Pizza parties are easy, governing is harder

As an elected official, it’s easy to make promises people want to hear without considering what fulfilling those promises will take. It’s easy to look at the top line of an appropriation and decide – without reading it, without reviewing rules surrounding it – that you know how it should be spent. In essence, it’s easy to hold a pizza party – it’s much harder to actually govern.

For the “tl;dr crowd,” the bottom line is that we don’t have money available under the CARES Act for bonuses, and even if we did, bonuses are prohibited from being reimbursed by the CARES Act.

When I wrote last week that I wanted to give all of Baltimore City’s critical frontline staff a raise based on their commitment to keeping our City running during the pandemic, I meant it. But as an elected official, I have a duty to my constituents to carefully review and evaluate information before proposing an idea. I like to think of it in terms of school – if I’m going to do well on the test, I need to do my homework.

Recently, my colleagues proposed using a portion of Baltimore City’s CARES Act funding to provide one-time bonuses to employees in DPW’s Solid Waste Division. As I noted last week, this is inherently inequitable, and ignores the incredible efforts of employees across the rest of our City government providing critical services – nurses and EMTs and firefighters and parks staff – who would not receive this proposed bonus.

But my colleagues doubled down on this proposal, noting – without doing their homework – that the idea represents only “a fraction” of the $103 million from the federal government. What I wrote last week remains no less true today – we have expended or obligated in excess of $103 million on our COVID-19 response for which the federal government may reimburse the city. This money was spent providing much-needed COVID-19 supports and resources across the City.

However, because I enjoy doing my homework, I decided to take a second look – I wanted to make sure that I did not miss anything that might possibly benefit our hard-working frontline staff, including DPW’s Solid Waste Division. Maybe I’d hadn’t seen a critical piece of information that could provide dollars for this effort?

Reader, I did not. 

Even a cursory review of the Department of Treasury’s CARES Act guidance clearly illustrates this point (see page five (5), bullet point six (6)). Workforce bonuses for anything other than hazard or overtime pay – which these one-time bonuses would not qualify as – are prohibited. In other words, even if we still had the money available in the CARES Act – we don’t – we couldn’t spend it on what my colleagues have proposed.

I’d like to reiterate how much I appreciate the efforts of our frontline staff, and I look forward to finding real solutions to rewarding these efforts to ensure that we appropriately compensate and incentivize the hard-working crews in our Solid Waste Division and across City government. I look forward to working with the Mayor, the Department of Finance, and my colleagues on the City Council – even those who are a bit lax on their homework – to participate in these efforts.

I recognize that it is tough to voice unpopular truths, but it is a burden that elected officials must carry. We owe it to our constituents and to our City employees to put forward actual plans, not just Facebook posts put up “for the likes.”

And to end on a brighter note – here’s a photo of me and some neighbors throwing a pizza party for some of the DPW sanitation staff in the Southwestern Quadrant back in June, to thank them for their work in the 11th District during the pandemic. I thanked them then, and I continue to be grateful for their efforts throughout these last few months. As the Councilman for the 11th District and Chair of the City Council’s Budget & Appropriations Committee, I’ll continue to do my homework, to find ways to reward their hard work and commitment.

UPDATES – Recycling Collection Temporarily Suspended

Recycling service is suspended effective Monday, August 31 through October 31. While the Department and DPW’s workers have worked hard to maintain residential recycling collection throughout the pandemic and record-breaking heat while other cities have abandoned recycling all together,  modifying how DPW collects recycling is now necessary to stabilize and maintain trash collection for obvious public health reasons.  The Department has also been reaching out to private contractors since March in an effort to get assistance for these routes and other trash services.  Unfortunately, private companies are experiencing their own workforce and equipment challenges that have delayed the ability to provide significant help at this time. More info is available in the following Press Release. There is also an FAQ – Solid Waste – Continuity of Service that has additional information.

Status updates on regularly scheduled trash collection are available here.

Community Collections Centers’ Hours of Operation Extended

Effective Monday, Sept. 14, the Community Collection Centers’ hours for all locations will be extended on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.  The Centers will continue to be open to City residents Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 7:00 am to 3:00 pm for recycling drop-off.  The Citizens’ Convenience Drop-Off Centers’ hours will remain unchanged. Here is a map of the exact locations of the Community Collection Centers is available here.

Community Collection Center Location Changes

  • District 1: DPW Maritime Operations Facility, 3311 Eastbourne Avenue
  • District 2: DPW Eastside Sanitation Yard, 6101 Bowleys Lane and Hazelwood Elementary School, 4517 Hazelwood Avenue
  • District 3: Hamilton Elementary, 6101 Old Harford Road
  • District 4: Chinquapin Middle, 900 Woodbourne Avenue
  • District 5: Former Police Academy, 3500 W. Northern Parkway (Access off of Manhattan Avenue)
  • District 6: Greenspring Middle School, 4701 Greenspring Avenue
  • District 7: Westside Elementary location moved to William S. Baer School, 2001 N. Warwick Avenue
  • District 8: Westside Skills Center, 4501 Edmondson Avenue
  • District 9: DPW Meter Shop location moved to Steuart Hill Academic Academy, 30 S. Gilmor Street (Access off of W. Lombard Street)
  • District 10: DPW Southwest Sanitation Yard, 701 Reedbird Avenue
  • District 11: Digital Harbor High School, 1100 Covington Street
  • District 12: Dunbar High School, 601 N. Central Avenue
  • District 13: DPW Property Management Facility, 1825 Edison Highway
  • District 14: Mergenthaler (“Mervo”) High School, 3500 Hillen Road (Access off of 3500 block of Tivoly Avenue)

Residents are invited to continue to submit any questions or concerns about the Solid Waste Continuity of Service Plan to SolidWasteCOSPlan@Baltimorecity.Gov.

Mayor Young’s September 08 Executive Order

Mayor Young Announces Loosening of Restrictions on Indoor Dining, Recreational Facilities, Religious Facilities, and Retail Establishments – Change in restrictions will take effect on Tuesday, Sept. 8, and come after month of sustained improvements in COVID-19 indicators

BALTIMORE, MD.  — Last week, Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young announced the City will loosen restrictions on occupancy in accordance with sustained improvements of key COVID-19 indicators. Mayor Young issued the following statement:

“I am happy to announce Baltimore continues to see significant improvement in our response to the COVID-19 pandemic over the past month,” Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young said. “As a result, we will be easing some of our restrictions on occupancy, but we will need residents to continue to wear face coverings, practice social distancing, and avoid large gatherings if we want to maintain these gains.”

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