila Dixon will sign the legislation, possibly as soon as Tuesday.
- Jill Rosen
Legislation would cap city parking ticket late fees
With accrued fines on unpaid Baltimore City parking tickets averaging about $700 - sometimes for tickets as low as $12 - City Councilman Bernard "Jack" Young introduced legislation Monday night to cap the maximum late fee to five times the amount of the original ticket. "People have said they want the parking fees to be more in line with the cost of tickets," Young said Monday evening at a City Council meeting. Scott Peterson, a spokesman for Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon, said the city's Finance Department is studying the idea and the administration does not have a position yet on the bill. The city hired a collection agency in 2000 to put pressure on scofflaws who owe $132 million in parking fines.
- Annie Linskey
Amendment would let city tap a budget surplus
Members of the Baltimore City Council, frustrated that a little-known provision in the city's charter prevents them from using a recently disclosed $40 million budget surplus to stave off cuts, are supporting an amendment that would allow such windfalls to be spent more freely. The bill, introduced Monday by West Baltimore's Councilwoman Belinda K. Conaway, removes from the charter a section that requires surpluses over 1 percent of the operating budget (or more than $13 million) to be used to reduce borrowing. Scott Peterson, a spokesman for Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon, said the finance department is reviewing the legislation. At an earlier hearing, Finance Director Edward J. Gallagher testified that surrounding counties don't have such limits. The amendment would have to go to the voters before becoming law and would not enable the administration to use any of the current surplus.
- Annie Linskey