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Mayor Signs Clean Streets Bill at Press Conference -- PJC monitors implementation

On October 1st, Mayor Sheila Dixon, flanked by bill sponsor Councilperson Ken Harris and Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, signed the Clean Streets Bill -- the new Baltimore City bill that gives tenants 14 days notice of the date of the scheduled evictions and outlaws dumping tenant's belongings in the public street. Dan Pontius, Policy Director of the CPHA, spoke on behalf of the Rental Housing Coalition, which celebrates this bill as the first victory in a multi-year effort to make Maryland's landlord-tenant law fair and equitably enforced. John Nethercut of the PJC explained the bill and answered reporters' questions. WJZ TV's film is available online at http://wjz.com/local/local_story_274171621.html . The Baltimore Sun article is copied below. Initial indications are that the new law is being implemented well. PJC Tenant Advocate Levern Blackmon has been following the Sheriff's eviction trucks in the morning and monitoring any disputes about the new law that come to the Rent Court in the afternoon. So far the Sheriffs have been properly demanding that landlords show evidence of serving the proper notices, and have kept landlords from dumping any belongings in the street. We will continue monitoring enforcement, and continue educating tenants using the new "Evictions Procedures in Baltimore City" booklet. John Nethercut Executive Director Public Justice Center One North Charles Street, Suite 200 Baltimore, MD 21201-3710 410-625-9409 office 410-625-9423 fax nethercutj@publicjustice.org email www.publicjustice.org website baltimoresun.com From Tuesday's Sun Dixon signs 2 bills into law Throwing evicted tenants' items in street outlawed; gun offender registry created By John Fritze Sun reporter 8:19 PM EDT, October 1, 2007 Baltimore landlords will no longer be able to throw an evicted tenant's belongings onto the sidewalk, and gun offenders will be required to register their address every six months under a pair of bills signed by Mayor Sheila Dixon. The gun-offender registry, which was modeled after a similar program in New York, requires gun offenders to register their name, aliases, address and other information within 48 hours of a gun conviction or release from jail. Dixon introduced the bill in July and the legislation slid through the City Council with little opposition. The law, which takes effect in three months, has become part of a broader campaign by the administration to clamp down on gun offenders, who police say are more likely to commit other crimes. "I want to make Baltimore the toughest place in the country on gun crimes," Dixon said at a ceremonial bill signing at City Hall Monday. "People need to understand that if they have illegal guns they're going to do time, and we're going to keep an eye on them." Police say that about half of suspects arrested on homicide charges have prior gun convictions. The registry will allow police to identify and focus on convicts if criminal activity spikes in a particular neighborhood, said Frederick H. Bealefeld III, the city's acting police chief. "This is real action," he said. "This isn't for the benefit of cameras or newsprint. It's going to have real results on the streets of Baltimore." Convicted gun offenders who fail to register -- or who do not update their address when they move -- would face a fine up to $1,000 and a jail sentence of up to one year. "This is the first step in holding gun offenders accountable in a different way," said City Council President Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake. "If you commit a crime with a gun in Baltimore ... we will find you, we will punish you, and we will use you as an example." The "eviction chattels" legislation, meanwhile, is intended to eliminate the practice of landlords dumping evicted tenants' belongings on city streets, which creates an eyesore and also requires the city to clean up the mess. Under the new law, which went into effect Monday, landlords are required to give a tenant two weeks' notice before the eviction. If the tenant's belongings are in the unit at the time of eviction, the landlord may take them to a landfill or donate them, but they may not be left on the streets. Landlords who violate the law would face a $1,000 fine. "You will no longer see people's personal belongings thrown out onto the streets of Baltimore," said City Councilman Kenneth N. Harris Sr., who sponsored the legislation. "This was a bill that took a lot of compromising at both ends." As the mayor put her signature on legislation coming out of the City Council Monday, several bills were introduced at Monday night's meeting. The administration introduced $4.4 million in additional spending from last year's growing surplus. The money will be used for a range of projects, including park improvements and renovations at police district buildings. City Councilwoman Agnes Welch, who represents the 9th District in West Baltimore, introduced legislation that would require residents to keep dangerous animals in pens with a concrete base and a roof anchored to the frame. The legislation comes after a 7-year-old girl was attacked by a pit bull in Southwest Baltimore. john.fritze@baltsun.com

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