Monday, September 3, 2007

2162 Words on Sam Shropshire

I enjoy commenting on letters published by our elected officials, such as this guest column from Ward 7 Alderman Sam Shropshire, because I can try to figure out what they actually mean using only what they say! (The two are never the same.)

No more preamble, let's do this thing.

In 2005, I was elected by the citizens of Ward 7 to serve as their alderman on the Annapolis City Council.

You are off to a fair start, nobody can disagree with you here.

My campaign platform addressed not only crime and public safety, but a spectrum of challenges facing our city: public transportation, smart growth, the environment, affordable housing, education, and other quality-of-life issues. In keeping with the covenant I made with the citizens of Annapolis, I have been fighting hard on all fronts.

I like the word covenant. It makes me think of God and Alderman Sam at the same time. My top 4 covenants in history:

1. The Davidic Covenant.
2. George H.W. Bush's promise of no new taxes.
3. Bill Clinton's oath of office.
4. Alderman Sam's promise to the people.

Good leaders must be able to multitask — to make sound decisions and provide solid answers on a variety of issues important to our community.

Much like good bloggers must provide solid insights on a variety of issues important to their readers. Take note--Alderman Sam qualifies his statement with 'important to our community'.

Concerned about traffic congestion and urban sprawl, I co-sponsored, with then-Alderman Josh Cohen, D-Ward 8, legislation that implemented a moratorium on new development in Annapolis until sound growth practices are in place. I also co-sponsored with Mr. Cohen legislation that has significantly reduced the density of any future condominium or apartment developments along outer West Street.

This does not mean anything. Let me shed some light on the co-sponsorship process.

Step 1: An alderman gets an idea for a bill.
Step 2: That alderman sponsors a bill at a city council meeting, perhaps having done some research on the bill.
Step 3: Any other alderman says the following: "Madam Mayor, I would like to be added as a co-sponsor to this bill."

That's it. You could co-sponsor every bill if you wanted to. Co-sponsoring is in no way a representation of how hard the co-sponsor-er worked on the bill; it is a political process by which aldermen can choose to attach or not attach their name to a particular side of an issue.

I continue to work for a comprehensive growth plan that envisions rail links among Annapolis, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., and a possible tram service down West Street to the Historic District.

Great. So you will work to "envision" such a plan. You will not work to "implement" the plan? I suppose that merely imagining a solution is just as good as actually solving the problem. Let's say for a minute that are are planning on building rail links to Baltimore and DC. Where would they go? Is there any place within the city limits that could accommodate such a rail system?

In February 2006, I was the first elected official in Maryland to speak out against the unfair rate increases of Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. and Constellation Energy. I have been active in campaigning for re-regulation of BGE and Constellation.

Speaking out against something is not a measure of accomplishment. Every politician spoke out against the BG&E rate hike--"a tale told by idiots, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing", as they say.

And if you think re-regulation is the answer, you are out of your mind. Regulation is what got us into the problem in the first place. Why will we be so much more successful re-regulating the industry than we were when we regulated it the first time?

I sponsored a City Council resolution in support of the state’s Clean Air Act, and I spoke at state legislative hearings in support of that bill. It passed in 2006.

Remember earlier in your letter, when you said that "Good leaders must be able to.....make sound decisions and provide solid answers on a variety of issues important to our community"? Well, this resolution was not important to the city of Annapolis community. So what happened---the city council sent a letter to the state that said "Dear Maryland, we support you. Sincerely, Annapolis"???? What a waste of time. I commend Sam the citizen for speaking at these hearings, but it has no relevance to the duties of Alderman Sam.

Last summer, while visiting a slavery museum in Gambia, I saw a prominently displayed advertisement from The Maryland Gazette of Sept. 29, 1767. It proclaimed the arrival of The Lord Ligonier, a slave ship carrying 97 African men, women and children to be auctioned at the Annapolis City Dock. I determined to lead the Annapolis city government in publicly apologizing for its involvement and support of 150 years of slavery and nearly 100 years of segregation.

Does anyone feel better now that the city of Annapolis has apologized for slavery? Did it change the way any of you live your lives? Or was it another waste of time?

The City Council proudly approved the resolution in a 7-0 bipartisan vote, making Annapolis the first American slave port to do so. And just recently the City of London followed our lead!

No comment.

Just kidding!! What would this blog be if it didn't make comments?!

I would be willing to bet that the mayor of London doesn't even know that Annapolis exists. This article specifically mentions Liverpool as a possible example for the London mayor, which would make sense since Liverpool is actually on the same continent and in the same country as London.

And furthermore, for those of you who saw no harm in the slavery apology, listen to this quote from the London article:

The Rev. Jesse Jackson praised the statement, saying Livingstone broke important ground with his remarks. The civil rights leader said apologies should lead to reparations.

Every time the government says it was wrong, especially publicly, people will try and sue to get money for the suffering they have endured. Or the government just gives them money before this even happens. Buckle up--it won't be long before the reparations bandwagon stops in Annapolis.

I work for racial reconciliation in our community as well as radical changes in public housing that will guarantee all residents some semblance of hope and a future.

So you're saying that a good future is currently a hopeless pursuit for public housing tenants? Ultimately, everyone is responsible for their own well being--there is always hope.

As often as possible, I sit down with public housing residents in their homes, sometimes taking along local pastors and thus encouraging faith groups to be more actively involved in serving the needs of these residents.

I can't help but think that everything Alderman Sam does is a publicity stunt. What is the purpose of such visits, other than face time? And what is the point of telling us about it? Don't say you are fact-finding, or trying to determine the needs of the people--you know what they are already.

I have been a driving force to provide smoke-free workplaces for Annapolis restaurant and bar employees. That ordinance, which I first put before the Annapolis City Council, encouraged Baltimore city to pass similar legislation. As I joined concerned citizens in speaking before various state committees, the entire state went smoke-free.

Most people would agree that the state smoke free legislation was assured passage after the city of Baltimore passed the legislation--they were not following Annapolis' lead. And as much as I do not enjoy smoke or the smell thereof, I also do not enjoy government telling private enterprise how to run their businesses.

Take the case of bars. Government tells them when they have to close, what type of alcohol they can serve, and if you can or can't smoke. They tell you what temperature the food has to be cooked to, what temperature your refrigerators have to be, and what type of thermometer to buy so you can take the temperatures! They tell you what type of tables you have to buy, and how many inches off the ground you have to store cleaning chemicals. Best of all, they require you to pay to get certified about all these things.

My point is: where does it stop? What's trans fat? No hamburgers? No coca-cola?

Public safety is of great concern to all members of the City Council. When possible, I ride at night with our police in their patrol cars so I can better understand their work.

All well and good. But let's see some commitment to doing something about it.

Aldermen Sheila Finlayson, D-Ward 4; Ross Arnett, D-Ward 8; Classie Hoyle, D-Ward 3; Dick Israel, D-Ward 1, and I have been working on affordable housing for our police. This ad hoc committee has met several times over the past four months, and we will continue to work until all vacant police positions are filled and our new police officers can afford to live inside the city, with police cars parked in their driveways (a definite deterrent to crime).

Ok, good.

I serve on the city’s Finance Committee and Environmental Matters Committee and am an ad hoc member of the Annapolis Maritime Commission and the Severn River Commission.

The Worldwide Authority on English Grammar and Linguistic Usage mandates that the term ad hoc may only be used once per 1000 words. Oh, and all aldermen are on a committee--it comes with the job.

I try to use my influence as an alderman to help in various environmental and nonprofit causes, working with the Annapolis Maritime Museum, Back Creek Nature Park, The Bay Theatre, The Lighthouse Shelter, HAVEN, the ARC of Central Maryland, and the Naval Academy Midshipmen Sponsorship Program. I’m a proud “sponsor dad” of four very dedicated midshipmen.

Sponsoring a midshipman has nothing to do with being an alderman in the city of Annapolis. The United States Naval Academy, as you may know from your recent resolutions regarding Midshipman Owens, is property of the United States and is not in the city's jurisdiction. You may also know this because it is not called "The Annapolis Naval Academy".

Recently I concentrated some of my time on prohibiting the retail distribution of plastic checkout bags. These bags do great harm to the environment and our quality of life. This issue has, surprisingly, gotten a lot of national and international media attention, because people around the world are fed up with overconsumption and its adverse effects on the environment.

Some of your time was spend on banning plastic bags and the rest of your time was coordinating the media coverage of what you spent that time doing. The last word to describe the national media attention this proposal received is "surprising".

And, to quote a Capital editorial (June 14), “Mr. Shropshire’s proposal could start a debate on littering, recycling and how certain routine shopping decisions affect the environment. In that respect, it could do a lot of good.” And that discussion is already under way—some stores, including Whole Foods, have already stopped using plastic checkout bags.

The discussion goes something like this:

"Should we ban plastic bags?"

"No, we should focus on reusable bags, place recycling bins downtown, and do other things that will have a greater effect."

When my Ward 7 constituents put me in office, they didn’t get an alderman who would simply fill potholes and solve neighborhood parking problems. They got someone who does that and more—someone who cares about their community and will lobby for their causes at every level of government: local, county, state and, if need be, federal.

This is crazy. Alderman Sam is not the world liaison for Ward 7; he is on the city council. Those other things are good, but they are not his job.

I firmly believe that being an alderman means sacrificially serving my Ward 7 constituents and all the people of Annapolis — to improve and protect our quality of life. That remains my focus and my commitment.

I like Alderman Sam on a personal level--I have spent time with him, spoke about issues, and he has on several occasions invited the Republican Central Committee to his house for kielbasa and sour kraut (although probably with the expectation that we would decline.)

However, this letter has done nothing to show any real progress that Mr. Shropshire has made on actual city issues. The smoking thing matters, but I think it is fair to say that at best Alderman Sam gave a gentle nudge to a stampeding boulder.

The rest of the stuff is frills, decorations, and publicity if you ask me. And if Mr. Shropshire has genuine concern for the duties of his office, and for the citizens, he should find more relevant issues, and more productive solutions.


M. Simon said...

You left out the obvious:

Smart growth (high density) vs reduced traffic congestion.

M. Simon said...

BTW schizophrenics are very heavy consumers of tobacco. As are the mildly depressed.

Such self medication interferes with the profits of the medical cartel.