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The Dripby Ian Round6:58 pmJun 22, 20200

City Council overrides two of Young’s vetoes

The mayor’s plan to close fire companies in northeast and southwest Baltimore spurs another effort to change the city charter

Above: Engine No. 4, based at the East Cold Spring Lane station, responds to fires from Medfield to Mount Washington. (Baltimorefirefighters.net)

The City Council tonight overrode two of Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young’s vetoes, meaning the charter amendments will appear on the ballot this November.

If voters approve the amendments, it will be easier for the Council to override mayoral vetoes going forward.

The first amendment, bill 19-0380, would reduce the number of votes necessary to override a veto from 12 to 10. The second, bill 19-0467, closes a loophole that prevents the Council from overriding a veto when a meeting isn’t scheduled in a certain time frame.

The second passed unanimously, while Councilmen Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer and Eric Costello voted against the first. In previous meetings, Costello has criticized the process as “rushed.”

The proposed amendments are part of a larger package intended to weaken the “strong mayor” system in Baltimore.

Another proposal, establishing a commission to review the charter every 10 years, did end up receiving Young’s signature.

Fire Company Cuts

The Council tonight also advanced bill 19-0379 to third and final reader. This charter amendment gives the Council the power to reappropriate money in the city’s budget. Currently, the legislative body can only make cuts.

The amendment has taken on greater urgency after the Council cut the Police Department’s budget by $22 million, but were prohibited by law from using those funds to save two fire engine companies that Young intends to close.

Young wants to shut down Engine Co. No. 4, located at 1201 East Cold Spring Lane, and Engine Co. No. 55, at 1229 Bush Street.

“I don’t understand the wisdom or the reason to close two fire companies,” said Councilman Ed Reisinger, whose southwest district includes the latter company.

According to Baltimore City Firefighters Local 734, Engine Co. No 4 responded to 2,300 emergency incidents last year, and Engine Co. No. 55 responded to 1,818 emergency incidents. Closing the two companies would save less than $4 million.

Council members Danielle McCray, Robert Stokes and Shannon Sneed voted against the charter amendment bill.

Term Limits

Meanwhile, Schleifer introduced another charter amendment establishing term limits for elected officials.

The amendment would prohibit local officials for serving in the same office for more than three consecutive terms.

“You can always come back if you’d like to,” Schleifer said. “This is a responsible thing to do for transparency and accountability.”

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