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Week in review – 2/24/12: Grand Prix deal gets OK

Grand Prix deal gets OK

Baltimore’s Board of Estimates voted 3-2 Wednesday to approve a contract with Downforce Racing LLC for the right to run the Baltimore Grand Prix for the next five years. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, City Solicitor George A. Nilson and Director of Public Works Alfred H. Foxx voted to approve the contract; Comptroller Joan M. Pratt and City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young voted against it. The organizer of last year’s first race, Baltimore Racing Development, left the city with about $1.5 million in unpaid bills and accrued about $12 million in debts, including to vendors who were never paid. The city terminated that contract late last year.

Facebook class-action suit

Two of Baltimore’s most renowned plaintiffs’ attorneys, Peter G. Angelos and William H. “Billy” Murphy Jr., have filed a class-action lawsuit against Facebook Inc., claiming the world’s most popular social network website has violated federal and California laws designed to protect the privacy of consumers. They allege Facebook has surreptitiously used online tracking technology, or “cookies,” to keep tabs on registered users’ activities — even when they have logged off the website.

Huguely convicted

Jurors on Wednesday found George Huguely V, a former University of Virginia lacrosse player from Chevy Chase, guilty of second-degree murder in the death of his former girlfriend, UVa lacrosse player Yeardley Love of Cockeysville. The jury then recommended that Huguely be sentenced to 25 years in prison for the murder conviction and one year for a grand larceny conviction concerning Huguely’s theft of Love’s laptop.

City terminates diner’s lease

Baltimore terminated its lease with the Hollywood Diner and the Chesapeake Center for Youth Development because the nonprofit organization was not complying with all of the terms of the agreement, city Comptroller Joan M. Pratt said Tuesday. CCYD had run the landmark diner, used in the movie “Diner,” for more than 20 years as a training program for students. Pratt said the organization did not submit required reports regarding the money it spent on equipment and repair.

Cybersecurity center planned

To fight what Sen. Barbara Mikulski described as the “new enduring war” against “hate-hackers,” Maryland officials announced a plan to create the National Cyber Center of Excellence for Cyber Security in Montgomery County. The center will be developed in partnership with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, a non-regulatory agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce based in Gaithersburg.

Stephens’ sentence

The jury that last week convicted Lee E. Stephens of first-degree murder began deliberating Wednesday on whether he should be sentenced to death. Jurors can choose the death penalty, life with parole, or life without the possibility of parole for the inmate they found guilty of murdering a corrections officer at the now-closed Maryland House of Correction in Jessup.

Mencken’s fountain dry

Union Square activists are at odds over the removal of a fountain dedicated to H.L. Mencken in the historic Baltimore park, and some are chafing because the $8,000 replacement, bought with funds from the neighborhood’s annual Christmas cookie tour, will not be rededicated to the stogie-chomping critic who lived in a rowhouse facing the square. The house, which had been a museum but has closed, is designated a National Historic Landmark. Replacement of the fountain had been delayed until the Maryland Historical Trust reversed its opposition.

Plaza vote delayed

The state Board of Public Works on Wednesday deferred until March 7 its decision on a disputed contract proposal to renovate two travel plazas on Interstate 95 in Harford and Cecil counties. Areas USA Inc., the winning bidder on the Maryland Transportation Authority project, is accused by HMSHost, a losing bidder, of having received an unfair advantage in the bid process. HMSHost’s contract to manage the plazas, the Maryland House and the Chesapeake House, expires Sept. 1.

Gay marriage bill

The Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee rejected two changes Tuesday to the bill that would legal same-sex marriage, sending the legislation to the full Senate for consideration. The House of Delegates passed a version last week that would push the bill’s effective date from October to January 2013. The panel rejected that proposal and one that would have legalized civil unions for gay couples.

‘Doomsday’ budget

Maryland senators are exploring broader cuts to the state budget due to resistance to some of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s tax proposals, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said Tuesday. Miller said the Senate is putting together a “doomsday” budget plan that focuses on making steeper cuts in case lawmakers can’t agree on O’Malley’s plan, which includes tax increases.