Baltimore City Councilman Robert Stokes took a swipe Tuesday at the city’s Department of Housing and Community Development, arguing that an ordinance being heard that afternoon designed to better protect people living in subsidized housing would have little effect because there aren’t enough housing inspectors.

The ordinance would formally define the term “supportive housing facility” in Baltimore’s building code, require a permit before any person transfers ownership of a subsidized housing facility, and ensure that each home is properly licensed. It was heard by members of the City Council in the Economic and Community Development Committee. Bill sponsor Odette Ramos said the measure would ensure that residents who receive government housing subsidies “get good conditions like everyone else.”

But Stokes, who represents East Baltimore, said the ordinance would further burden property owners and city workers without meaningful benefits to residents.

“You can’t catch people who don’t have rental licenses; you don’t have enough people to do that,” Stokes said to Deputy Housing Commissioner Jason Hessler, who attended the committee meeting on behalf of the housing department. “You don’t have enough inspectors to cover the whole city, and we know that.”

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He argued that supportive housing operators must already obtain rental licenses and comply with city standards. “What’s the difference?” he asked about Ramos’ bill.

Hessler, who spoke in support of the ordinance, said the measure would standardize and help “clarify” the agency’s responsibilities. It would not add significantly more work, he added. And while inspectors do not go “door-to-door” looking for code violations, Hessler said, they do respond to thousands of complaints every year, sometimes revoking licenses, issuing citations or helping an owner get into compliance.

Ultimately, the bill passed, including with a vote in favor from Stokes. In addition to having a 49% stake in a local development company, Stokes also owns and is renovating two properties in East Baltimore — a fact he omitted in his City Council financial disclosure.

— Hallie Miller

New members of Commission on Indian Affairs

Gov. Wes Moore named a slate of new members to the Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs this week.

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The commission, created in 1974, has worked to promote awareness of the state’s native and Indigenous people and facilitate tribal recognition.

The governor’s office said the selections were made in partnership with tribal leaders and councils. Seven of the state’s tribal communities are represented on the newly constituted commission.

The new members include:

— Pamela Wood

Olszewski new head of Maryland counties’ association

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. was named board president of the Maryland Association of Counties at the nonprofit’s annual winter conference Thursday.

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The position cycles through Maryland’s top county leaders each year. Since last year, Olszewski has been the board’s first vice president. He’s taking over the role from Howard County Executive Calvin Ball.

The organization represents the interests of Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions in the State House, and collaborates on educational programs related to public policy.

— Taylor DeVille

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