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Live In Prince George's

(See updates below)

Good morning, Prince George's County. Once again, Maryland Politics will be following the County Council's actions at today's meeting. So far, there are a couple of items of interest scheduled for discussion.

Prior to their weekly business meeting, members of the Council will meet as the Transportation, Housing and the Environment Committee to discuss a proposal to install speed cameras on Prince George's roads. The cameras recently were authorized throughout Maryland by state legislation, but they still require local approval. Meanwhile, few localities are poised to actually deploy them. A Pr. George's County spokesman has said the county hopes to have their system up and running by year's end.

The committee meeting was scheduled for 9:15 a.m. but at that time only Council Member Tony Knotts (D-Temple Hills) had taken his place at the second-floor conference table, where he was chatting with an audience member about Knotts's Shih Tzu's propensity to bark at larger dogs.

Later, when the Council meets as a full body, it will discuss a proposal to restrict pawn shops and secondhand stores from selling certain items, like food, cosmetics and medicine.

And of course, in keeping with legislative tradition, there are the occasional curveballs not listed on the agenda that can be thrown the day of a meeting. We'll keep our eyes out for them.

Update:

Maryland Politics just got a small glimpse into how the state's decision to leave it up to localities how to implement speed-camera systems might complicate things with a bit of red tape.

While meeting in committee, Council Members sought to amend their local proposal on the camera systems to give themselves input -- in addition to police and the county's department of public works and transportation -- into where the cameras were placed.

That amendment sailed, but another proposed change concerning how to involve the community in the process of setting up the cameras ruffled some feathers. The proposal was to form a citizen advisory committee, with representatives from each Council district, to give input as well. An amendment also was proposed to require a public hearing before setting up the cameras.

It was then that Council Member Samuel H. Dean (D-Mitchellville) cited a potential problem: What if citizens' requests at the public hearing conflict with the recommendations of the citizen advisory committee? Speakers at the public hearing may feel snubbed if the committee's recommendations are followed over theirs, he said.

It was then suggested that the new committee would merely be a means of communicating information back to the committee. Committee chair Tom Dernoga (D-Laurel) then asked why each council member couldn't use their own community outreach staff to accomplish that task?

There was also a concern raised by Council Member Tony Knotts (D-Temple Hills) about cameras in the incorporated town of Forest Heights. Dernoga suggested it might be best to leave municipalities to take care of their own matters with the cameras, a notion to which Knotts appeared to take slight umbrage.

"I have to speak for them if no one else will speak for them," Knotts said, adding that the town has undergone frequent changes in political leadership lately.

In the end, a version of the amendments were approved and the bill will move forward. But the discussion raised the specter of complications in implementing the policy as more and more voices come into the process.

From a fiscal standpoint, there seems ample reason to overcome any disputes over the policy.

According to an Oct. 7 memo on the program generated by the county's office of audits and investigations, "officials estimate that when fully deployed and operational, the pogram will generate between $75,000 and $100,000 per month in net positive revenues, after expenses." That money then goes to the county's general fund, the memo states.

The Council has convened as a full body now -- stay tuned.

Update:

Quick session today -- the County Council adjourned its business meeting at 11:05 a.m., but not before advancing the pawn shop bill (see above).

Since we last checked in, Council Member Tom Dernoga reported that the proposal to limit items sold at pawn shops was reported favorably out of committee. That means it's still alive, and will keep moving through the meat grinder. Like all bills, the proposal has until the end of November to be enacted, or it dies.

That's all for today from Live In Prince George's. Keep it here on Tuesdays for the play-by-play at Prince George's County Council sessions.

By Jonathan Mummolo  |  October 13, 2009; 11:19 AM ET
Categories:  Jonathan Mummolo , Prince George's County  
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