A series of items on this week's Board of Public Works agenda, which Martin O’Malley likened to “a nightmare law school problem,” were removed and scheduled for a future meeting. Comptroller Peter Franchot still took some time from the meeting to air his grievances about fees the state is considering for restaurant use of piers in the Inner Harbor.
“Can somebody give the back story on this since we’re talking about this now?” MOM asked, looking clearly agitated.
As executive secretary Sheila McDonald started to explain the location and names of the restaurants and the precise locations of the piers, she was cut off.
“I’m very familiar (with the area). I used to be mayor there,” O’Malley interrupted.
Two of the piers, at Hard Rock Café and Phillips Seafood, were assessed a mitigation fee of $36,000, which was based on the anticipated environmental impact of pier construction in the late 1990s, but were not assessed a compensation payment. Compensation payments are made to the state for the use of state-owned land, in this case, water.
The agenda items in question would have required Cordish Power Plant LP to pay the state $378,000 for the Hard Rock pier and $779,275 for the Phillips pier, which actually was built more than 1,000 square feet larger than the state approved in 2000.
A third compensation assessment of $585,000 was under consideration for a pier at Dick’s Last Resort, which the board allowed to be built for the start of the 2011 summer season before assessing the fee.
“Why should state agencies pull this (money) out of these businesses? I understand things are tight and I guess they’re looking to beef up their own general funds,” Franchot said.
He hopes the state will consider levying smaller fees when the item is reintroduced.
According to state law, the BPW can choose to assess a compensation fee in the amount of the fair market value of the land, at a different rate or not at all.
Cordish is seeking to add roofing systems over the Hard Rock and Phillips piers to make them more useful dining areas.
Kopp asked for clarification on whether it is even legal to build a structure on top of a pier.
Maryland law includes a prohibition on structures built on piers, but the restaurants could be allowed, according to advice from the Attorney General’s Office, McDonald said.
“Structures are prohibited on piers in Maryland,” she said. “Except for exceptions.”
— Danielle E. Gaines
BPW watchAnd speaking of BPW …
Peter Franchot was able to hold his tongue for only so long Wednesday, before he continued his push for on-time BPW meetings.
The comptroller arrived at the meeting, which was scheduled to start at 10 a.m., at 10:07 a.m., and finally, at 10:24, could no longer bear to hold back comment about the late start time.
“I’m trying to be cheerful thinking of all of you busy people sitting here waiting for this meeting to start. Hopefully, we will perhaps get going at some point,” Franchot said.
He then suggested to the standing-room-only crowd that the board should just formally move the meeting time to 10:30 a.m.
“Then it won’t start until 11 a.m.," a woman in the crowd grumbled.
A few moments later, Gov. Martin O’Malley and Treasurer Nancy Kopp arrived at the board table from their 9:45 a.m. “pre-meeting,” which Franchot opts not to attend.
Another woman commented that Franchot’s taking of the mic seems always to get the other two board members to the table. “Oh God, he’s talking,” she imagined MOM saying.
In her opening statements, Kopp noted the beautiful weather outside the meeting room windows, saying, “We look forward to being outside enjoying it in very short order.”
The comment elicited a round of laughter from the crowd and an animated check of his wristwatch by the comptroller.
— Danielle E. Gaines
Charm goes so farBaltimore is ranked second among all cities where gay, lesbian and transgendered people wanted to marry and settle down, according to online dating site Chemistry.com, in a list issued this week.
Charm City trailed only Richmond, Va., as the top spot, according to the website. Nearby Washington, D.C., was ranked 10th. Others on the list were: Los Angeles at No. 3; Rochester, N.Y., No. 4; Hartford, Conn., No. 5; Las Vegas, No. 6; Pittsburgh, No. 7; Seattle, No. 8 and San Francisco, No. 9.
Chemistry.com’s chief scientific adviser Helen Fisher said the human desire to settle down and raise families is hard-wired into people, calling the same-sex couples seeking to do so “nontraditional traditionalists.”
“The brain circuits for romantic love and deep attachment to a partner lie way below the thinking cortex, in survival pathways that evolved millions of years ago,” Fisher said in an emailed statement. “Gays and lesbians inherited these brain circuits just like the rest of us. So their desire to make a bond and rear young together is natural.”
Among those who this week voiced support for allowing gay couples to marry and settle down in Maryland was Stefany Hoyer Hemmer, the daughter of U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, who told the Washington Blade that she was coming out publicly as a lesbian, in part because of her father’s recent endorsement of marriage equality and to support the upcoming same-sex marriage referendum in November.
The registered psychiatric nurse who works for the Maryland Department of Health & Mental Hygiene lives in Queen Anne — not Baltimore — with her partner of 18 months.
“We’re pretty normal, really,” Hemmer told the Blade. “Nothing is exciting and grand other than the day-to-day stuff. I have a pretty normal kind of existence.”
Chemistry’s Fisher would probably say Hemmer’s brain circuits are wired that way.
— C. Benjamin Ford
Throwing weight around
State politics blog Maryland Juice (marylandjuice.com) found itself under legal attack last week from no less of a media giant than AOL, owner of both Patch.com and the Huffington Post, which didn’t like that the blog had excerpted a Patch article and photo about apartments in Montgomery County.
After receiving a cease-and-desist letter from AOL’s lawyers at DLA Piper, blogger David Moon posted a rebuttal explaining that not only did AOL rely on free writing from bloggers, but his actions were well within the scope of fair use provisions in U.S. copyright law. He also posted the appropriate section of the U.S. Code.
Then, to cap it off, Moon posted a photo collage featuring multicolored, Andy Warhol-style images of Arianna Huffington and the logos for Patch, DLA Piper, AOL and the Huffington Post. Superimposed on the images was one of Dr. Seuss’s Grinch, saying, “Take your cease & desist letter & shove it.”
Your move, AOL.— Daniel Leaderman
A summer schedule to savor
Wade Kach’s summer vacation plans were the talk du jour before a meeting of the Joint Ethics Committee this week.
The Baltimore County Republican will leave later this month on a trip to England, Germany and other European hot spots.
“We were invited to the Jubilee, but had to decline because of this meeting,” Kach joked.
He’ll arrive back stateside on July 8, just in time for the highly anticipated second special session, which likely will begin July 9.
Bon voyage!— Danielle E. Gaines