Sunday, September 30, 2007

Setting The Record Straight

Here is what Public Information Officer Ray Weaver had to say in justification of the mayor's recent portrayal of the city's partnership with a DEA drug task force as "new":

It is my job as the city's public information officer to deliver the information that I receive to the mayor. I misinterpreted the letter from Police Chief Joseph S. Johnson regarding the drug task force and I issued the press release that said this was a new initiative.

There was no attempt by either the mayor or the chief to mislead the public in any way. It was also not my intent to mislead, but I was not clear on the details of the chief's letter and I regret the confusion that mistake has caused.

I have to say, I don't know if I believe this. But, I have no facts to disprove it, so I suppose that's that.

But that's not that for this post--I've got more!

Notice this quote:

There was no attempt by either the mayor or the chief to mislead the public in any way.

Why, Mr. Weaver, would you need to say this? We have faith in our elected officials' integrity. Is there some action by the mayor in the past that would suggest she might mislead the public?

Whoops, yes there is.

It's hard to know what to believe. Confusing reporting by The Capital combined with confusing statements by the people in charge have left us with no answers regarding hiring more officers. I can tell you who's not confused: the victims.

The Truth On Officer Hiring

The following comment was made on one recent post:

APD officer said...
If you are being told we hired 8 officers, thats news to us here at APD. We have hired none from the test just given. In fact the hiring process is not even complete. only 34 passed the test. after the written test is physical agility test, polygraph, psych test, piss test, oral review board and backround investigation. we will be lucky to get 2 in about six months. Then off to the academy for 26 weeks then 14 weeks of additional "GAP" training.

I got the '8 new officer' statistic from a story in The Capital, linked here. The article attributed the statement to the chief himself:

Chief Johnson said his department has received 490 applications in the past two years. Of these, 165 applicants took the required test, which has been administered about twice a year. Ninety-five applicants passed the exam, and eight were hired.

Perhaps the chief referred to a very recent event that the rank and file do not know about yet, or perhaps we are getting bad information. Maybe the chief is referring to exams that have been given in the past, and not the most recent exam. For a little guy like me, it is almost impossible to find out for sure.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

O'Malley Will Not Save Your Tax Money

That may seem obvious, but by reading The Capital's headlines, you would never know. Recent front page headlines have included "95% of taxpayers to save under O'Malley plan" and "O'Malley to reduce education spending".

Today, a letter writer took the paper to task:

These taxpayers will not save taxes when one considers the total tax package presented by Gov. Martin O'Malley and the Democrats.

The Capital has fallen for the Deomcratic Party's Clintonesque parsing of words and phrases, in its attempt to disguise a massive tax increase on all citizens of the state.

Don't worry my friend...we aren't falling for it!

You don't spend $1.7 billion through tax cuts--it wouldn't work. It's all coming from us.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Chief Johnson Continues Emphasis On Community Partnerships

Speaking at a meeting of the Eastport Civic Association, Police Chief Johnson had this to say:

We don't have enough eyes and ears to make you safe.

While this makes a prima facie case to hire more officers, the actual meaning of this quote is certainly more pragmatic. The chief elaborates:

I learned early on, we (police) couldn't make a community safe by ourself (sic) . You will never hear me say no to a community group.

Make no mistake--short of a martial law, there will never be enough police to catch every crime. Communities, and individual families, are invaluable in crime prevention. My problem has been the tendency of the administration to place the entire burden on communities. I have been to city council meetings where several residents testified to crimes happening, and the mayor's response was 'form a neighborhood watch'. So long as there is indeed a partnership, the chief is absolutely correct.

We also learn in this article that 8 new officers were hired from an applicant pool of 95 that passed the entrance exam. I suppose that I should be happy that this information is known, but truth be told, I kind of annoyed that this answer could not be provided by the Public Information Officer or the Police Department Spokesman, both of whom I emailed.

I was not a math major, but let's give it a try:

22 vacancies in the department
+3 officers called to military service
+4 officers on maternity leave
-8 new officers that were hired
a staffing problem only equalled by my company.

This doesn't even take into account how many officers will be retiring, or the ratio of non-patrolling supervisors to patrol officers.

I can't help but ask, if 95 people passed the test, and there are at least 22 spots to fill, why did we only hire 8?

New Top Restaurant

I have learned that I made a glaring omission in my list of the best places to eat in Annapolis.

A couple of days ago, I had dinner at the Severn Inn, and it was phenomenal. It has the best view in Annapolis, and the menu consists of high quality ingredients prepared simply. Very delicious. Sort of as a bonus, the power went out for a couple minutes, and it was a very cool ambiance when the restaurant's generator kicked in.

(The prices are fairly high, but if Mrs. Loyal Reader shares Mrs. Politics' desire to sit outside on the water, I would suggest that you oblige.)

The experience was so excellent, I debated putting the Severn Inn at #1. But, I settled at #2, for no real reason. Les Folie is still the top seed.

The Benefits of Greedy Corporations

On more than one occasion I have used this blog to profess my platonic love of Walter Williams, and I can still say that I have not disagreed with him at any point during our affair. Mr. Williams usually writes about national issues, but his most recent column applies to some of the points that have been made on this blog.

(I wish that The Capital would publish a Walter Williams column every day. If he needs a day off, they can just publish one of his old columns backwards, and I will gladly read it using a mirror, because I am certain that such an exercise would be the most enjoyable use of my time.)

I have made the argument that businesses are not stupid, nor are they evil. Labor theory dictates that a person is paid roughly what they are worth, and I can assure you that if a business thought that it didn’t have to pay its CEO $20 million per year, it wouldn’t.

Mr. Williams offers an elaboration:

(People display) the anti-market bias—the failure to believe that market forces determine prices. Many believe that prices are a function of conspiracies by the chief executive officers of corporations—that if a CEO wakes up feeling greedy, he’ll raise prices.

They also believe that profits are undeserved, failing to see that, at least in open markets, profits are incentives for firms to satisfy customers, cut production costs, and move resources to the most efficient uses.

I am an amateur economist, but this guy is a PhD economist. If you don’t believe me, listen to him.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Famous Ellens

Interesting fact: both Ellen Moyer and Ellen Saurbrey graduated from Towson High School, only 1 year apart.

On the right is Mayor Moyer's yearbook photo!

We Needn't Regulate Taxi Cabs

As you now know, we have higher taxi rates here in Annapolis. Alarmingly, in her letter supporting the rate increase, transportation director Danielle Matland had this to add:

As the City is supporting the taxi industry in its request for a rate enhancement, this would be a good time to implement additional requirements for the industry. This year, in cooperation with the AACVB, we are conducting voluntary Customer Service training for the taxi industry. Customer service training or similar training should be a requirement for all taxi drivers. It would be onerous and costly to for (sic) to provide a constant series of classes for incoming drivers. A practical method of implementing this beneficial training to enhance the industry would be to add a continuing education requirement as a condition of permit renewal. This Department would coordinate appropriate presentations or the taxi driver would have the option of selecting and documenting attendance in a course of their own choosing.

This is a perfect illustration of government mis-regulation of private industry, and the attitude of the regulators that stems from such abuse of market power.

Since the city of Annapolis regulates the rates cabs can charge, they are in entire control of the cab industry--they can make or break cab companies in a more efficient way than they can make or break the rest of us. The cab companies practically had to beg for a rate increase just so they could stay in business! And how does Ms. Matland respond.....she basically says "We've got them by the balls! Now is a great time to add more restrictions and requirements to the permit process."


The government has no right to mandate "customer service training" for private cab companies! They shouldn't even be wasting taxpayer money to offer voluntary classes! Every other private company is responsible for training their own employees--if they think a certain training will be profitable, they will do it. But since the city controls how much profit cab companies can make, they must assume the burden of the training! What if the city did this for every industry. Balderdash!!

Now, don't get me wrong--taxi cab regulation is useful (although perhaps not necessary). They have a unique ability to usurp people who are very vulnerable and susceptible to such abuse, as users of cabs often don't know how much a certain trip 'should' cost, and information that would compare a particular cab to its competitors is hard to come by.

Notice, the problem is informational--it it prohibitively hard for people to ascertain the rates being charged by their cabbie in relation to those of another. However, you do not have to regulate prices to fix this problem.

Allow me to offer an alternative solution. The city can require that every cab paint on its doors, in 36 inch letters, the drop charge, per mile rate, and per hour rate. This would allow the free-market principles that guarantee efficiency to be upheld. Taxi cabs could charge whatever they want, and people could make a decision based on price and any other factors as to which cab they want to take. Before long, a going rate for cabs would be established, as cabs charging a higher rate would not get any passengers.

Moreover, this would save this taxpayers money. Currently, city staff must monitor the price of gas and send out notices when gas prices reach certain benchmarks, as fuel surcharges kick in after that point. They also spend time administering the aforementioned driver sensitivity programs, or whatever. Here's an idea: let the private market take care of its own business, and cut some unnecessary jobs in the process!

The attitude of the Annapolis government is unacceptable. Instead of exerting more and more control over private industry, how about letting them decide what is right for themselves? It would work out better for all of us.

City Council Meeting, 9/24

Operating under the ‘better late than never’ theory of blogging, I shall now present my summary of the city council meeting this past Monday.

Sadly, attendance and punctuality by the Republicans was spotty at best. Mike Christman was absent, and Dave Cordle was fashionably late. But in defense of Republicans, many of us have jobs for the purpose of making our own money (and not receiving a government handout that was pilfered from our fellow citizens), and on occasion there just isn’t enough time in the day!

The Mayor started off the meeting by taking a shot at The Capital, and then we got down to business.

Acting Directors
The first bill on the public hearing agenda was a charter amendment concerning the designation and compensation of acting directors. This amendment was introduced by Alderman Israel against the mayor’s wishes, and stipulates that a person serving as acting director of any department for more than 6 months requires express consent from the city council.

It was suggested to me that this should be called the “Malinoff’ amendment, named after Mike Malinoff, who, as I understand, served as an acting director for some years.

The problem is secrecy. If a department head position is open, the mayor may appoint an acting director and determine that acting director’s salary at her whim! Acting directors are typically hired as contract employees, so the normal procedures of city employment and checks and balances provided by the city council do not exist. Currently, this process can go on indefinitely! Mr. Israel’s bill makes a lot of sense, and improves the visibility of government. A concerned citizen offered his testimony saying as much, and was quickly challenged by the mayor. She asked why he was so concerned, and after he answered, she snidely retorted “you didn’t answer my question”. It was readily apparent, as usual, that the Mayor was determined to argue with anybody who disagreed with what she wants. The vote on this bill is upcoming.

Zu Coffee
Congratulations to Zu Coffee, who will be able to offer drive through service after passage of a bill amending permitted uses of drive through facilities. The bill passed despite objections from Alderman Arnett—first that the bill was a big fix for a small problem and secondly that drive-throughs are not environmentally friendly because they encourage cars to sit idly! Well Alderman Arnett, why not just ban cars altogether?!

In light of Alderman Arnett’s reservations, Alderman Israel motioned to postpone the bill--which had already taken months to get to this stage—after only 2 weeks ago promising the proprietor of said establishment that his rules committee would fast track its review of the bill.

The postponement motion was voted down, and oddly enough Aldermen Israel and Arnett (along with every other Alderman) voted for the bill.

Taxi Cab Rates
Folks, this is one to which you should pay attention. The way any bill works is this:

1. It is introduced for the first time: called first reader.
2. If the bill passes on first reader, it goes to the appropriate committees for review. It should be noted that nearly every bill passes on first reader as a political courtesy to the bill’s sponsor.
3. Next, the public has a chance to comment on the bill at its public hearing. Theoretically, the aldermen then consider the public’s input and deliberate as to how they are going to vote on the bill.
4. The bill comes up on second reader at the next legislative meeting, and is voted on again.
5. If the bill passes on second reader, it goes to third reader, which requires a roll call vote. Don’t ask me why we need a third reader, because I have no idea. If it were up to me, they would do a roll call on the second reader and be done with it. The third reader is always done at the same meeting, right after the second reader. It is very redundant.

Anyway, a bill to increase taxi cab rates was up for public hearing last night. But since nobody testified on the bill, the council voted to change the rules (that I just listed above) and moved the bill to legislative action right then and there! It passed on second and third reader and now we have higher cab rates!

This kind of stuff happens all the time, and if you don’t pay attention you might never know about it. It is very important to participate!

Non-Important things that happened.
The council resolved that September 29th is “Worldwide Day of Play” in Annapolis. Hooray.

Next meeting in 2 weeks—a legislative action meeting.

New Taxicab Rates

As of Monday night, we have new taxicab rates. Here they are:

-$2.00 drop charge (no change)
-$2.00 per mile (25% increase)
-$30 per hour (25% increase)
-$1.00 late night (midnight-5 am) surcharge (no change)

Fuel Surcharges if gas goes above $3.50 per gallon (entirely new surcharge)
-trips to greater Annapolis area: $.50
-trips within AA County: $1.00
-trips to BWI or AA County locations north of BWI: $3.00
-trips more than 50 miles one way, or outside of Maryland: $5.00

Fuel Surcharges if gas goes above $4 per gallon (existing surcharge)
-trips to greater Annapolis area: $1.00
-trips within AA County: $2.00
-trips to BWI or AA County locations north of BWI: $6.00
-trips more than 50 miles one way, or outside of Maryland: $10.00

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Party Affiliation and Extending the Olive Branch

I would like to take this time to make the following observation: life is crazy.

Mine is a 12 person company, 13 including myself, and from amongst us we are dealing with the following concurrent problems:

-an employee’s father who had a heart attack and was diagnosed with cancer around the heart.
-an employee in a lawsuit with a former business partner AND involved in a police sting to recover his stolen cell phone.
-an employee hospitalized (under worker’s comp) with back problems.
-a different employee missing time for body soreness.
-an employee hospitalized with vertigo.
-an employee hospitalized with a severely broken hand—after having his dog die, his girlfriend break up with him, and losing the apartment that he and his girlfriend were going to lease together.
-an employee hospitalized from a concussion after the cab he was riding in got into an accident.
-an employee missing days for court for an improper penalty imposed upon her.
-an employee missing time as a result of his daughter’s suspension from school.
-a car in the shop for the second time in 2 weeks for the same problem on 2 different tires.

(I would ask 2 favors of this blog’s loyal readers: pray for the families dealing with these problems, and forgive me for not posting as frequently as might be desired.)

And if that wasn’t enough, AP has been co-mingling with Democrats!

Yes, it’s true. At the city council meeting on Monday, Alderman Shropshire said he had read this, and assured me of his sincerity to host myself and/or the entirety of the Central Committee for a dinner at his house. In appreciation of his devotion to reading this blog, and in recognition of the enjoyment I get from eating food that I did not have to make, I may indeed dine with Alderman Sam. I suppose we shall see.

I did say DemocratS (plural), and I was referring to former HACA President and rumored mayoral candidate Trudy McFall. She had some very nice compliments, and remarked that Mrs. Politics must be very supportive, since she is willing to put up with the distraction that comes from writing the 118th most popular political blog in Ward 5, as I do.

Perhaps the most useful point that I can make with this post comes from one of Mrs. McFall’s comments. She said something to the effect of:

I never knew I would agree so much with a Republican! I think that your influence on individual responsibility is well placed, and I find it very interesting.

Folks, party affiliation doesn’t matter a whole heck of a lot on the local level. You can certainly have big government vs small government debates, but that’s about it. Most people even agree on taxes, since at the local level the only real tax we are concerned with is the property tax. And I would challenge any Annapolitan, Republican or Democrat, to justify a 10% increase in assessments every year.

This is the reason I enjoy local politics. You can interact with the people who influence you lives on a regular basis. Most of us will never meet President Bush, but you can see Dick Israel every Saturday at 49 West. We will probably never be able to have a one-on-one with the Governor, but if you show up at the Sly Fox on the right Thursday night, you can talk to Sam Shropshire. You can email your alderman and they will respond!

Party affiliation is a way to solve an information problem. We can never know everything about the people who are running for president, senator, or governor. The best way to know if they are the candidate that best represents our viewpoints is party affiliation.

If you support increased government social welfare programs, but you don’t know anything about candidates who are running, you can vote for a Democrat and be relatively certain that this is the course of action that is most likely to agree with your viewpoint.

Having a party affiliation saves voters the time of doing research that they could not possibly do on every candidate by signaling the proclivities of that candidate. Party affiliation, therefore, is a signaling characteristic whereby voters increase their efficiency of time by using a small, easily obtainable bit of information to discriminate for or against a candidate—a discrimination that is perfectly appropriate.

But locally, we don’t have to do this. We don’t need signals—we can evaluate the candidates ourselves. And so continues my quest to do so.

Monday, September 24, 2007


I read the story in The Capital yesterday about a 42-page feasibility study that was given to the Governor by a committee of people who studied the viability of passenger ferries as a way to alleviate traffic woes locally.

The group suggested a trial period for the ferries to see how the private market responds to ferry service. If successful, the ferries could be implemented permanently.

But even by the committee's own admission, this is not much of a solution:

Passenger ferries will not address the need for moving large numbers of automobiles or trucks across or up and down the bay but can be used on the margins of the problem.

My question is this: the trial period is set to cost almost $2 million. If it is deemed successful, we can expect to continue to pay multiple millions of dollars for this service. Should we be spending this money on the margins of the problem?

Less importantly, the committee engaged in one of my most hated pet peeves:

The citizen-drafted plans suggests future avenues of discussion, including a collaboration with Virginia.

Any committee that recommends forming another committee, task force, or feasibility study should be penalized 1000 awesome points*, because what were they doing there in the first place? Does anyone not know that we should keep talking about issues to see if we can do something better? And how many meetings did it take to realize that Maryland and its neighboring states share vested interests in common waterways?

(*The awesomeness point scale goes up to 10,000, and the full 10,000 points have only been achieved by one person, this guy, who cut off his own arm after being trapped by a boulder--and survived. That is freekin' super-awesome--that he could do that, not that he lost his arm.)

Maybe it's just me, but it just seems like a big waste of time for a committee to recommend forming another committee.

Anyway, one guy who was part of the committee had his name removed from the report, citing its failure to explore vehicle ferries. He went on to say that passenger ferries are one of the least viable solutions to the traffic problem.

Let's see what the governor thinks.

City Council Meeting Tonight

Tonight is public hearing night, which means we get things started at 7 pm at city hall. If any of you loyal readers will be in attendance, let me know and we can tailgate in the parking garage before hand.

To view the agenda, click here.

Some things I am interested in:

-public hearing on changing procedures for acting directors. this may seem boring, but consider this: the city code requires the director of public works to be an engineer. the mayor terminated John Patmore, and Bob Agee (the city manager) assumed the responsibilities. is he an engineer? see my point.

-pubic hearing regarding requiring certain buildings downtown to install sprinkler systems.

-public hearing on raising taxicab rates

-legislative action (a change in the rules) to vote on allowing Zu Coffee (located in the Bay Ridge Giant shopping center) to operate a drive thru window

I will post a summary tomorrow.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Don't Even Try To Get Rich

Regarding the Governor's proposed tax hikes, Isaac Smith over at FSP had this to say:

The essentially flat nature of the current state income tax is unfair to low-income families; as I've argued before, if we're all going to pony up to keep the government running effectively, it should be done with an eye toward the fact that higher income people need to be taxed at a higher rate in order to have the same effect on their utility as lower rates would on people with lower incomes. Even apart from the need to close the state budget deficit, this would be a welcome change.

I was trying to have a relaxing weekend, but this stirred me up a bit. Mr. Smith says that taxes on the rich should be higher even if the state didn't need the money!! What?!! The following is the liberal tax mindset:

"Just for the hell of it, let's hit those rich bastards where it hurts!! Rich people are not normal people--they are evil! They don't need all their money--the rest of us do. Yes, all of us who didn't make that money have a right to take it through taxes simply because we don't make as much money and we need it more than they do."

Mr. Smith also says that higher taxes on the rich are necessary from a fairness perspective to ensure the same negative effect on utility as would happen to other people paying lower tax rates.

What message does that send? The market economy relies on individual people looking out for their own interests, and trying to make more money. The policy Mr. Smith would like to see ensures that hard work and efforts to make more money are fruitless--because as soon as you make more money, the higher tax structure will kick in and your quality of life will be the same as when you were making less money. There is no incentive to work harder or become more productive, and that is not good. To clarify, when there is no free market incentive to achieve individual success because the government penalizes such actions, it is called socialism.

And since when is taxing everybody at the same income tax rate not the most fair thing possible? If everybody pays the same percentage of their income as taxes, the fairest outcome is achieved.

Which brings me to my next point. I am aware that rich people have more money left-over after taxes than middle class and poor people. I am fine with that, and it is actually better for the middle class and poor people. Rich people invest their money in capital (companies, equipment, etc.) for the purpose of trying to become richer. But the capital needs labor to be productive. So, the owners of capital hire labor (i.e. middle class and poorer people) to operate the capital. Since labor is a finite quantity, at some point the scarcity of labor bids up its price, and the workers make more money.

If you tax the rich at such a rate that their utility can never improve, you eliminate the reason for the rich to invest. Why work your butt off to make more money if it's just going to be taxed away? Capital owners would hire fewer people, and the people they did hire would make less money.

Why would we want that?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Does a 'Rain Garden Specialist' Serve The Public Good

I was browsing the city's website, as I often do for fun, and noticed something peculiar.

(I know that many of you are calling me a dork for looking at the city's website for fun, and, well, you are right. I do a lot of odd things for fun. In fact, here are my top 5 leisure activities:
1. riding my bike
2. bowling
3. browsing the city's web site
4. following sports, especially American football and also European football. Go Barca!
5. continue my life-long mission to mandate that people pronounce the words 'sword' and 'soared' differently)

I noticed that the city employs a Rain Garden Specialist:

One way to help save time and benefit plantings is to prepare a Rain Garden. Our Rain Garden Brochure is available by clicking on these links:

Rain Garden Brochure - Page One
Rain Garden Brochure - Page Two

For more information, call Harry Sandrouni, our City's Rain Garden Specialist, at 410-263-7949.

This blog questioned whether the city should be spending money on a Director of Health and Aquatics--and some people thought: yes, we should.

But a Rain Garden Specialist? Is this position really on the city payroll? I am hoping that this guy is a volunteer. Because if he's not, what's to say the city couldn't have any of the following specialists:

1. Dogfighting specialist
2. Global warming specialist
3. Sister City Specialist
4. Navy vs. St. John's annual croquet (sp. edited!) match specialist
5. etc.

(Edit: it has been pointed out that the gentleman in question is a stormwater management specialist, which would make sense.)

The question of 'when to stop' has to be answered by governments all the time....take minimum wage--why stop at $11.25/hr? Why not $100/hr?

This is a basic illustration of the conservative view of government. Government should exist to enforce contracts and laws, provide public safety, and operate where the private market fails to provide the correct goods and services. If the government tries to expand beyond this, we get waste, and things we don't need.

myAnnapolis Emails

About 2 weeks ago, I stopped receiving daily emails from the police department, as well as various other announcements from the city to which I was subscribed.

I checked the city's web site and the way to sign up for these listserves is different, so I'm thinking that the subscriber list may have been lost during the transition period.

If you are experiencing the same problem, or want to subscribe to city listserves for the fist time, click here.

No News On Police Officer Hiring

Pervading through all the discussions of crime in the recent months has been one particular theme: hire more police officers. Specifically, hire 23 more officers to fill the vacancies in the police department that are already funded.

The mayor's response to this cry has been mixed, at best.

Her original position was that we did not have a crime problem--that violent crime has been decreasing. But the actual crime data made this position an inconvenient one to defend.

The next incarnation of her policy statement assured us that Annapolis offered competitive salary and benefits; therefore, we are doing everything we can and we just have to live with the shortage. The war in Iraq had caused a nationwide shortage in officers, she said. But then we learned that the salary figures she used were not accurate, and in fact that the city had not offered an entrance exam in more than a year, so no new officers could be hired regardless of salary offered.

The city finally administered the entrance exam, and AP asks, where are we now? Have we hired any new officers? Are we planning to?

An email to Public Information Officer Ray Weaver, asking him the above questions, is un-returned as of this writing. I just sent the same email to Hal Dalton, the police department spokesman.

Many times in politics, a certain cause gains steam, chugs along for a while, then putters out. I shall strive to ensure that this issue does not share a similar fate. Just because we don't hear about a problem doesn't mean that it's solved, and we should demand answers.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Fuzzy Tax Math

As part of his rhetoric at the "kitchen table" unveiling of more details on new taxes, "Governor MOM" declared that 95% of taxpayers would save money under the new proposal.

First of all, the 5% who would pay more are, of course, the rich. I am not even going to go into the arguments as to why taxing the rich at a disproportionately high rate hurts precisely the poor and middle class people that people are trying to help, and instead focus on the fact that the 95% statistic is total balderdash in the first place!

(I recently learned that 'balderdash' is a synonym for 'nonsense', and I have been striving to use the word frequently.)

The current state tax code provides that all persons are taxed at a rate of 4.75% of income for all incomes over $3,000. Since almost everybody makes more than $3,000 per year, basically we all pay a 4.75% state income tax.

The new tax code makes some changes, but single persons making $15,000-$150,000 and married persons making $22,500-$200,000 still pay 4.75%!! The median household income in Maryland is about $53,000--this means that the average family is paying basically the same income tax!!!

AND, THIS IS ONLY THE INCOME TAX!! If you raise the sales tax by 20%, raise the gas tax by who knows how much, and expand the sales tax to include services--the real tax environment that we will be facing rears its true, ugly head.

In other words, if you keep income taxes basically the same, and increase every other tax, taxpayers will be worse off than before and will have less money to spend or save.

As Ron George says, "Only the governor could call a tax increase a tax cut."

Politics On Tap: Reminder

Remember, Politics on Tap happens TONIGHT, 7 pm, at the Weather Rail in the Loews Hotel. Anybody can come, regardless of party affiliation. The bartender will tell you where we are sitting, and he will also validate your parking!

A Message From Uncle...err, Alderman Sam

Alderman Sam Shropshire sent out a rhetoric-laced 'newsletter' today......and I quote:

Somewhere in the northern Pacific floats a non-biodegradable petrochemical blob that's twice the size of Texas. Much of this deadly mess originated when someone innocently took home their shopping in a plastic bag.

In the U.S. alone, we throw away 100 billion plastic bags each year -- the equivalent of 12 million barrels of oil. Yikes!

Think globally! Act locally! Let's do our part to make a small change in our bahavior (sic) to help preserve the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries for future generations. Let's put a stop to retail distribution of plastic checkout bags.

I don't know if it was on purpose, but notice that there aren't any people in that picture of a plastic bag. I can tell you with a high level of certainty that the plastic bag in question did not grow wings and get there on its own. I am confident that a homo-sapien acquired the bag and failed to dispose of this properly.

If we want act responsibly about the environment, there are better places to start. In the opinion of this blog, efforts to increase recycling at businesses, as well as actually putting recycling bins downtown, would be much more appropriate first steps.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

New Charter School

Although I am no expert on the issue, it seems to me that by most accounts, the KIPP Academy was a successful and useful Charter School that fell victim to government balderdash.

Assuming that's true, we should welcome the possible addition of a replacement: as reported yesterday:

A Baltimore-based educational organization is considering opening a new charter school in Annapolis.

Officials with the Children's Guild, a nonprofit organization that usually works with emotionally disturbed students, have been meeting with school officials and hope to start the new school next fall.

AP is all for charter schools, because they satisfy economic reasoning. The are schools of choice, and if they don't' do a good job, students go somewhere else, the bad school closes, and a good school opens up.

The problem with the current plan is that there is no accountability. Accountability follows money, but money for our schools currently goes to the county, then to the school board, then eventually to the schools. It's too hard for us to hold the schools responsible. Let's hope we see more charter schools, more choices, and more accountability.

A Man After My Own Heart

John G. Miller, an apparent super-citizen of Annapolis, submitted this unsolicited job application via a letter to the editor yesterday:

I retired in 2000 as the managing director of two magazines, and would gladly return in a later incarnation to edit the Letters to the Editor column of The Capital. What Fun!

Hey!! Back off, pal!

If you would like to comment on letters to the editor, there is an blogger's assistant position open with the Annapolis Politics juggernaut web site.

Here are the details:
Pay: $o, plus a bag of Fritos on Fridays. (Frito Fridays!)
Fringe benefits: have an excuse to be on the internet all the time
Job requirements:
-10 fingers

Let me know if you are interested!

Which Triathlon Was She Watching?

I saw a letter to the editor entitled Triathlon, and I was prepared to read another horror story about how somebody was stuck in traffic and could not get to church, Caffe Pronto, or anywhere else. However, to my great amusement, the letter writer could scarcely contain her anticipation for future triathlons in years to come.

So said she:

All who were there on the morning of Sunday, Sept. 9, whether participants or spectators, had an exciting day.

I can't wait until next year!

I suppose all those who intended to be spectators had a good time, but on behalf of those who wanted a gallon of milk and were made spectators as a result of gridlock, I will respectfully disagree.

Once again, this blog's stance on the triathlon:
-event in and of itself not bad
-should occur only IF adequate planning and minimal (i.e. less than it was) inconvenience is possible

Perspective From A Police Officer

In a post yesterday, I asked of any police officers who happened to read this blog to provide some insight as to the recent happenings regarding crime and the police department.

A fine citizen identifying him/herself as "APD Officer" answered the call. This person left his remarks in the form of a comment, but I think it's useful to highlight them in a post.

So says APD officer:

The truth is that the officers are embarrassed for the mayor. Ellen Moyer has done more for the officers than any other recent mayor. Unfortunately, she has taken up lying in recent weeks. First she took the officers clothing allowance away and then sent her attorney to lie and say we never had it. We are still fighting that over a year later.

Then she said that we made 5k more than we did so she could say our wages are competitive. A flat out lie that she continued to use even after we pointed it out to her. Then she talked about the need for Segways, yet she had refused to buy any in the past (the two we had were shipped back to Segway since they were on loan). Then Ellen proclaimed she would change the work schedule. Changes in the work schedule have been underway for almost a year!

Then the mayor decided to join a DEA task force! Yup, it's true; we have been in the task force for at least 10 years. Let's not forget the building we live in that she built! Full of mold, tied up in the courts and unusable. The mayor has yet to do anything to hire new officers. The test that was given was offered to people who applied to APD up to a year ago. Just business as usual. Nothing new. We have 6 people retiring by the end of the year and they might hire 4 to replace them.

You might find it easy to beat up on Chief Johnson but he is trying to run a police department in the midst of chaos! Shame on Ellen Moyer. Perhaps she owes all officers an apology.

The thing that AP finds most interesting is increasing evidence of a disconnect between the mayor and Chief Johnson. I used to think that they were on the same page, and reinforced each other regarding most things. But after hearing the quotes in the newspaper, and reading the above comments, it's becoming harder to tell.

I am aware of scores of evidence regarding former friends of the Mayor that she alienated. For real progress, there has to be cooperation. And before progress, there has to be honesty! If the mayor is lying to us, shame on her indeed.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Cordle/Weikel: Foul Play?

Capital Punishment has made this post regarding an allegation that Alderman Cordle has levied against Chuck Weikel, accusing Mr. Weikel of registering illegal immigrants to vote.

Judging by the quoted remarks of both individuals (Cordle and Weikel), getting to the truth will require some digging.

I have personal relationships with both CP and Alderman Cordle, and I will see what information I can find for you lovely folks.

Politics on Tap, Thursday 9/20

If you would like to discuss politics, or anything else, in a casual environment, please attend:

Politics on Tap
Thursday, 9/20, 7:00 pm
Loews Hotel, Weather Rail Bar
Attire: "No Shoes, No Shirt--No Service"

Probable topics of conversation will be:

-the mayor
-how hungry everybody is
-how stupid you are if OJ Simpson tells you to "bring a gun and c'mon" and you do it

The bartender will know where we are sitting, but my picture is also on the side of the page so if you want to know who you are looking for, you can.

Bickering: An Update on The New Crime Plan

Whoa Nellie!

While sometimes I feel like bemoaning the fact that much of my news comes from The Capital, the fact of the matter is that this blog is more of an opinion journal than a news journal, and I am perfectly happy to leave the reporting to the professionals--err, at least the local paper of record.

Enter Sunday's edition, where we learn that the Mayor's lack of direction in implementing her new crime fighting plans has frustrated the very people responsible for its implementation.

This portrayal of how the crime plans came to be fits perfectly with AP's imagination of how city business works. I envisioned the mayor returning from Europe to chaos, and quickly throwing together a cosmetic solution lacking seriousness--a la Sargent Bilko--just to quiet the critics.

Plans do not implement themselves. The last time the Mayor tried to implement a big plan like this, it was for the Market House. When the plan fell through (because nobody worried about the details), the Mayor first denied there were any problems, then conspired to present the grim facts through a rose colored spectrum. The key to implementing a plan is following through on what you say you are going to do. Speaking from experience, is it also good to have backup plans in case your ideal plan does not work.

As for the current crime plan, it seems the mayor's plan was again short on details. So reports The Capital:

Annapolis Housing Authority President Eric Brown wrote Ms. Moyer a letter on Wednesday asking for "additional direction" on what she wants in a new agreement of understanding to address crime in the city's public housing communities.

You would think that the Mayor would take the time to get on the same page with the Housing Authority, since a lot of the emphasis of the new plan is on crime, specifically drug crime, in the public housing areas. The police chief, a reasonably important participant in any crime-fighting effort, had this to say:

We need to sit down.....How do we put this in the budget, secure these things, train these people ... It's not something we can run out and do in the next month. What timeline is she expecting?

Public Service Announcement to Chief Johnson, HACA President Brown, and other department heads: it's not good to publicly criticize the mayor!

Ms. Moyer responded to Mr. Brown by explaining:

I guess he doesn't know how to read.

She also stipulated that:

He (Chief Johnson) needs to advise me on the budgetary issues.

If he has not advised you already, consider yourself advised. He just said he doesn't know how to pay for the horse and the Segway. Also consider yourself redundant:

Local and federal officials confirmed this week the city joined the DEA's State and Local High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task force at least 10 years ago.

Now, I will agree that a Mayor does not necessarily have to know every procedural working of the police department. But if the department enters into an important drug-fighting partnership with the federal government, and furthermore if the mayor was on the city council at the time of the agreement, I would think the mayor should know about it. I know of some officers that read this blog--am I right here? Why would the mayor not know something like this?

The mayor later amended her position, stating that she meant for a renewal of emphasis on the task force, rather than a new agreement. Even so, a DEA spokesman said that the task force won't change much:

Special Agent Ed Marcinko, a DEA spokesman, reiterated the task force is not changing how it investigates drugs and identifies drug dealers.

"It's business as usual," he said.

This is government nonsense at its best. The mayor observed a problem, but she seemingly prefers to address the political problem for her rather than the crime problem that most people are interested in talking about. By throwing around buzz words, and buzz ideas, such as 'new committee', 'task force', '5 step plan', etc.--and not backing them up with any teeth--we are no better off.

AP has sent an email to Ray Weaver requesting the results of the recently administered qualification/entrance exam for new officers. Everyone (even now the mayor) is in agreement that the place to start is to fill the 23 vacancies in the department, and when I find out where we are on this, I will let you know.

Monday, September 17, 2007


Yesterday The Capital reported that the mayor's crime proposals turned to bickering, which is what happens when anyone raises any concerns about any of the mayor's ideas. (Check back later tonight, or possibly tomorrow, for a comprehensive post on this.) Capital Punishment brings up a good point about this:

Is Police Chief Joseph Johnson about to get the pink slip? CP has repeatedly called for Mayor Moyer to help Police Chief Joseph Johnson toward his retirement since CP started writing this blog but now there are signs that it may be about to happen. While yesterday's front-page article in The Capital about confusion over crime fighting (see post below) was being discussed all over the city, CP was listening to two local officials/politicos in the know who were questioning whether comments made by the Chief were going to blow the Mayor's top. The words "fire" and "resign" and "John Patmore" (the ousted former Department of Public Works chief who openly questioned the Mayor) kept coming up.

You will recall that John Patmore, the former director of Public Works, was terminated only days after expressing concern that the city was going to lease its space to 2,000 triathletes for a fee of $1. The mayor claimed the termination was going to happen anyway, but as this blog pointed out, Mr. Patmore was the only director to go and there others who were perhaps more deserving.

Not only has the police chief challenged the mayor, he has done it on the most visible issue in the city, and unless the mayor is satisfied with relegation to lame duck status, the issue that will cause her the most political harm.

Is Chief Johnson next in line? Who knows.

Advertising Genius

Warning to strict-interpreters of this blog's title: the following post has nothing to do with Annapolis or Politics.

I am fascinated by good advertising, but not the kind would be typically studied in business schools. Every once in a while, I find myself thinking "this is the most ridiculous product I have ever seen, and the person who invented it is an evil genius."

So, here is my list of the top 5 greatest marketing feats in the history of ever, listed in reverse order for added drama.

#5. Pet Rock
This, folks, is a classic. I am actually too young to know exactly how pet rocks came about, but if it involves anything resembling people paying for common roadside debris--and I'm pretty sure it does--than the marketing is genius. I do know that my grandfather had the coolest looking machine that I have ever seen for the precise purpose of polishing rocks, which suggests that pet rocks spun off even more incredible supporting industries. Where do we go from here: Pet leaves. Patent pending.

#4. Bottled Water
Before, you just drank water. If you thought it tasted a little funny, you boiled it, then waited a little bit, then drank it. I just looked at the freekin' Wikipedia page for bottled water, and look at all this crap:

Artesian Water - This type of water that originates from a confined aquifer that has been tapped. The distinguishing feature of water from an artesian aquifer is that it flows from the tap due to gravity; the subterranian water level is at a height greater than that of the location of the tap.

Fluoridated Water - This type of water contains fluoride added within the limitations established in the FDA Code of Federal Regulations. This category includes water classified as "For Infants" or "Nursery."

Ground Water - This type of water is from an underground source that is under a pressure equal to or greater than atmospheric pressure.

Mineral Water - This type of water contains at least 250 parts per million total dissolved solids (TDS). It comes from a source tapped at one or more bore holes or spring, and originates from a geologically and physically protected underground water source. No minerals may be added to this water.

Purified water - This type of water has been produced by distillation, deionization, reverse osmosis, or other suitable processes. Purified water may also be referred to as "demineralized water." It meets the definition of "purified water" in the United States Pharmacopoeia.

Sparkling Water - This type of water contains the same amount of carbon dioxide that it had at emergence from the source. The carbon dioxide may be removed and replenished after treatment.

Spring Water - This type of water comes from an underground formation from which water flows naturally to the Earth's surface.

Sterile Water - This type of water meets the requirements under "sterility tests" in the United States Pharmacopoeia.

Well Water - This type of water is taken from a well.

There are marketing geniuses out there who are paid to convince us that bottled water is more 'watery' than regular water. And we believe it--to the tune of $11 billion per year. Where do we go from here? Canned air. What? We already have that??!!!

#3. Diamonds
Diamonds--what a great story. The De Beers Company basically conglomerated 90% of all diamond mines in the world, the used their monopoly power to keep diamond prices ridiculously high by controlling the supply. And that's not even the best part! Some advertising phenom came up with the idea that a diamond is the only appropriate engagement ring, and that 2 months' salary was the appropriate amount to spend. Think about that! You can either put a down payment on a house, which allows you to create real wealth by owning a home, or you can make your future wife slightly happier than she otherwise would have been by giving her a luxury asset that creates no return on investment. Looks like we're renting for another year! Where do we go from here: Pet Rock engagement rings.

#2. Greeting Cards
Here is the business plan for greeting cards:

Step 1: Hype up every legitimate and less legitimate holiday, birthday, event, occasion, or other. Also, hype up every-day occurrences such as "just thinking about you" and "for being a great friend".

Step 2: Think of something that anybody else could think of and write it on a piece of paper.

Step 3: Make lazy, uncreative people come to your store and pay you for things they already know how to say.

Step 4: Smoke cigars poolside in the Caribbean while fanning yourself with $100 bills.

Where to we go from here: voting by greeting card. Fall of the human race.

#1. Cranberry Juice
Whoever was in charge of marketing cranberry juice should go in the Hall of Fame for Awesomeness. I challenge you to walk through the juice aisle in a grocery store and find a juice that has not been bullied and pushed around by cranberry juice. It's everywhere, and its influence is impressive. You've got cranberry, cranberry light, cran-apple, cran-mango, white cranberry, cran-grape--my head is spinning! Absolutely incredible. Cranberries don't even taste that good. Where we go from here: cran-tomato.

Where I go from here: to bed.

City Employee Crime

A letter writer to The Capital today suggested that the aloofness of the Moyer administration regarding crime(s) that a former city employee recently committed can be correlated with crime in our city.

So opines the writer:

According to the story, "Mayor Ellen O. Moyer declined to comment this morning through her spokesman Ray Weaver. She said she doesn't like it when anyone is robbed in the city, whether it be by a city employee or not."

Now there is a brilliant statement. Do you wonder why the city has a serious crime problem?

My initial reaction to this story was something like.........

"Why would the city notice a criminal from amongst thier midst?? After all, birds of a feather flock together."

And after realizing that such a comment was really for personal amusement more than anything else, I didn't have much to say.

What I want to say is: people are crazy. I own a company, and have witnessed the following employee problems:

-employee jailed for 24 hours for spreading the ashes of his cremated relative without a permit
-employee half-naked on-site with his girlfriend
-employee, while on the clock, wearing a shirt bearing the name of the company, ordering an alcoholic beverage from a bar that he knew was a business partner of our company, with the following instruction: "make it a double, and make it quick...i have to get back to work"
-employee missing work because his roommate left a newborn baby on his doorstep

And I only have 12 employees. The city has, like, way more than 12. There is only so much you can learn about a person in a job interview and/or background check. I think these are the only fair questions to ask here:

Did the city do a proper background check?
Is it policy to hire known violent criminals?
Do the city's hiring practices need to be changed?

Other than that, you can't babysit people. You can make the punishment for crimes bad enough to deter criminal behavior, and you can punish these people for a long time after the first offense so you know they won't do it again, but you can't control everything. It can probably be expected that there will be bad apples in the city government just like anywhere else, and every once in a while we have to hear a story like this.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Perspective on AA GOP

Today's Capital featured a letter to the editor from Brian Griffiths, a Republican activist who, as far as I can see, was the person to break the story about the problems of the county Central Committee.

Mr. Griffiths is also the #1 most influential blogger in the state of Maryland, and presents his opinion on the path of the local Republican party:

In recent weeks, Anne Arundel County Republican voters have been subjected to a vicious and unfortunate set of circumstances. These included elected members of the Republican Central Committee attempting to remove the committee's chairman outside of the scope of public view, and outside the scrutiny of the press, the activists and the voters.

The sad stare of affairs came to a head at the recent republican Central Committee meeting. Certain members of the committee continued their efforts to remove Chairman Mike Collins without so much a a recitation of the charges against him.

The committee attempted this despite weeks of speculation, innuendo and rumor in the media and on the Internet about its intentions, motives and methods. Certain members went so far as to try to virtually exclude all public comments from being included in the meeting's agenda.

The committee went forward with its plans to remove the chairman despite the fact that all who addressed the committee opposed its actions. A majority of those activist and voters in attendance were outraged that certain members of the committee continued to attempt such an important action without input from those very voters by whom they were elected to serve.

Many longtime activists were revolted by the scene they witnessed that night.

A number of Central Committee members had their leadership abilities weighed and measured that night, and they were found sorely wanting.

The spectacle of this meeting showed that certain members of the committee do not hold the same values that I and many other local Republicans share, And I am not sure how our Republican Party can succeed under their stewardship.

For my take on the issue, click here.

I think the point is an important one that the Central Committee exists to further the party at the bequest of Republican voters. And although some have said that the Committee was gracious in allowing public comments at all (which they are not required to do), I wonder how the Committee could rectify a refusal to hear the public with their party-building obligations.

I fear a similar problem as with city aldermen. The reward to work ratio for central committee members is low, and it can be said that many members have aspirations to higher office. And problems occur when an office is a means to an end, and not an end in and of itself.

Mr. O'Malley, please re-read that last sentence.

As for the rest of you, have a nice afternoon!

Plastic Bags: Those Pesky Things

Busy in Mrs. Politics' family (second wedding in 2 weeks)...must make a post....letter to the editor about plastic bags!

Regarding the proposal by Alderman Sam Shropshire, D-Ward 7, to ban plastic bag distribution in Annapolis:


A Safeway lobbyist reportedly called Mr. Shropshire's bill un-American, saying it would take choices away from consumers.

Sounds about accurate.

I agree with Safeway.


Being an American is truly about our right of choice, and I would like the choice to live in Maryland without plastic bags whirling from car to car, collecting in the marshes or our shorelines, or coloring our ditches, where they are removed by highway cleanup crews we pay for with our tax dollars.

Tricky! I took Safeway's own words, and turned them around a bit, using sarcasm. OK, I'm with you. This is more of a right than a choice, and if you want to address this problem, we should try and find a way to stop the PEOPLE who litter.

Also, we could be so lucky as to have our tax dollars pay for is some of what your tax dollars have bought in Annapolis:

-a proposal to ban plastic bags.
-a mayor that refused to fill 23 vacancies on the police department while homicides are on a record pace
-a bill in support of a midshipman—an issue that falls under U.S. Navy jurisdiction.
-increases in property tax receipts over past 4 years (2004-2007 proj.) of $4.89 million: average of 7.2% per year!
-Market House! Elimination of city history and character, 2 years of vacancy, loss of parking spaces, poor project supervision, inadequate HVAC design that is still not fixed
-$30,000 for flowers downtown
-apology for slavery

This choice is what is so great about America, and what is so poor about Safeway's perspective.

Giant got it Wrong too when spokesman Barry Sher said that the ban "sounds good until you consider the cost". Rather than ban plastic bags, he would have Annapolis enforce its existing litter laws.

Enforcing existing laws sounds like a fabulous solution, or at least a fabulous first step before we go banning things.

Giant is offering a solution for a symptom of the problem--littering--instead of the cause: distribution of plastic bags at the checkout counter.

I feel like this.

I have never seen such a precisely wrong statement in my life. LITTERING IS THE PROBLEM--IT IS NOT THE SYMPTOM. Plastic bags do not get up, stroll to the rivers, and jump in--they are put there by people!

To say that the problem is having plastic bags available at the checkout counter is a defiance of reason only equalled by your previous claim. You must also believe the following things to be true:

"Speeding is a symptom--the cause is allowing people to buy cars."

"Paedophilia is just a symptom--the cause is the internet that gives these people access to children."

"Assault is just a symptom--the cause is God because he gave us fists to hit people."

By your logic, we should ban cars and the Internet, and cut off everybody's right arm so if we wanted to assault somebody, at least it would be with our weak hand!

See the point? It is problems with people that cause violations of the law.

The total cost should be taken into account. This includes everything from extracting petroleum and natural gas, to making plastic, transporting the bags, and disposing of them.

Agreed--and the total cost of plastic bags is at least the same as paper bags, if not better.

One hundred billion plastic bags are made each year in the United States. In 2005, about 95 percent of them were not recycled, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Giant does not want us to know that the hidden cost to the environment is the reason the bags are so cheap.

What kind of economic reasoning is this? The following is NOT the way a production meeting at Giant would go:

"Bill, how much is it costing us to buy these plastic bags?"
"Well, Ray, the raw materials costs have gone up by 31%"
"Fine then. Jenkins, tell marketing to raise the prices for milk and ice cream by 31%."
(A faint, but stern, voice is heard in the background. It's Cynthia:)
"Wait! Our bags harm the environment. We can keep prices the same as long as we keep this cost a secret."
(All:) "Right-O. Let's play golf."

Pollution is an externality of production, not a cost of production.

Mr. Shropshire's bill offers voters a choice. What could be more American than that?

Did I miss something? Before, we could choose from bags A, B, and C. (Their real names have been withheld to protect the innocent.) Now we can choose from bags A, or B. Unless this is "opposite day", our choice has been limited.

(Note to readers: One time, in third grade, I was informed by one of my classmates that it indeed was 'opposite day'. The very next thing he told me was that it was not 'opposite day'. I have been quite confused ever since.)

For a more comprehensive analysis of the plastic bag bill, click here. The bottom line is this: we all like the environment, but there are much better places to start than a ban on plastic bags.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Rumors About Problems With Police, or Police Impersonators

This is by far the most hearsay-based post that I have ever made, but the implications are grave so I will oblige.

I have been reliably informed that persons flashing badges have been stirring up trouble at some of the local bars on more than one occasion in the recent weeks, including getting really drunk and trying to start fights. A friend of mine was forced to leave out the back door of a bar to avoid some people trying to start an altercation with him.

We would all like to believe that these people are not sworn officers, and right now there is no evidence that any officers were involved.

I think this is a good opportunity to point out the importance of our police officers. We hold them at a higher standard than we hold ourselves. We allow them to restrict our liberties if given probable cause, we rely on them for our safety, and if there is an emergency situation, we send them in to possibly die so that we can live. I for one appreciate the job they do.

I don't know if there are officers doing this, but if they are, I hope they are stopped (especially if they are drinking while they have their guns, which is not allowed). Conversely, impersonating an officer is a very serious crime, and if people are doing that, I hope they are caught, thrown in jail, and made to face a dangerous situation like a real officer.

Perspecitve On Triathlon

The Capital ran an editorial today about the triathlon, announcing their support for making this an annual event on the condition that the planning is better.

I wanted to give some perspective, if possible, on the effect such an event has on the city. Below are percentages--ratios of event participants in relation to city populations:

Boston Marathon: event participants equate to 3.4% of population
Chicago Marathon: capped at 45,000 participants, or 1.6% of the population
New York City Marathon: less than .01% of the population
Annapolis Triathlon: 1,500 participants, 36,500 citizens, or about 4.5% of the population

I actually agree with The Capital, and certainly with the triathlon participants, that we should continue this event if better planning is possible. But can the event be run as smoothly as we (we meaning churches, businesses, travelers, residents) would want? For what it's worth, there are more event participants per capita than the other events mentioned above.

Also, a glaring difference between New York, Boston, and Chicago, as opposed to Annapolis, is that they have good public transportation that many (most?) of their citizens use, so closing the streets for an event has less of an effect. In Annapolis, everybody drives everywhere. As we have seen, closing roads in Annapolis at any time has a terrible effect on everything.

There is no amount of planning that could provide for an event in this town for 50,000 people. Can we accommodate 1,500? If the triathlon becomes an annual event, hopefully the answer is yes.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

APFO: The Good, The Bad, and.......

At Monday’s city council meeting, the council passed the Adequacy of Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) that has been in the works for well over a year. The APFO passed despite 44 (forty-four!) amendments offered by Alderwoman Stankivic no more than 6 hours before the vote! The bill was sponsored by Dave Cordle, R-Ward 5 and Ross Arnett, economist, and D-Ward 8. I think that it is fair to say that Alderman Cordle has staked much of his political reputation on the success of this bill.

The basic idea is that we need to make sure that our infrastructure can handle the development that we have. Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, as Lee Corso would say, not so fast! The bill is meant to provide a comprehensive answer to the question: is a certain project right for the city of Annapolis? Are our roads, our police and fire, our schools, our water and sewer sytems, equipped to handle growth?

Some of the questions we can act upon, but some we cannot. For example, schools are run by the county. If the APFO wanted to change the schools, it could not do so because the city does not have jurisdiction over the schools. Ditto: roads. While the city maintains most roads within its limits, some major roads (Forest Dr, I think) are notably excluded. Aldermen Shropshire and Stankivic voted against the APFO because it didn’t address traffic, but Aldermen Cordle and Arnett point to the jurisdictional issues, as well as another bill dealing with roads and traffic.

Basically, the process works like this:
-A builder or developer submits an adequacy of public facilities application at the same time as the application for design review.
-The application is passed to the following department heads for individual review, pursuant to each department’s purview: Director of Public Works, Director of Planning and Zoning, Director of Neighborhood and Environmental Programs, Police Chief, Fire Chief.
-Each department head ensures that the proposal meets the standards established by the APFO. (see below)
-If the proposal is satisfactory, department heads give their approval, and a certificate of adequate facilities is issues.
-Deficiencies in city properties must meet the adequacy standards of this bill within 6 years.


Fire: Maintain response times of 4 or 8 minutes, depending on the situation. Maintain appropriate firefighter to population ratio.

Police: Maintain ratio of no fewer than 3.2 officers per 1000 citizens. Maintain average response time of 2 minutes, 30 seconds for type one emergencies.

Public Maintenance (roads, sewer, water, snow removal, trash pickup): Maintain adequacy as determined by the Director of Public Works.

Recreation Spaces:
*1000 feet of public recreational space per single family house.
*750 sq feet of public recreational space per single family attached unit.
*500 sq feet of public recreational space per multi-family dwelling unit.

Transportation: Provide reasonable access to non-vehicular travel where necessary.

Stormwater: Ensure developments meet existing stormwater runoff code.

If a proposed development does not meet the above standards, 2 things can happen. Either the proposal is denied, or it is put on a wait list at the request of the applicant. For projects on the wait list, a certificate of adequate facilities can be issued once the problems are resolved.

If the city’s infrastructure will not support a particular project, the applicant has some options. They can pay the city for improvements in infrastructure, directly improve existing infrastructure or facilities, or donate facilities that are adequate.

Those are the facts, time for some analysis.

The Good.
I am not a developer, nor have I ever been a developer, nor do I want to be a developer when I grow up. But I imagine that for a business where such long-term planning and expense are necessary, you need to know what to plan for. Even if developers don’t agree with the code, at least they know what it is and can plan their costs accordingly.

Step in the Right Direction.
Let’s not kid ourselves—the clamor for this bill came about after the current system allowed Park Place and 1901 West to be built. Many, and probably most, citizens were somewhat surprised and opposed to such development, and now there is a more specific way to address smart growth.

Steps have been taken so the developers are not too terribly affected. If service to fire hydrants is not adequate, builders can add a sprinkler system. If a sewer system is old, builders can replace it.

Before, construction permits were all in the hands of the Planning and Zoning Director (I think). Now, there are no fewer than 5 department heads that can put the kibosh on development that they think is flawed. There is more openness, and a better chance for the public to articulate their concerns.

With the oversight comes more discretionary ability. The leaders of our city must know come together vis-à-vis the approval process before any major changes to our city are made.

The Bad.
Buy Your Way Out.
Oh, you don’t want to build a park? No problem, just buy your way out. Section 22.20.040:

The standards required to be promulgated pursuant to Section 22.08.10, shall include but not be limited to:
1. (recreation standards listed)
2. The fees in lieu of the provision of such public restoration space; or
3. A combination of the above.

If somebody decided that we need this recreation space, why are we letting people get out of it?

Yes, discretion is good and bad. Let’s say that the next election produces a crazy mayor, and that person appoints crazy department heads, and they think that a 200 story skyscraper is appropriate at the Market House….tough luck for us.

Very Wide Red Tape.
With this ordinance, government is growing. No two ways about it. Not only that—more levels of government are becoming involved, and this is a separate process. In other words, the APFO application is something builders have to do in addition to the permit processes they already have to go through. If you want economic development, you have to streamline the permitting process. Why not just make one application that covers everything? The APFO provides a process for spending more tax money to do all the things the bill requires.

The Other.
Do You Agree?
There is still time to offer your opinion. The two authors of the bill are fully aware that the bill will go through revisions. Surely some of Ms. Stankivic’s 44 ideas will make their way into the final version. But what do you think? Should there be more recreational space, or less? Should the city address the issues it only has partial control over? Tell your alderman.

The bill alluded to ratios for both police and fire. It is good that the bill did not cap the ratios of police and fire to population, but the reliance on ratios is misplaced. I fear that the way we measure the adequacy is the ratios, and not the important things like response times, reduction in crime, etc.

There Is Much Left To Do…Can We Cooperate?

Notably absent from the APFO are provisions on schools and roads, as well as a real plan to reduce the use of vehicular travel. The authors point out that these issues are being addressed elsewhere. The entirety of our lives is not encompassed by the APFO—other jurisdictions and other bills, along with the comprehensive plan, have much to do with what this bill tries to accomplish.

We have to continue to be vigilant—the process does not stop here. We have to be involved in the Comprehensive Plan, the Transportation Plan, and frankly, everything else.

We also have to accept that we must work with the county—the only ‘sister’ jurisdiction that matters. If city fire trucks can’t respond in 4 minutes because a county road is too narrow, what are we going to do? And how much better could our procedures be if we actually cooperated with the county on things like police, fire, and public works?

Much remains to be seen.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Minimum Wage/Living Wage

The entire country has a minimum wage, and now many Maryland businesses will be subject to the 'living wage'. Let it be known that the difference between the 'minimum wage' and the 'living wage' is about the same as the difference between an 'illegal immigrant' and 'undocumented alien'. A living wage is just a higher minimum wage that doesn't apply to everyone.

Mandated minimum wages cause unemployment. They do not help: they hurt. On, the first day of the first economics class you ever take, you learn that if the price of something is higher, people want less of that thing. If labor costs are higher, employers will not be able to hire as many people.

Moreover, the higher a wage is, the higher quality of workers it attracts. Let's say that a person with an MBA can earn $100,000 per year doing the very stressful job of trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Let's also say that a cashier at a supermarket with only a high school diploma earns $20,000 per year.

Now let's say that congress sets the minimum wage at $100,000 for everyone. The MBA guy will apply for the cashier job because he can make the same money with a lot less stress. The supermarket now has a choice: hire an MBA for $100,000 or hire someone with a high school diploma for $100,000.

Their choice is obvious. So the result is unemployment for the very people that the minimum wage is trying to help!! Before, high school grad was making $20,000, now he is making $0. The economy suffers even more because the MBA guy who used to be a valuable asset for trading stocks stopped doing that.

The living wage doesn't apply to all businesses. Think about it--if it's so good, why doesn't it apply to everyone? Answer: it's not so good.