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Council President proposes new taxes while attacking non-profits (Photos)

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FB Friday: BEST Democratic Club meeting brings out the political big dogs

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Last night, the famous East Baltimore eatery known as Chef Mac's on Harford Rd. was packed with some the areas young political superstars – and some 'seasoned' ones as well. Having their first General Membership meeting since their founding in the beginning of 2012, the BEST Democratic Club, Baltimore's newest and possibly strongest political club; welcomed community leaders in and around the 45th District site – also highlighting two powerful black politicians.

City Council President Bernard C. 'Jack' Young, along with Lt. Governor Anthony Brown, served as the keynote speakers at an event that would have certainly made former political bosses proud. From powerful Young Democrats like Cory McCray and Shannon Sneed to several local city council members, the room was abuzz with the news that the group was having another soiree. What many weren't ready for however, is for the city's second-in-command, to not only rubber-stamp the Mayor's proposed trash collection tax, but to also throw out a few more possible taxes he seems to favor?

Young, who began his speech with a tirade about Congress “getting their act together” before possible sequestration cuts hurt the local economy; then went on to profess that the city's fiscal house is in order – and has been for the eighteen years he's been on the council. Announcing his support of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's latest tax proposal, Young says that he feels the tax is necessary to reduce the burden on property owners by way of a property tax reduction, and compared it to surrounding counties who already have the tax in place.

FBFriday: Several members called the city's fiscal house - criminal.

"The city's fiscal house is a crooked toward the citizens of Baltimore. Taxes, fees, fines, and we wonder why we have lost so many people in the population. One of the highest taxed states and cities in the country; prime example, last year's Bottle Tax: 16oz soda for 1.77 cents [when it costs much less in neighboring Baltimore County] = Criminal. Who is representing the people in City Hall?" Pamela Johnson

However, community leaders weren't too fond of such a tax, as many have likened it to the eventual privatization of the city's Department of Public Works – the department responsible for trash, roads and more – which houses the most low-income workers in the entire city government. One attendee believed that it was the city's way of doing away with “grunt jobs” that have little added benefit to a local politician but mean everything to their families – who may see their spouses and family members on the unemployment line when the city eventually hires outside private firms to do the services these men and women perform daily.

Yet one local activist was not convinced the city has his best interests in mind when suggesting such a tax, and asked the Council President, “If you're adding on yet another tax in order to lower our property tax – which is the highest in the state – why not just leave it alone and not do anything; basically the same effect right?” Young then began to back-peddle off his previous statement, and ended up stating that the tax is “simply one of the proposals on the table, and I'll make my final decision after hearing all sides of the argument”?

The first term Council President then went on a tangent about non-profits, questioning their status based on some their CEO’s make $1-2 million a year in salary; and then suggested that the city begin to look at ways to tax them, and even the private parking garages that they use. “Anytime they can pay their CEO’s millions of dollars a year, that's not a non-profit to me,” questioned Young, who believes the city needs to get more creative in their approach to generating new revenue.

One of the 'creative methods' suggested by Young last night was to tax out-of-town visitors to one of the city's crown jewels in tourism – the National Aquarium. Rejecting a possible commuter tax suggested by local politico and activist Brian Easley, Young says he doesn't think the city should tax the thousands of people coming into the city for work; but thinks that the few coming here for amusement and tourism should be fair game? “If we implement a commuter tax on them, what do you think they'll turn around and do to our citizens,” questioned Young. “Implement their own commuter tax for city residents.”

The education advocate Council President also addressed employment opportunities for ex-offenders and youth, stating that the summertime program known as YouthWorks needed to be expanded year round, and pointed to an upcoming workshop and hearing on his bill that would require PLA's over $300K and contracts over $5 million in Baltimore be mandated to hire locally equal to or more than 51% of their workforce. “If you want our money, as Chairman of the city's Board of Estimates, I feel like you should put your money where your ask is, and give the jobs to those qualified individuals and entities right here in Baltimore,” Young stated sternly.

FBFriday: "That's BS...Baltimore City is out of order as corruption flows like the filth in the harbor!" Kinji Scott

Urging those in attendance to call the statehouse and ask laddy-daddi and everybody to support the city's proposed schools plan – which would allow the city to borrow against a guaranteed investment of $32 million a year for ten years by the state to secure block grants in excess of $1.1 billion – Young says we can no longer blame our kids for their lack of learning based on the conditions of their schools, “we have to begin blaming ourselves”!

Following his lead, Lt. Governor Brown took to the stage as a strong supporter of the city's initiative, stating that 'our teachers, parents and students deserve such an investment'. “Good schools are what attract and keep citizens,” Brown said, also urging the attendees to get involved and show up in Annapolis to make their demands heard. “You see those who fully support the second amendment and guns showed up to make their voices heard a few times this session - you have to do the same; and not just for a rally here and there, but be a regular down there to ensure your priorities are heard!”

Promising the passage of some of the O'Malley/Brown administration's legislative priorities, such as gun control and the repeal of the death penalty; Brown fell short of guaranteeing the passage of the city school construction bill or the legislation ensuring equity funding for Maryland's Historically Black Colleges and Universities – which is a 'priority' of the 43-member legislative black caucus. Having been a vocal supporter of the #HBCUnified efforts, even attending their rally last month in Annapolis covered by this Examiner, Brown will have a hard time convincing people he's behind something that essentially his attorney – and possible opponent in next year's gubernatorial elections – is pushing hard against.

Attorney General Doug Gansler has fought the lawsuit brought against the state on behalf of the four HBCU institutions tooth and nail in open court, and the bill looks unlikely to go anywhere this session – especially without the full fledged support of the Governor, Martin O'Malley. In fact, while Brown has been the face of many battles in Annapolis, his partner Governor O'Malley, the former Baltimore City Mayor, has yet to come out in support of the HBCU or Baltimore City school building initiatives. The man who wouldn't have even been in the Governor's Mansion had it not been for Baltimore City residents, has yet to co-sign the innovative plan for new school buildings – and not one state or local legislator has called him out on his lack of support?

Not one member of the Black Caucus has raised the issue that the man responsible for locking up thousands of innocent blacks in Baltimore during his tenure as Mayor, won't even give them his blessing to fully fund black institutions of higher learning at the level of surrounding white schools? But they want to be taken seriously regarding their efforts to fight for our youth? Right...

While Rand Paul stood up on the United States Senate floor and rambled on for close to 13-hours for something he felt strongly about – whether it was politically motivated or not – he accomplished his goal; getting the President to guarantee that drone strikes wouldn't be authorized on American soil. When will those elected to represent OUR interests, not wannabe President O'Malley's, do the same and stand up on the floor, or hold off their block of votes in both chambers on key initiatives introduced by the Governor; like wind-power energy, gun control or a proposed gas tax that is already unfriendly in most black, and white, jurisdictions?

Those questions weren't asked of the two gentlemen who showed up at the BEST Democratic Club event last night, though it was a prime opportunity to get their commitment to such actions? However, there is still an entire month left in the 90-day session in Annapolis, maybe it's time we encouraged our elected 'black leaders' to have their own 'Facebook Filibuster' – standing on the floor of the Senate reading FB messages being sent in – in order to guarantee our priorities like the Lt. Governor suggested; or, simply seek other elected officials that really represent our interests in next year's state elections?

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