Read the The Tuesday Count. New edition available now!

Baltimore, Maryland

From Ballotpedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Baltimore is the of the largest cities in Maryland. Baltimore City is an independent city in Maryland. For most governmental purposes under Maryland law, Baltimore City is treated as a "county"-level entity. The United States Census Bureau uses counties as the basic unit for presentation of statistical information in the United States, and treats Baltimore as a county equivalent for those purposes.

Website upgrade

Mayor Sheila Dixon sponsored an initiative that will post a website where the citizen of Baltimore will have access to payments made to vendors by 51 city agencies and offices.[1] Monthly payment data will be updated every 45 days and was modeled after Maryland's transparency website.

Usability of the site will include searching by City agency to view payments authorized by that agency; searching by vendor for payments issued to that vendor; and searching by zip code to view all payments issued to vendors in a particular zip code.[1]

Public pensions

See also: Maryland public pensions

According to a 2010 report published at Northwestern University, Baltimore is one of the ten municipalities with the largest amount of unfunded pension liabilities. Nationwide there is $574 billion in unfunded pension liabilities for local pension plans, and this is in addition to the $3 trillion in debt facing state-sponsored pension plans.[2] The report states that the pension plans could be out of money as early at 2025.[2]

Municipality
(number of plans)
Liabilities, Stated Basis, June ’09 ($B) Liabilities (ABO), Treasury Rate Net Pension Assets ($B) Unfunded Liability ($B) Unfunded Liability / Revenue Unfunded Liability per Household ($)
Baltimore (2) 4,4 6.4 2.7 3.7 260% 15,420

A federal judge overturned a key provision of Baltimore’s 2010 pension reform, calling changes to the cost-of-living adjustment "unconstitutional" and not "reasonable and necessary to serve an important public purpose." To close the Baltimore Fire and Police Retirement System’s $121 million deficit, the city council had passed legislation increasing the years of service required of new hires for pension eligibility, fixing the annual cost-of-living adjustments at 1% and 2% for current and future retirees, hiking employees contributions from 6% of pay to 10%, and calculating benefits based on members’ average salary over the last three years, not 18 months. The mayor’s ordinance also stipulated that the City of Baltimore boost its contribution by about $20 million year-on-year. In his ruling, Garbis agreed with a reworking of the Baltimore pension system in theory, but concluded that replacing the variable cost-of-living adjustment with a fixed annual increase unfairly impacted young employees.[3]

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake called the city's $1.2 billion pension liability a "crisis" in 2010 that had the potential to bankrupt the city. She ended a decades-old practice of awarding retirees pension increases based on investment earnings, replacing them with cost-of-living increase based on the retiree's age. In September 2012 a U.S. District Court judge struck down the change. The city plans to appeal.[4]

Lobbying

See also: Maryland government sector lobbying

Baltimore has reported $1,096,000 spent lobbying since 2000 (see table).

Reported lobbying expenditures, 2000-2009[5]
Year Amount spent on lobbying
2009 $20,000
2008 $126,000
2007 $140,000
2006 $120,000
2005 $140,000
2004 $140,000
2003 $130,000
2002 $120,000
2001 $120,000
2000 $40,000


Mayor Dixon sentenced

The mayor of Baltimore, Sheila Dixon, was faced with five counts, was acquitted of three (the jury was split on a fourth) and was found guilty of embezzlement after taking $630 worth of gift cards intended for the cities poor in late 2009.

By law, Dixon will no longer serve as mayor after she is sentenced. If the conviction is reversed before her term expires, she can be restored.

Gov. Martin O'Malley issued a statement on the conviction:

"This is a sad day for the people of Baltimore and Mayor Dixon personally. It is more important than ever, during this difficult time, that everyone who cares about Baltimore stays focused on reducing crime in our neighborhoods, improving our schools, creating jobs and otherwise serving the people who live and work in Baltimore," O'Malley said.[6]

Website evaluation

See also: Evaluation of Maryland city websites
Grade2.pngB
Budget Y
600px-Yes check.png
Meetings Y
600px-Yes check.png
Elected Officials Y
600px-Yes check.png
Administrative Officials Y
600px-Yes check.png
Permits, zoning Y
600px-Yes check.png
Audits
{{{1}}}
Contracts
{{{1}}}
Lobbying N
600px-Red x.png
Public Records N
600px-Red x.png
Local Taxes Y
600px-Yes check.png

School district websitesGuide.png
Transparency grading process

The good

  • Vendor payments are provided.[7]
  • Posts information about audits and the current budget.[8]
  • City council members and their contact information are listed.[9]
  • Meeting minutes for 2010 are posted.[10]
  • Permits application and fees are listed on the website.[11]
  • Zoning information is available.[12]
  • Offers information and online payment for taxes.[13]
  • Information about lobbyist registration is posted on the website.[14]

The bad

See also

External links

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Wbal, Dixon: Increased Transparency For City BOE, February 1, 2010
  2. 2.0 2.1 MacIver Institute, City of Milwaukee Pension a Ticking Time Bomb According to Northwestern Study, Oct. 12, 2010
  3. ai-CIO, Judge Strikes Down Baltimore’s ‘Unconstitutional’ Pension Reform, Sept. 24, 2012
  4. Associated Press, Atlanta to San Diego: 7 cities' pension problems, Jan. 2, 2013
  5. Open Secrets
  6. BALTIMORE MAYOR DIXON GUILTY ON ONE COUNT, Maryland Reporter, December 1, 2009
  7. Vendor payments
  8. Finance Department
  9. City Council
  10. Meetings
  11. Baltimore Housing
  12. Zoning
  13. Taxes
  14. http://www.baltimorecity.gov/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=VUt%2F3xc8Y4U%3D&tabid=600&mid=1199 Lobbyist Registration Ordinance]