Thursday, September 27, 2007

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.


Scott_api said...

Good summary. Got to disagree with you on 1 point.

"Well Alderman Arnett, why not just ban cars altogether?!"

He wants cleaner air. If the drive-thru use is not approved, people park and walk to the coffee shop. Less cars idling = cleaner air. He wants to sublty influence people to pollute less. The same thinking could be applied to one of your favorite subjects, plastic bags. Instead of banning them, influence people to use a different means (I have seen stores give a $.02 credit if you use your own bag.)

He obviously didn't feel too strongly on it though, since he did vote in the affirmative.

Just my opinion. I could be wrong. It's happened before.

Brian Gill said...

Good point...fair enough.