Dear Legislatures, Give Baltimore’s Residents a Voice on Liquor Legislation

Since March 2013, when the Planning Commission voted positively on Alcohol Outlet Density Reduction (AODR) and an audit confirmed the Liquor License Board (BLLC) is completely corrupt and incompetent, Baltimore’s City Council and the State’s City Delegation have done nothing but box Baltimore citizens out when it comes to reforming liquor regulation in our City.

This was confirmed again by recent “let’s compromise” mantra. The Land Use and Transportation Committee is keeping citizens out of the loop by working through the zoning re-write legislation,“Transform Baltimore,” line by line and without topic. The citizens of Baltimore deserve another separate and specific hearing on AODR. The last hearing on October 3rd  was packed with citizens almost entirely in support of the legislation.

Perhaps they don’t want to be reminded that Baltimore’s residents want these stores out of their neighborhoods?

For over a year, Citizens Planning and Housing Association has been talking to community associations and civic leaders with a specific focus in the African American and lower income neighborhoods of our City –where over 2/3rd of these non-conforming liquor stores saturate streets that desperately need other retail establishments.

This piece of legislation has near unanimous support from Baltimore’s residents, especially in affected neighborhoods.

Yet four members of the Land Use and Transportation Committee, including Chairman Reisinger, have still not heard Baltimore’s constituents when it comes to removing non-conforming packaged goods stores.

Council Members Kraft, Spector, and Branch cite reasons such as “these are the only businesses in these neighborhoods,” “what will the store owners do?” and “this cannot be enforced.” Instead they should support these owners and their entrepreneurial spirit to create businesses that support neighborhood vitality, not neighborhood decadence. They should work creatively and thoughtfully to ensure the legislation has the resources to be enforced.

In Councilman Branch’s district, almost every organized community association has sent him a letter supporting the legislation.  Meanwhile, Council Members Reisinger, Kraft, and Spector have less non-conforming stores in all their districts combined (we count 7) than the single neighborhood of Broadway East (we count 9).

City Council is ignoring its constituents and hiding behind the State’s City Delegation and the need to reform the BLLC. They say BLLC reform alone will solve the city’s liquor crisis. BLLC reform is needed. But do they still not understand the number of liquor stores children in Broadway East and Sandtown-Winchester walk by everyday?  Experts remind us that this legislation will reduce violence and crime, sexually-transmitted diseases, injuries and other negative neighborhood effects. And we already know current enforcement resources (i.e the BLLC)  have not worked in the 40 years since the last zoning rewrite.

And is our City Council counting on the “working group”  made up of several Senators, city reps and governors’ reps? CPHA has learned that these officials have now submitted changes to Article 2B. However, citizens wouldn’t know; this working group has been private and secret since its inception-despite repeated requests for public input!

Do we have legislatures that believe citizens might know what is best for Baltimore? Citizens, if asked, wouldn’t compromise on safer, healthier neighborhoods.

Please support liquor store reform with this letter

Follow the Transform Baltimore work sessions here

 

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Michael Snidal

Michael Snidal

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