Will a blog set up to keep tabs on city’s liquor board improve functionality?

Balltimore blog keep tabs on city's liquor boardBaltimore Brew reports on a new blog that has been established in Baltimore to document the activities of the city’s Liquor Board after a scathing State of Maryland audit of the board’s activities revealed many inadequacies in how it functions.

Under-performing and yet over-staffed, failing to follow state law in awarding licenses, prematurely closing out 311 complaints, handling inspections inconsistently – the problems highlighted in the 91-page audit had such a ring of truth that even the Board’s executive secretary Samuel T. Daniels Jr., in his official response to the audit, acknowledged it was “thorough and insightful.”

An attorney from Baltimore’s Community Law Center who will attend each of the board’s weekly meetings will write the blog, offering commentary on what happens at the meetings.  One of its goals will be to ensure that the 24 recommendations from the state audit in March are fully implemented.  The blog, called Booze News: Distilled in Room 215, seeks to be a watchdog over the liquor regulation system in Baltimore and also to educate the public about the board’s functions.

The very term “Liquor Board,” Devereux writes in the blog, can be confusing “because it refers to both the three commissioners who hear licensing cases in a quasi-judicial setting and to the entire administrative agency charged with processing licenses and fees.”  The commissioners are appointed by the governor following recommendations by Baltimore city senators. Though the board is a state agency and not directly controlled by the city, its revenue from fees and fines is turned over to the city, and the city’s budget funds its operations.

Would such a blog be useful in Massachusetts?  Does such oversight help or hurt the transparency of government boards?  Some examples of this already exist in our state.  In Boston for example, Universal Hub regularly attends the Boston Licensing Board and Mayor’s Office of Consumer affairs and Licensing Meetings and reports insightfully on the decisions of the boards.

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