A Baltimore grand jury indicted a city councilwoman and a developer with close ties to Mayor Sheila Dixon Wednesday on bribery charges related to tax breaks for luxury buildings under construction on the city waterfront.
The indictments of Councilwoman Helen L. Holton and developer Ronald H. Lipscomb are the most prominent charges to emerge from a wide-ranging probe by the Maryland state prosecutor into corruption at Baltimore City Hall, an investigation that included the search of the mayor’s home last summer.
Prosecutors say Holton, head of a committee that oversees tax incentives, approved tax breaks worth millions of dollars for projects involving Lipscomb at Inner Harbor East, after Lipscomb paid $12,500 for a political survey for Holton last year.
Holton, first elected in 1995, was charged with perjury, for failing to list the payment on her annual financial disclosure statement, and with misusing her office. She said in a statement issued by her lawyers that she was “disappointed” in the grand jury’s decision and would continue in office while the legal proceedings continue.
The development stunned City Council members, who have been in recess for the past month, and fueled speculation that the nearly three-year investigation might be reaching its climax. The current grand jury expires Friday and to date the probe has seemed to focus on contracts and hearings held by Dixon when she was the president of the City Council and on her relationship with Lipscomb.
I thought banning paper bags was still just a California thing. Los Angeles has just decided to do it and, not surprisingly, some parts of the Bay Area have already done it.* But they’re not alone:
In June, China banned shops from giving out free plastic bags throughout the country, and banned the production, sale and use of any plastic bags less than one-thousandth of an inch thick. Bhutan banned the bags on the grounds that they interfered with national happiness. Ireland has imposed a hefty 34 cent fee for each bag used. Both Uganda and Zanzibar have banned them, as have 30 villages in Alaska. Scores of countries have imposed or are considering similar measures.
*This reminds me of when I was a kid and Berkeley banned styrofoam containers. That might have seemed like an odd decision at first, but in retrospect it turns out to have been a good one. Of course styrofoam is still around (not in Berkeley), but in a less environmentally damaging way.
What I noticed most about the ban at the time – I was quite young – was that fast-food hamburgers, previously kind of soggy in condensation catching containers, now had to be wrapped in paper or put in thin cardboard boxes. They tasted better that way.