Friday, November 30, 2007

Breaking: Shooting

A non-fatal shooting took place tonight in Robinwood, a HACA community.

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On November 30, 2007 at approximately 8:34pm, the Annapolis Police Communications center received multiple calls for reported shots being fired in the 1300 block of Tyler Ave, off of Forest Dr. The first officers on the scene found a male victim on the ground, in the 1300block of Tyler Ave. The victim was shot twice in the lower extremities.The injuries appeared non-life threatening, but for precautions the male was flown by MSP Medevac to Baltimore Shock Trauma Center. There is no suspect(s) information at this time. The name of the victim is being withheld until suitable time for family notifications. Investigation is continuing.

Shhhhh: Don't Tell The Mayor

The Capital today sadistically featured alternative police vehicles, a measure certain to tempt the mayor's fancy for such things:

You will be tempted to yield to the argument: "You see? This other jurisdiction was smart enough to get these vehicles. Annapolis should too."

Not so fast!

"It's another tool we can use. It's great for crowd control," said Officer Matt Warehime of the Department of General Services Police. "You can get out to different areas you can't get to in a car."

Likewise, Officer William Jackson said the Segways are good for crowd control
and have the added benefit of being able to go inside buildings.

Mr. Collins said the solar cart, Segways and bikes allow his officers to do a
better job keeping the government complex secure. And they have the added
benefit of being good for the environment.

When was the last time you heard someone say "man, if only we could control those crowds in the public housing, our city would be so much better"? Umm, never. Let's do stuff that fights drugs and violent crime, like filling police officer vacancies.

Shock: This Blog To Move Outside Of City!

Displaying shrewd tact and keen foresight, I have entered into arrangements to purchase and occupy a single family home in Rolling Knolls. Such a maneuver prevents me from running for city office in the near future, but sets the stage for a triumphant homecoming if/when I sell the new house and return to containment within the city limits.

The result is that myself, my immediate possessions, and this blog will be leaving the friendly confines of Ward 5 for the ceremonially dubbed friendly confines of "Ward 9".

So, from January 31 on, I will be bringing you "an outsider's look" of the politics of the city of Annapolis, and the continued insider's look of everything else.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Economics Of Bid Pricing

I haven't participated in any mono-logical debates with letter writers recently, nor have I recently talked about economics. In fact, I haven't talked about much of anything recently. Well, of that is about to change.

In case you've forgotten, or are new to this blog, the deal is this:
-Original words appearing in letter to the editor: bold
-My excellent, omni-brilliant commentary: normal font. Because I'm a normal guy.

The "worth Repeating" feature quoted Mayor Ellon O. Moyer as saying that "No crystal ball revealed that our low bid minority contractor (for the expansion of the city police station) would deliver such an inferior product."

What is the deal with the middle initial always included with the mayor's name? We freekin' know who it many Mayor Ellen Moyers are there?

By the way, to know what this person is talking about, click here.

What about "low bid" does the mayor not understand? The architectural firm responsible for the fiasco at the Market House was probably the low bidder also.

Ha! Excellent. Not unlike myself, the letter writer has nothing to lose since his/her writing is not the source of any income nor subject to any professional obligation. Translation: bring on the baseless accusations!

I understand that government wants to get fair value for its money, but invariably the requirement that the low bid be taken means inferior design and workmanship. In many instances the decision-makers look only at the price and do not compare apples with apples, but apples with oranges.

Or coconuts!

Moving on, let's address the claim that taking the low bid invites inferior design and workmanship. The most basic of economic theory is predicated upon 'perfect competition' in the market. A perfectly competitive market is characterized by several things, notably:

-many competing firms
-homogeneous (the same) products/services
-no barriers to entry (meaning any new business can easily start up)

Given a market for contractors with these characteristics, you would always take the low bid. But very few markets are perfectly competitive*. And when you introduce elements of imperfect competition, complications arise and the decision of which bid to take becomes less clear.

(*Agriculture and gas stations are probably as close as you're going to get.)

The most common way that a market becomes imperfectly competitive is differentiated products. For example, you may think that fast food is a perfectly competitive market, but people do choose Wendy's over McDonald's because the spicy chicken sandwich is better. The point is, if you thought this way, you would not buy a chicken sandwich at McDonald's just because it's cheaper, as the only place you can get the product you want is at Wendy's.

Now consider contractors. Not all are the same--some have different expertise in different things. So right off the bat, you should be thinking about soliciting a contractor who can do what you want, not just the lowest price. And once you find the ones that can do what you want, you still have a problem: adverse selection.

Adverse selection roughly means the following problem: the people competing for your business are precisely NOT the people you want to be dealing with. For example: banks want to loan money to people with stable finances. But, people with stable finances don't need loans! So, if someone needs a loan, the bank knows that they are probably not so good at handling money, and will take great precaution to make sure they get paid back.

Again, consider contractors. You want to pay the lowest amount, but the contractors willing to work for the lowest amount are probably the ones with the least skills. After all, the labor market rewards value, and in the absence of a market distortion, a person who does a better job will be rewarded with the ability to command a higher salary.

Ok, enough already. Let's get to the point. Taking a low bid contract is appropriate only if you believe the low price is the result of a comparative advantage in productivity enjoyed by the low-bidding firm. In other words, if a company knows how to do something better, quicker, or using fewer people, they can make the same amount of profit while charging less money. This is when you take the low bid. If not, their bid is 'artificially' low; you are actually buying a differentiated product--and that difference is usually lower quality, or hidden costs elsewhere.

I believe that I was analyzing a letter........

So now, for the police station project, there is the cost of the lawsuit against the insurance firm, the already-lengthy delays in opening the station, and the need for additional remedial work. This could have been avoided.

The cost of the lawsuit is a perfect example of the hidden costs that I was just talking about, albeit an extreme example. The usable life of the work is another--which would you rather do: pay $5 million in 2007 for construction and another $5 million in 2010 when it breaks, or pay $7 million to have it done right the first time, and it lasts until 2020?**

(**Answer: $7 million once.)

I, too, am a minority contractor. My company has never once won a low bid contract. My company prides itself on supplying products and workmanship of the highest quality. This cannot be accomplished when you have to be the lowest bidder. You really do get what you pay for.
U.G. ALLISON, Severna Park

As the writer alludes to, the real question is why the bid is lower. Certainly some companies are smarter and more efficient, and their prices will be better for it. However, many companies try to offer a lower price at the beginning to gain the initial contract, figuring that when things go wrong, the customer will say "Geez, this company is already familiar with the project, let's just give them more money to finish the job."***

(***For more on this phenomenon, do a search on this blog for 'market house air conditioner'.)

Hopefully the new central services director can prevent this in the future.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Police Station Woes Continue

In response to the lawsuit filed by the city against the Police Station contractor, J.G. concrete is set to seek its own legal recourse:
With its renovation of the Annapolis police station under fire and an $8
million lawsuit already filed against the company that guaranteed its work,
Hyattsville-based J.G. Garcete is suing the city for $2.3 million for breach of

In the lawsuit filed Nov. 16 in the county's Circuit Court, the
construction company claims the city was to blame for many of the deficiencies
at the police station and is now refusing to pay for work done. Among other
things, the lawsuit claims the city did not obtain the necessary permits on
time, failed to address existing waterproofing problems in the design phase and
neglected to provide a "proper set of construction drawings".

It's hard to know what to believe. I find it fully plausible that the construction company screwed up, possibly because the city selected the lowest bidder and got what they paid for. I also find fully plausible the contention that city inspectors were horribly overburdened and brushed things under the rug.

True to form, the city has failed to sucessfully problem-solve through collaboration. The relationship between the city and the contractors is irreperably harmed, and the police station will sit in disrepair while the courts sort this out.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Public Hearing Tonight

There is a public hearing tonight, and it starts at 7 pm. To see the agenda click here.

I will not be able to attend, as I have a campaign meeting for Fred Paone at the same time.

I would be interested to hear what people have to say about the Race Across America, which has been renamed by this blog as "The Triathlon Part 2, Except 5 Days Long". That's a long time to avoid downtown.

I sort of wish I was going, because I smell something quirky, if not fishy, regarding O-11-07. I thought that this was the ordinance that travels with the charter amendment establishing the Department of Economic Development, but now they are calling it the Department of Economic Affairs, which leads me to believe that this was a way around some law or provision that would otherwise ensure our safety.

We shall see.

Who Will Run For Mayor

Here are the up-to-the-minute odds for anyone and everyone that I have heard mentioned as a possible candidate for mayor. All city council members are ceremonially included. The person's odds for running are first, followed by their odds of winning (if given the fact that they run).

Arnett, Ross (D) 20-1 to run. 15-1 to win.

Cohen, Josh (D). 1-1000 to run. 3-2 to win.

Cordle, Dave (R) off the board to run. 15-1 to win.

Finlayson, Sheila (D) 18-1 to run. 30-1 to win.

Fox, Chris (I). 1-10,000 to run. 1-100 to win.

Flyntz, Frank (R). 1-1000 to run. 100-1 to win.

Hoyle, Classie (D) 52-1 to run. 40-1 to win.

Isreal, Dick (D) 10,000-1. to run. 29-1 to win.

Johnson, Dean (R). 23-1 to run. 18-1 to win.

McFall, Trudy (D) Running. 8-1 to win.

McMillan, Herb (R) 100-1 to run. 5-2 to win.

Moyer, Ellen (D), for an illegal 3rd term. 1,000,000-1. ("So, you're telling me there's a chance?")

Pantelides, Mike (R). 2-1 to run. 31-1 to win.

Paone, Fred (R) 42-1 to run. 30-1 to win.

Pierre, Zina (D). 1-200 to run. 60-1 to win.

Renault, Gilbert (D). 17-1 to run (as a Dem), 40-1 to win.

Shropshire, Sam (D) Running. 19-1 to win.

Stankivic, Julie (R) 91-1 to run. 22-1 to win.

Taylor, Wayne (D) 34-1 to run. 63-8 to win.

Weikel, Chuck (D) 1-55 to run. 5-1 to win.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Paone Ward 2 Endorsement

This from Joyce Thomann, President of the Republican Women of Anne Arundel County:

Dear Friends:
Wednesday, December 19, 2007 we have an OPPORTUNITY to elect another REPUBLICAN to the Annapolis City Council. Frederick M. Paone (Fred Paone) REPUBLICAN is running for the now vacant Ward 2 Annapolis City Council seat!

To get another Republican elected to the Annapolis City Council, we need to get some $$$$ going to Fred’s campaign. Fred is a bit behind in fundraising because he would not begin to raise money while serving as the Assistant State’s Attorney – UNTIL he received permission from the Ethics Commission to do so. In short, Fred did what was right – because it was the right thing to do!

I hope you will send a contribution to: Friends of Fred Paone, 47 Williams Drive, Annapolis, MD 21401. Any amount will be deeply appreciated. (It goes without saying that the more you can send the better his chances will be.)

First, you may want to know more about Fred Paone –

The Paone name is very well known in Annapolis. His father, Rocco Paone, was a long-time and well loved Professor at the U.S. Naval Academy. Fred Paone grew up in a home that sponsored USNA Midshipmen – one of them was Roger Staubach.

Fred Paone is a 56-year old Assistant State’s Attorney from Admiral Heights. His campaign Treasurer is the former Republican Mayor of Annapolis Dean Johnson. An article in the Capital Newspaper observed that “Although he has never run for public office, Fred Paone has been involved with the city on a volunteer basis since 1985, serving as the organizer of the July 4th fireworks show for nearly 20 years before handing over the job to Jon Hodgson.”

Fred Paone started out as a Democrat (so did President Ronald W. Reagan) but has switched to the Republican Party. (Like President Reagan, Fred didn’t leave the Democrat Party – it left him!)

Fred has stated that “on a local level, there is much more of an opportunity to vote for the individual anyway. I was born and raised in this city. I look around and see eight young men who have been murdered this year, traffic and congestion is way too much, development has run amuck and I think the citizens of Ward 2 need a strong voice.”

Fred Paone believes that crime is the NUMBER ONE issue throughout Annapolis. As Assistant State’s Attorney Fred Paone believes he is in a good position to help address the problem.

Fred Paone, like his father, is also a teacher. The December 2003 edition of The Barrister, the official newsletter of the Anne Arundel Bar Association reported, “Fred Paone has been teaching at the Community College for approximately five years. Not only does Fred teach Criminal Law and Evidence, he also has had occasion to teach Business Law. Fred finds teaching thoroughly enjoyable, particularly because it gives him a chance to work with eager young minds.”

Fred Paone also serves as the Chairman of the Annapolis City’s Ethics Committee.

Second, you may want to know more about the race –

Because only one candidate for each party had timely filed, there was NO PRIMARY. On the December 19th General Election Ballot will be:
Frederick M. Paone, Republican
Debbie McKerrow, Democrat (who lost to Mike Christman-R by 44 votes in the last election.)
Karen L. Jennings – Green Party candidate and co-chairman of the Anne Arundel Green Party. She is an organizer of the Chesapeake Pride Festival and a participant in Mayor Ellen Moyer’s book club about community development.

The present make-up of the 8 member Annapolis City Council is: 1 Republican = Dave Cordle; 5 Democrats; 1 Unaffiliated member – Julie Stankivic (Ward 6) and the one vacant Ward 2 seat.

Dave Cordle does a great job – but he needs another REPUBLICAN on that Council! (Hold on Dave – help IS on the way!)

To find out what Ward 2 looks like, go to the official City of Annapolis web site:, click on the City Government Tab which will bring up a link to “Ward Map.” Think generally of the USNA Stadium, West Annapolis and Taylor Avenue areas.

We are SO FORTUNATE TO HAVE A SMART, ETHICAL, (tall, nice looking) REPUBLICAN RUNNING! If you don’t live in Annapolis – your contribution can still help. If you know anyone who does live in Annapolis – particularly in the Ward 2 area – contact them and ask them to vote for Fred Paone. You’ll be glad you did – Dave Cordle will be glad you did –we all will be glad you did! Remember – Fred Paone can’t win without our help!

Best personal regards. Joyce

P.S. & FYI -- RWAAC has contributed $500.00 to the Friends of Fred Paone!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Roads To Be Closed For Peace Conference

At first, I was ambivalent towards the peace conference that was to be held at the Naval Academy, much like the feeling you get when you start to see Christmas decorations in department stores before Halloween. But I'm pretty sure the President is going to be here; I heard a reference made to Annapolis on Fox News yesterday; and we are now starting to hear about the road closures--which makes me excited.

Randall St from Prince George to Gate 1 will also be closed to at 7:00 AM on Tuesday, November 27.

King George St from Maryland Ave to Gate 1 will be closed for parking and traffic from 7:00 AM on Tuesday, November 27.

I will of course be going into 'boat show mode' on that day, or 'triathlon mode' as this blog prefers to call it, and will be forced to make a visit to Severna Park for any leisure activities, an activity that is usually avoided at most costs.

Local Business Update

I have recently promoted 2 University of Maryland businesses, North Star Games and Hook and Ladder Brewing, and the Wall Street Journal has joined the party:
Hook & Ladder Brewing Company, a Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship
portfolio company, has reached a new level of success today! Pick up a copy of
the Wall Street Journal today and you’ll find a feature
on Hook & Ladder Brewing Company. The company’s commitment of
giving back to local burn centers and firefighter burn foundations has
highlighted the company as unique and forward-thinking. The company looks
forward to continuing growth and recognition for its mission of developing a
company with strong ties to the community.

North Star Games recently won distribution of Wits and Wagers, their flagship game, at Target retail stores across the country. The game was named Party Game of the Year.

Both of these companies are Dingman Portfolio Companies, as is mine. Hooray us!

Ward 2 Candidates Forum: Organized By A Blogger

Proving that bloggers do more than sit and type at their silly computers, Paul Foer has organized a forum for the Ward 2 Candidates.

(I did not organize a forum, because typing at my silly computer actually constitutes a productive day for me, and I wouldn't want to overwork myself!)

You can see the details here.

Delegates Schuh & King Defend Special Session Votes & Citizens For Better Government PAC

Scheduled to speak at the Wednesday Morning Republican Breakfast Club today were Delegates Nic Kipke, Steve Schuh, and James King. Delegates Schuh and King showed up, and they might be wishing they hadn't.

The first topic of discussion was the special session. The delegates gave a brief summary of their perception of the session and its consequences, but then both decided to bring up their controversial votes in anticipation of having to defend their positions.

Schuh talked about his vote in favor of the $500 million (multi-hundreds of millions, anyway) expansion of medicaid. (I didn't know this, and now that the session is over it is a bit harder to find out. The general session took down its special session page, and neither myself nor The Main Adversary could figure out where to look. I think it's HB-6.) Schuh remarked that people making $20,000 for a family of 4 need to be in the public system, because there is no way the private market can make health insurance cheap enough for such a family to afford.

But there was no time to debate this! The meeting was only for an hour, and there were more pressing issues. Delegate King explained his vote on slots, elaborating that he made his support of a slots referendum known from day 1. He claims that over 80% of Marylanders support having a voice on the matter, and that giving them that voice was the right thing to do, even if the difficult thing. I will quote him as accurately as I remember:

Sometimes the legislature comes to an impasse on an issue, and can't figure out
what to do. When this happens, the public gets fed up, and demands a say
on the matter. Republicans supported a constitutional amendment 3 years
ago for defining marriage, and I think we need consistency of practices,
otherwise we are no better than them (Democrats).

The highly up-to-speed audience jumped on him immediately for this. Regardless of one's position on slots, they argued, having such narrowly focused language in the state constitution was inappropriate. Marriage is fundamental enough to appear in the constitution, but gambling is not. So went the argument.

There simply was not enough time for me to ask the question about leverage, which has been posed before. With the actual budget to come in 2 months, Republicans will be hard pressed to exert any negotiating force since the caucus could not unify for some major votes in the special session.

An even better dialogue surrounded the next topic, the Citizens For Better Government PAC. Delegates King, Schuh, and Kipke have joined the PAC's efforts to raise money for promising Republican candidates and contested Republican incumbents. While the intentions of the delegates may be noble, the officers of the PAC are not.

The chairman of the PAC is Lawrence Scott, and the treasurer is Doug Burkhardt. Mention these names to local Republican activists, and you will elicit the ire of a sleeping giant being awoken. Burkhardt worked against certain Republican candidates as a member of a central committee; Scott from most accounts is morally bankrupt; and both have worked against other PAC's in the past.

The Citizens For Better Government PAC is not even registered as a Republican entity, which makes the delegates' involvement all the more questionable, and risky for them. Delegate King remained steadfast, however, stating that such was merely an oversight and "this is obviously a Republican PAC". When asked who will make the decisions of where the money goes, they responded "we will". So they think. With Scott as chairman and Burkhardt as treasurer, the PAC can disperse money freely without the consent of the delegates; the delegates indeed cannot be named officers of the PAC because it would constitute a 'slate' and the money could only go to the slate's candidates. Although they certainly cannot be naive to this process or to Lawrence Scott (he is an advisor to Schuh), Schuh and King seemed surprised at the group's insistence that their fundraising abilities are being used to establish a slush fund for a campaign consultant.

The PAC has big goals--they claim to have $15,000-$20,000 in the bank and to have commitments for another $125,000. Delegate Schuh hopes to raise $400,000 to spend on the next election. The concern of Republicans should be the people in charge of the money. After all, why not use the Maryland GOP?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Ray Weaver Update

Public Information Officer Ray Weaver wanted to clarify his statements from last night, and graciously called me rather than post a comment on the site. I don't know how he obtained my top-secret cell phone number, but since he's in the information business, I suppose it speaks to his talent!

Mr. Weaver emphasizes that he was not angry at, nor berating the council in general or the mayor; rather, a specific member. Since I was checking messages on the above mentioned secret cell phone at the start of the event, I have determined that Mr. Weaver's explanation is plausible and will now correct the record. According to Mr. Weaver:
My comments were not directed at the entire council nor the Mayor. I was
angry that it seemed that a damning message about the Mayor and the Council was
being delivered to the media in the hallway, and another was being delivered to
the Mayor and the City Council in chambers. I expressed that specific concern to
that specific Alderman.

It is my job to represent the Mayor and the City, and I stand by my
statement that I felt the, "If you don't vote for this Bill as is, you must hate
the environment" tactic that was used was unfair and unjust. The compromise bill
addresses much more than just one item and is much more broad based than what
was essentially an anti-littering bill.

In any case, it was unprofessional of me to lose my temper and raise my
voice. I have apologized to the Mayor and the Council, and I extend that apology
to any one else that may have witnessed my unfortunate display.

I actually don't think the display was unfortunate. As I said before, I would have reacted the same way, or at least I would have wanted to. I occasionally speak with former city spokespersons, and the stories that I have heard convince me that the job is no joke. I wouldn't want to do it. Mr. Weaver has apologized, and to answer a commenter on this site, I don't suspect that we will hear about his resignation or (quote) resignation (unquote).

On a related note, the primary purpose of this blog is my personal enjoyment. I want that people read this blog and change their party affiliation, register to vote, or change who they vote for; but to be honest, I won't lose sleep if this doesn't happen. In economics terms, I try to make the blog a net benefit to my utility. (Utility= happiness) Since I don't get paid for this, and I'm not running for office (any time soon), the only way that the blog is a net benefit for me is to amuse myself, keep up on issues, and give people some laughs.

How this relates to people reading this blog, is that if you happen to be the subject of something I write about, and you think you are misrepresented, you can just contact me and give your side of the story. Believe me--I have few, if any, journalistic ethic; unless I really REALLY disagree with you, I will update my statement. Making enemies as a result of a silly blog that I don't get paid for is definitely NOT a utility maximizing activity.

Special Session Concludes

I started blogging in June as a way to pass the time while I was laid up recovering from ankle surgery. With such timing, I hadn't experienced keeping up with an election or a legislative session.

Frankly, it was amazing to watch the thorough coverage of the special session, but now that it's over, conservatives need to focus on what's next.

MD GOP chairman Jim Pelura presents an eloquent summary of the clandestine whooping put on Maryland families:
The Special ‘Tax Hike’ Session ended just as we have come to expect – in
the dark of night. Over the past twenty-two days, Martin O’Malley and the
Democrat leadership disregarded the wishes of those they represent and instead
fed their appetite to spend, spend, and spend some more.

Before this sham Special Session began, the Maryland Republican
Party warned that the Democrats would ram through tax increases against the
wishes of Maryland families and all without much public scrutiny or
oversight. Unfortunately, we were right. In a break from tradition,
legislative hearings during special session were often conducted without the
public being able to listen to the hearings over the internet. O’Malley
officials and Democrat leaders failed to provide copies of documents and fiscal
notes ahead of time to the legislators, public, or media. Committee
chairmen even stifled questioning by citizens and prevented them from going on
record with full rebuttals to these disastrous economic policies.

The linchpin for all of these tax increases was agreement to place the
slots issue on the ballot next year. Without that agreement, the tax
increases would never have happened. Whether someone supports or opposes
slots, we should all agree that we should not tamper with our Constitution for
gambling. A constitutional amendment is unnecessary, and even Comptroller
Peter Franchot has warned against ‘contaminating’ the Constitution for such a
frivolous idea.

When the Special Session began, I cited figures from the Department of
Legislative Services that it would cost taxpayers about $34,000 per day.
In the end, it has cost Maryland taxpayers over $300 million a day. We are
now left with a $7 billion price tag for this Special Session. This
full-fledged mugging of Maryland families should be criminal.

Streiff points out the shame of the rather inexplicable failure of Republicans to completely unite and put up as much of a fight as possible. Whether Republicans thought they were buying political capital to try and affect things down the road, or they were even more shrewdly following their self-interest, we now know the result.

In this state, Republicans have to be on the same page to have a fighting chance at anything. Dr. Pelura's statement, in my estimation, provides a rallying point that should remind all of us of what happened.

There still isn't a budget. O'Malley wanted to special session so the tax increases could start ASAP, but the budget process remains. Hopefully logic will prevail and conservatives in the legislature can do some real good for Maryland.

Making Sense Of What Happened With The Plastic Bags

See the crosspost and the full stories at Annapolis Politics.

Several months back, Annapolis Alderman Sam Shropshire introduced O-27-07, a bill that would ban the distribution of plastic bags by retailers in the city of Annapolis. The debate surrounding the issue since then has been nothing short of a circus.

The debate has been fierce. Alderman Shropshire maintains to this day that he genuinely believes this ban to be in the best interest of both the city and the environment. His opponents sharply point out that the evidence is less than overwhelming that plastic bags are even worse than paper bags in the first place, that Alderman Sam is simply pandering for media attention, and that there are much better places to start if you want to improve the environment (such as actually putting recycling bins downtown).

The bill was up for a vote last night, and true to form, the meeting was covered by print and broadcast media. Wow, did they see a show.

In a weekend news dump, the mayor announced that she would attempt so supersede Mr. Shropshire's bill with a much tamer plan that wouldn't ban anything, but instead would create a commission to study the matter further. Wonderful. But as of the start of the meeting, the city attorney was the only one that knew exactly how this was going to be done.

The mayor, along with several co-sponsoring aldermen, introduced 2 versions of the same (new) bill: O-55-07 and O-27-07 REVISED. In doing this, the council never intended to vote on the issue! There is a rule that if a substantive change is made to a bill by an amendment, the bill then has to be pulled and a new public hearing held regarding the substantive changes. By introducing a new bill and calling it a revised version of the old bill, the council guaranteed that such a substantive change existed!

Alderman Shropshire fought the tactic, but to no avail. The council passed a motion to accept the "revised" version of the bill, then immediately passed a motion to declare the changes substantive. The bill was removed from consideration, and the whole process will drag on.

O-55-07 was just a backup plan. If anything went wrong and a vote on the original bill actually happened, the council could still seek political cover by voting in favor of O-55, which appeared later in the agenda. As it happened, this was unnecessary and O-55 was pulled.

As could be expected, this made people crazy. The city spokesman was assaulted (metaphorically) in the hallway by supporters of the ban demanding to know what happened. Despite the fact that such is his job, he was so angry at the council for putting on a worthless dog and pony show, that after the meeting ended, he approached the council and mayor and launched into a tirade! He had to be calmed by the city attorney!

So the result is a lot of angry people, and no resolution to the issue.

For those of you who thought you would be better entertained watching Monday Night Football, for once you were mistaken.

Monday, November 19, 2007

City Spokesman Berates City Council


This is definitely not a rumor--I saw it with my own eyes. I feel bad for Ray Weaver because I agree with his cause, but this is a good story.

After the council meeting ended, City Spokesman Weaver approached the council and started yelling! He admonished the council for their dog and pony show, and for causing such chaos by shrewdly and sneakily refusing to vote on the plastic bag ban. Mr. Weaver was so animated that he required a directive from the City Attorney just to calm down!

To restate, a city employee screamed at his indirect bosses and his direct boss because he was fed up with all the political nonsense! Imagine the scene--the stoic council chambers witnessing the passion and fury of a man whose week was just ruined by having to deal with confused and angry citizens demanding to understand what the City Council just did on their behalf.

I have to hand it to Mr. Weaver--he did what any of us would have wanted to do in the same situation. Heck, I had the same reaction on this blog. Now that I think about it, I am the newest member of the Ray Weaver fan club.

Fallout Immediate Over Plastic Bag Chaos**

**Rumor Alert. Rumor Policy.

This is actually only part rumor, and thanks to the unnamed source who clued me in. But the other part is first hand.

People are pissed! The plan all along was to avoid a vote on the issue. Nobody knows what is going on because it is too confusing.

While Alderman Sam was in the hallway (while the council meeting was going on in the chambers), Alderwoman Stankivic came in the hallway and told him to get his ass back inside!

A certain city official, returning into the chambers after being haggled by crazed supporters of the ban, was frustrated to the point of verbally promising an ass-kicking to the council and/or members of the council for causing such a clusterF___*.

(*my word)

Exiting stuff.

City Council Votes Down 2 a.m. Bill, Balks At Plastic Bag Bill

See the info here. More analysis to come tomorrow.

11/19 City Council Meeting: Real-Time

In an landmark moment in journalistic history, this post is being brought to you real-time, from the rear of the city council chamber while the meeting is going on!

(If you are watching on TV, channel 99, you will see me in the back at the conference table. I have 2 browser windows open: one for this post, and one for the gamecast of the Maryland-UCLA game.)

Early speculation is that the 2 a.m. bill will be pulled. Reporters from The Post, The Sun, and The Capital are here. There are like a billion people here: the public, the special interests, and TV station(s)!

7:45: A local historian says some things.

7:51: Sam Shropshire's environmental scientist is making a last-minute plea to the council in support of plastic bags.

(UCLA 25, UMD 16)

Even though this is not a public hearing meeting, the public is being heard. The good thing about legislative meetings is that usually fewer people speak. The bad thing is that if people want to speak at the beginning of a legislative meeting, they can say whatever they want. Some actual examples from today:

"Please consider a levy on take-home food containers".

(UCLA 28, UMD 18)

The 'cool' crowd is seated here in the back. While various environmentalists are making various claims, we are snidely quipping under our breaths that this is not a public hearing.

If everyone goes over their allotted time to speak, we will be here until the next round of bar wars in, 2017.

Also, my right foot is falling asleep....oop, there goes the left one too.

(UCLA 28, UMD 18, halftime. HALFTIME! Geez, I can score more points than that shooting half-court shots as a novelty act during intermission.)

Tony Evans! I love him. He says he would like to be 18 years old so he could debate the plastic bag bill in high school. To quote: "This bill is an economic, bureaucratic, and logistical nightmare...let's make the best of it! Vote for the ban."

Sam Shropshire is arguing with a speaker who was against the bill. This is not the time! This is terrible! All of my limbs are asleep! My brain is soon to follow!

Alderman Sam just finished--oop, and started again--a quasi-tirade that is sure to be caught by the TV camera. The mayor seems to be getting annoyed. I am annoyed. My feet hurt. Maryland is losing. Sentence sizes are decreasing.

The 2 a.m. bill appears to be set for a vote. No early moves by the sponsor to remove it from the agenda.

Oooh, O'Brien's is here. Two people are dressed in fancy suits. They are THE PROBLEM BAR that everyone talks about when talking about the evil bars downtown.

They need 8 security personnel on Friday and Saturday nights--umm, maybe you should let in different people.

Now, they are not here to speak on any given bill, as far as I can see. So why are they here? Maybe they are afraid that there will be a movement to ALL midnight licenses. Don't count on that. More likely: a new 2 a.m. bill will be introduced that actually punishes a bar that causes problems. (GASP!!) They want to start beating the drum that they try hard; that they are good; and that they should keep their valuable 2 a.m. license.

Also possible: they are feeling the heat for not meeting food/booze sales ratios.

Alderman Israel suggests levying fees on bars to pay for additional police.

Also, public testimony is still going on. This is a legislative meeting, yet there has not been a single vote cast (except to approve the minutes).

(UCLA 36, UMD 23)

Sam Shropshire is arguing again--I have never seen such a violent meeting! The mayor just had to bang her gavel! This is total acting! Get the TV cameras out of here so we can get some work done!

A speaker pointed out that the Downtown Business Association submitted a letter against the ban, and Alderman Sam said "they didn't say they were against it, they said they didn't support it."

No bullshit.

The speaker just called out Alderman Sam for speaking into the camera. Good stuff.

Hopefully there is at least 1 bar that will be open until 2 a.m. today, because I will need a drink and this meeting will go on until then!

The cameras are leaving!

A speaker just compared what we do to what other countries do: "In other countries, people bring their own bags and baskets; the retailers don't provide it." I hate that. We have plastic bags because the private market has arrived at that outcome. There are avagadro's number of factors that contribute to this. Enough with the comparison.

(#1 UCLA 43, UMD 29)

Public testimony threatens to end.

The supply of speakers is exhausted. Time to vote.

I just re-applied my chapstick.

Damn it! The cameras just came back.

The voting is starting. I have to spend my time writing with a pen (a traditional, pre-blog-era communication device) to make notes. I will real-time post the 2 am and plastic bag results, and summarize the rest tomorrow.

(UCLA 46, UMD 35)

Ok I lied, they are dragging their feet and I can keep up real-time for now.

R-63-07 is moved to the front of the agenda, and passes.

Twin bills to establish a department of economic development, CA 01-07 and O-11-07 are being debated. Vote to postpone for more time to study. Postponed.

O-56-06 passes. Adds Compromise St. to parking District 2.

0-14-07: fire prevention: postponed.

O-22-07: Notifying public of information regarding sign applications. Amendments. Terribly boring and technical.

(UCLA 56, UMD 43)

Receive real-time email from real-life reader. Encouraged to keep typing.

We are still talking about signs*. Actually, we are staring into space while the aldermen and city attorney talk about signs. The aldermen don't really know parliamentary procedure, which is frustrating to me** and I'm sure to the city attorney.

(*Quote from the cool back-room crowd: "We're talking about signs here.")

(**I was parliamentarian in 7th grade for the Annapolis Middle School Student Government Association.)

The signs bill, O-22-07, passes, I think.

2 a.m. time.

Classie Hoyle JUST NOW moves to withdraw the 2 a.m. bill. She could have done this before. For example: 1.5 hours ago, when I still could have caught the UCLA-UMD game on TV.

Alderman Israel opposes postponement, calls for a vote today.

Still debating the postponement.


Postponement fails! Vote on the bill coming now.

O-23-07 fails. No votes for the bill, not even the sponsor. Bill fails on second reader. Current 2 a.m. rules remain.

O-26-07, relating to food/booze sales ratios, postponed.


Plastic bags. Ban moved by Shropshire, seconded by Stankivic. Arnett moves to supercede with O-27-07 (revised), or O-55-07--we don't really know!! A lot of shadiness and politics, I can't even follow it! Neither can the guy who is responsible for writing the legislation.

Shropshire is giving a soliloquy. Various environmentalists are holding up signs, which I cannot view because I am with the cool crowd in the back of the room. My left eye is drooping a bit because I am sleepy. I haven't seen this much propaganda since my second grade teacher tried to make me believe that I wouldn't be able to function in society without learning how to write in cursive.

What we know is that there is new legislation to kill the original bill. As of the start of the meeting, only the city attorney had copies of the new bill.

Stankivic makes substantive change motion, which postpones the bill and requires a new public hearing. DAMN ALL OF THEM!! WHY DID WE GO THROUGH ALL OF THIS??

This is freeking horsecrap. Vote yes or no so we can be done with this issue. They should have introduced a separate bill so that we could vote on that bill and not a substantive change of the original bill.

Wait, maybe they did. I have no idea what's going on...and as you loyal readers know, I usually know everything! I will do my best to figure out what's going on. This may take a while.

Shropshire warns that people in Arizona and Colorado are waiting for the decision of the council on this bill, handily forgetting that he was not elected to serve Arizonians or Coloradians.

(UCLA 71, UMD 59, final)

The best I can see, O-27-07 revised and O-55-07 are the same thing! So, if they vote on the "revised" bill, they can postpone based on substantive change to a bill. If they vote on O-55, they can end this thing today!

Moyer and Shropshire are arguing. Arnett and Shropshire are arguing...on the floor!! Shropshire is demanding the floor! Mayor ignores!

It is 9:33.

Shropshire requests a vote on O-27-07 (original) and a separate vote on O-55-07. He is absolutely right on this.

O-27-07 REVISED is accepted! Stankivic moves a substantive change has been made. Plastic bag ISSUE is postponed!!

Unbelievable cowardice. I can't believe they sidestepped the vote like this. I will be sending the city a bill for my time.

That's enough for this post. I'll finish the rest later.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Cause For Pessimism

Today's Capital includes a guest column by the Honorable Ward 3 Alderwoman, Classie Hoyle, arguing her case (which happens to be the correct case) for passage of the 2 a.m. license bill. As a supporter of this bill---umm, let's just say she could have done better.

Let's examine:

During my six years on the City Council I, more than any other alderman, have
promulgated legislation addressing equality issues.
She is, of course, referring to R-16-07--which requests the the United States Navy (read: not the city of Annapolis) confer graduation upon a (black) midshipman who violated rules. At least that's what I think she's referring to--maybe she can point to some bills that an Alderman actually has business worrying about.

Anyway, back to the point. We are talking about 2 a.m. licenses here:

The city needs one standard of fairness for establishments with liquor licenses.
Many residents and business owners have told me our current law is
discriminatory and unconstitutional.
Strike one. Even if you need someone to tell you about the laws you are paid to enact, you don't admit it! Next time: "I know from experience that the current laws are unfair." It makes it look like you are acting on personal principle*.

I was asked by Castlebay Irish Pub on Main Street and Sly Fox Pub on Church
Circle to introduce legislation that would permit them to have 2 a.m. licenses.
Strike two. In theory you would know this better than me, but I am quite convinced that Sly Fox was asked to participate-- only Castlebay came to you. Also, neither of these businesses are in your ward. I'm with you, and I support the cause, but why open yourself up to criticism?*

(*For more political advice like this, I can be retained as a political strategist for $500 per hour, or the cost of making 1000 copies at city hall, whichever is greater.)

This next part is terrible:
So it is with Ordinance 0-23-07, the legislation to lift the moratorium on
2 a.m. liquor licenses in the MX zone.

In 1993, Ward 1 residents established a sector study to stop the granting
of any additional 2 a.m. liquor licenses in the downtown MX zone. So for 14
years, some establishments in the MX zone have been granted permission to work
these profitable hours while others were denied it. Is this economic parity for
the business community?
Strike 3. Alderwoman Hoyle: get with the program. The MX district is West St. They can still get 2 a.m. licenses. You'll notice that Kyma, Fado, and Metropolitan are all in the MX district, are all more recent than 1993**, and all received 2 a.m. licenses.

(This blog has officially adopted 1992 as the reference date for the Ward 1 Sector Study, but who really cares?)

Sly Fox and Castlebay, the two bars you just mentioned like 17 seconds ago, are not in the MX district! They are in the Conservation Business (CA) and/or the Special Conservation Business (CA-2) districts! Unbelievable! This is, like, a major point of the whole bill--and you didn't get it right. What chance does the bill have of passing if its sponsor isn't familiar with the details?

Alderwoman Hoyle makes some relevant points about why the bill should be passed, but it won't matter. Too many people are too against it, and if this column is any indication, there's not enough persuasive power to change their minds.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Mayor Moyer Sends Message To Shropshire

In what can be described as a political power play, the Mayor is set to destroy months of propaganda and lobbying efforts by Sam Shropshire by passing a bill that supersedes his ban on plastic bags. Such a bill is not yet on the online agenda, but The Capital reports:
The mayor said she will introduce a revised version of the bill on Monday
that would instead establish an environmental review committee to tout the
city's greening efforts and encourage the review of residential and business
practices and policies.

"This is far broader than just the bags," she said. "It enlarges the
scope and is far more environmentally sensitive in a whole host of ways, setting
an example for the public."

If Ms. Moyer's revised version of the bill is approved by the Council on
Monday, it would replace Mr. Shropshire's bill.

The mayor has been rather vigilant, at least on face, with her environmental concerns; Lord knows she's travelled the country and the wide world learning about climate change. But the timing of this is just too perfect. The plastic bag bill was first proposed in the summer, and the mayor waits until now to introduce a bill that would wipe out the ban?!! I refuse to be convinced that the idea just came to the mayor, nor that her motivation is anything but showing Alderman Shropshire that she still has control of the circus.

In this blog's estimation, this is the mayor's second stab at limiting the shock value of Alderman Sam's ban. She previously introduced a R-52-07, a bill that would increase fines for littering. While such an action was probably meant to address the ban, the mayor stumbled upon the proper logic on this issue. Much like liquor licenses cannot urinate on flower pots, plastic bags need human accomplices to do their harm. Memo: DEAL WITH THE PEOPLE!

Politically, this works out well for Alderman Cordle. He can seize the rare opportunity to find common ground with the mayor:
Alderman David H. Cordle, R-Ward 5, said the citywide ban was not right for
Annapolis and he is encouraged by the alternate bill.

"I would support not doing the ban, but promoting education and
voluntary use [of reusable bags] ," he said. "People want the plastic bags. I
have many uses for them, I reuse them and others recycle them, but people want

It will be an interesting night, and one with an early start: 6:30 on Monday. As always, anybody wishing to participate in a pre-meeting tailgate in Hillman Garage needs only to email me with what they are going to bring.

Let's Remember What Actually Happened With Yesterday's Shooting

Today's Capital predictably ran a story about yesterday's drug raid gone bad, and I have a problem with their front page photo:
The front page photo shows friends of the deceased agonizing over their loss. While understandable, it should not be the focus of the coverage.

Let's not forget why this happened. All indications are that the police acted properly--they served a warrant on a dangerous suspect that was engaging in CRIMINAL ACTIVITIES, and therefore harming society, i.e. us. Ergo, the first way this could have been prevented was for this person to not sell drugs. Secondly, when the officers entered the house, he started shooting at them. Call me a cold S.O.B., but if you shoot at an officer that is doing nothing wrong, you get what's coming to you.

What if the officer had been killed? Luckily he was not, but we send the police to risk their lives dealing with jackasses who decide that the laws don't apply to them.

What the family has to go through is awful. But a more appropriate picture would have been of the officers, weary from duty, supporting each other and caring to their injured comrade. That would tell the proper story.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Slots Referendum Passes: 5 Republicans Support The Constitutional Amendment

Click here for more information.

Annapolis Police Officer Shot

An elite Annapolis city police officer was shot today on Madison St (Wards 6 & 8) while serving what is described as a high-risk drug warrant, and was flown to Shock Trauma with wounds to the chest. The incident happened today in the early afternoon.

The officer is expected to survive, and a suspect was killed when other officers returned fire. Here is the press release:
On November 16th, 2007, at approximately 12:30 PM, officers of the
Annapolis Special Emergency Team — ASET---- (The Department’s equivalent of a
SWAT team) was serving a search warrant for drugs at an apartment within the
complex of 1000 Madison Street. The warrant was considered a “high-risk”
warrant. Forced entry was made, and the entry team was met by gunfire. One
officer was struck by at least one bullet. The officers returned fire, and a
male suspect was shot dead by the return fire of the officers. The officer was
flown to Shock- Trauma in Baltimore. His injuries were described as non life
threatening. Names of all parties are being withheld until suitable time for
family notifications. An investigation is on - going at this time. Further
details will be disseminated in the same manner when available and

Josh Cohen Press Conference Today

FYI -- late notice, but in case any of you are interested, Ron Dillon, Jamie Benoit and I are holding a press conference this afternoon to present our amendment to the "SMART fund" stormwater management bill.

The press conference will be held at 4:15 p.m. this afternoon. Location: Darcy Road, Glen Burnie, 21060 The location will be at an eroded stream bed near Marley Middle School in Glen Burnie. You should park at the end of Darcy Road (ADC Map Book Map 8, Grid F-5).

Directions: From Ritchie Highway, take MD 648. Turn onto Marley Neck Blvd heading North, then right onto Spencer Road, Right onto Clover Court, then left onto Darcy Road. At 4:15 we will walk down the end of Darcy Road and turn head right where we will come across the severely eroded stream bed. Bring boots or sneakers that you don't mind getting dirty. It is a minor stream that might not have a name, but it ends up draining into Marley Creek.

-Councilman Cohen

Ego May Break Up The Democrat Monopoly: Entire Special Session In Danger

Governor O'Malley's hastiness in calling a special session may very well backfire.

Mike Busch has lost control of the House. Despite procedural desperation and playing chicken with proposed slots locations, Busch failed to organize the votes necessary to pass the Governor's slots bill. Members of the House allegedly had to forge a document just so the Maryland Constitution wouldn't render their actions null and void!

Meanwhile, Senate President Mike Miller has only 1 horse in the race: slots. He has made it clear that either he gets his slots package (referendum and implementation) passed, or nothing else gets through his chamber. This is important to you and me, because if we keep emailing our delegates in the House telling them to oppose this slots, we can use the Democrats' egos against themselves to prevent any tax least until the general session, when we can mobilize better opposition and our due process rights won't be so violated.

While it is important to email all of your delegates, 3 Republicans are rumored to be wavering because of their support of slots:

Nic Kipke
James King
Wade Kach

Send your emails to delegate.(first initial).(lastname)

From Streiff, The Sun and The Washington Post
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), one of the
legislature's biggest slots proponents, reacted angrily when it appeared that
the House might pass the bill authorizing a referendum but not consider the
slots implementation measure during the session. With the referendum date a year
away, several delegates said there was no need to reach agreement now on all
details of a slots program. Some said they could even wait to see whether a
referendum passes before acting.

Miller called that prospect "a total fraud," saying that would make it
"highly unlikely" that his chamber would seek to reconcile other bills passed
during the session with versions approved by the House. Those bills would raise
an additional $1.4 billion in annual tax revenue and direct O'Malley to cut
about $500 million from next year's budget.

"I think the session can be saved if they pass nothing or they pass
both bills," Miller said of the slots legislation pending in the House. He said
lawmakers should not be "lying and stealing and cheating the public into
thinking you're doing something when you're not." Busch later chastised Miller
for his "flowery language," saying: "I think it's unbecoming of a presiding

O'Malley spent much of the afternoon laboring to keep the session on
track. He gave what those in attendance called an impassioned speech about
reaching consensus at a closed-door meeting of House Democrats, holed up with
Busch in the speaker's office and met with wavering delegates from Montgomery,
who relayed their desire for additional school construction funding.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The 2 A.M. Magnum Opus

Governor Ehrlich, on several different occasions, has preached the need to put up a fight, and not run away. And as we know from the new taxes, elected officials can pass bills that are not the right things to do. With such things in mind, I will now endeavour to present a comprehensive analysis of the arguments, subtleties, and ant intricacies surrounding the issue of closing times for bars.

The Back Story

I suppose the original roots of the issue trace back 300 years, when the attitude towards drinking developed in conjunction with the maritime industries of the city. But more specifically, we can look to the 1992 Ward One Sector Study.

From all accounts, a lot of people worked on this report. Most of those people feared that uncontrolled expansion of night life would be a detriment to their quality of life, and set out to strike a compromise regarding proliferation of bars. In exchange for lifting limits on restaurant seating, it was agreed that no new 2 a.m licenses would be granted in the Historic District, thereby enacting what is now referred to as a moratorium on 2 a.m. licenses in that area.

The problem with the moratorium is that it created an uneven playing field. Existing 2 a.m. licenses enjoy grandfathered protection, and can still stay open late. Downtown bars are further penalized in comparison to surrounding areas—as close as inner West St.—where new liquor licenses can apply for a 2 a.m. closing time because they are in another zoning district. The result is that bars located within 500 feet of each other may have different mandated closing times:

Sly Fox (midnight) and Ram’s Head (2 a.m.)

Castle Bay (midnight) and Acme (2 a.m.)

Mangia (midnight) and O’Briens (2 a.m.)

The owners of the midnight licenses were aware of the moratorium, and decided to go into business anyway. Yet, they couldn’t help but notice the inequity of having to kick out loyal customers at midnight, only to see them continue their enjoyment at another bar only several hundred feet away.

Probably the most aggrieved owner, and the angriest, is Vincent Quinlan of Castle Bay on Main Street. Not only was he not allowed a 2 a.m. license, he was forced to spend tens of thousands of dollars to install brewing tanks in his small space, as brewing beer in-house was a requirement of his license.

Mr. Quinlan’s protests to his Alderman were useless; Alderman Israel party-poopingly favors rolling all licenses back to midnight. But his song tempted the sympathies of Ward 3 Alderwoman Classie Hoyle. In May, Alderwoman Hoyle introduced O-23-07, which would allow all classes of liquor licenses in all districts to operate until 2 a.m.

The bill has been heavily debated, and comes up for a final vote on Monday.

The Kurmudgeons

Unfortunately for the bar owners, the bill is opposed by the loudest, most active, best organized, and most well-funded political activists in the city: the Ward 1 residents*.
(*If the Ward 1 and Murray Hill Residents Associations opposed global warming, Mother Nature would fix up the ozone layer above Acton's Landing. If they opposed aging, Father Time would be forced to commission a fountain of youth.)
To boot, some assorted non-alcohol-vending business owners don’t much like the idea either. There are 3 main objections to allowing all bars to stay open until 2 a.m.

The first objection to the bill is a procedural objection, which goes something like this:
The zoning process exists for a reason. We took a lot of time to compose
the 1992 Ward One Sector Study, and made every effort to be fair. A
compromise was made that no new 2 a.m licenses would be given. Perhaps
it’s time for another sector study, but until then, we should be guided by the
old one.
The second objection is my personal favorite, the claim that businesses knew what they were getting in to:
Those bar owners knew what they were getting in to when they chose to open their
bars. We told them not to even think about a 2 a.m. license, and the fact
that they are doing so now validates our fears.
The most violent objection is the quality of life one:
I live downtown and I can’t get a good night’s sleep anymore! Hooligans
are outside of my house at 3 a.m. urinating on my flowers, yelling into their
cellular phones; and one time, I saw a drunk driver plow his car into another
car, then into my garden!
The Fun Lovers

The first argument is the level playing field argument, espoused by both bar owners and disinterested citizens who simply care about fairness:
Hey, this is poppycock. We should be on the same playing field as every
other bar. Not allowing us to apply for 2 a.m. licenses is unfairly
discriminatory. We’re not asking for carte blanche, we just want to have
every bar apply for a 2 a.m. license, then each be punished or rewarded on its
own merit.
The second argument, and the one that I have presented until I was blue in the face, is that bar closing times is not really the issue:
Littering, vandalism, excessive noise and nuisance, public intoxication—these
things are already against the law! All or your points are valid, but they
suggest action regarding police enforcement. We support giving more
resources to police so that they can better address the problem bar customers,
and the problem bars. Don’t punish the responsible bars for the sins of
the offenders—if the current laws were being followed, closing times wouldn’t be
an issue.
Who Is Right?

The fun-lovers, of course.

Time and time again, people argue on emotion. Ward 1 residents observe a problem, and make the erroneous assumption that all bars are bad. Once this happens, there is no turning back, and the battle lines are drawn. I shall try to explain why the 2 a.m. side is the place to be.

EVERYONE Knows What They Are Getting

I will stipulate that the bar owners knew what they were getting in to; any businesses that didn’t know what they were getting in to are probably bankrupt by now. But the residents also knew what they were getting.

The downtown homes are desirable because they are precisely that: downtown. The allure of living in the Historic district is that you are side-by-side with a CITY. The downtown part of a city! And when you live in an urban environment, there will be some give and take. Any resident who didn’t expect night life, foot traffic, or commercialism is crazy. If you value peace and quiet that much, go live in South County, because this is a CITY.

Ward 1 residents and historic preservationists have conspired to make zoning requirements nearly impossible downtown. I’m not saying we shouldn’t preserve our character, but if you’re too hard on businesses, this is what happens:

The residents have to realize that most businesses are net benefits to the community. Sly Fox brought life back to a historic site that long sat idle as a dark corner of unrealized potential. High end restaurants and bars have transformed inner West Street into a vibrant, walkable district. If it weren’t for the bars and restaurants, the city couldn’t support the necessary services for the people who make the houses in Ward 1 so valuable.

Solve The Actual Problem
Should we ban cars because people speed? Should we ban the internet because people use it to steal identities? Should we abolish our entire government because Congressmen are involved in scandals? NO!!! Get it? It's the PEOPLE that are the problem!

The time that a bar closes is not a problem—it is a circumstance. The problems are the underage drinking, drunk driving, flower pot destruction, vandalism, loudness, and idiocy that are ALREADY AGAINST THE LAW. And when things that are already against the law continue to happen, we have an enforcement problem.

Ask yourself this question: If bars were soundproof, required DNA scans to verify identity and age, and all patrons quietly took cabs home, would you care if all of this happened at midnight compared to 2 a.m.? Answer: no, you wouldn’t care.

The problems that happen to Ward 1 residents are not unique. They were going on in Canton, a subsection in Baltimore:
Residents' complaints are plenty: beer bottles through car windows, blocked
streets, fights, screaming and drunken driving. In the past five years, Ratiner
said he has received about 6,000 e-mails from Northshore residents distressed by
bar patrons' behavior. A friend recently videotaped a man leave a bar, climb
into a black sport utility vehicle, run into a female pedestrian and keep
Sound familiar? Let's see how the businesses, citizens, and government of Canton responded:
Residents and bar-goers on Boston Street will see new faces - and more
police uniforms - in Canton this week. Two off-duty police officers will begin
patrolling the nearby Northshore at Canton townhouse community Wednesday, and instead of the usual bouncers or security guards, Good Love Bar, a Boston Street hangout, has already hired two of its own off-duty officers. Huckas, a sports bar and hookah lounge, has also agreed to hire uniformed officers, according to officials.
Amazing! They hired more officers to better enforce laws that already exist. The fight in Canton is actually over who should pay for the officers, and Annapolis can't even figure out that getting more officers is the solution to the problem in the first place!

It also happened in Newport, with a similar result:

Newport, a historic waterfront town, faced a similar situation, said
Richard Sardella, owner of Sardella's Italian Restaurant and Newport mayor from 2000 to 2005.

Up until 1983, bars in Newport were allowed to stay open until 2
a.m.,he said. In response to rowdiness late at night, city officials passed
an ordinance that rolled back bar hours from 2 a.m. to 1 a.m., he said.

He said the new rule resulted in a "mass exodus" of late-night
customers who left Newport for surrounding towns, such as Middletown and
Jamestown, where bars stayed open later.

"They would go half a mile down the road from me to bars that were
open until 2 a.m.," he said.To cut down on liquor violations for late-night
drinkers, Mr. Sardella said he ran for mayor on a platform of "zero tolerance."
He instituted $500 fines for violations such as urinating in public and or
having an open container of alcohol on the street. Mr. Sardella said his efforts
resulted in a dramatic change in the number of violations issued.

Everyone except for Ward 1, and presumably the city council, understands that the way to deal with late night hooliganism is to disincentivize such behavior by levying heavy fines and getting the police you need to enforce the rules. The responsible bars have even offered to help with this process—they live here too, and they hate bad customers and bad bars just as much as you do.

Businesses Deserve A Level Playing Field

I attended the Planning Commission hearing when this issue was discussed. Many people made the argument that the current zoning arrangement is unfair, and needs to be fixed.

After patiently hearing all of the testimony, at least one of the commissioners came to the conclusion that zoning was inherently unfair, and a right to fairness was not a qualification for a change in zoning.

When hearing this, I just sighed. It is true that on occasion, the RESULT of a zoning decision is unfair. But the zoning process should not aim to be unfair. It should not be arbitrarily unfair.

If you want to be unfair, you have to prove that the unfairness is in the best interest of the city. To suggest that such is the case with the bars is laughable. Whether a bar closes at 2 a.m or midnight has nothing to do with how much the bar contributes or detracts from the community. This is what everyone forgets! The majority of businesses, bars included, are net benefits to communities. They increase property values, provide employment, and provide services to the residents. Where would Ward 1 be without businesses to make investments in the community, the same as the residents do?

Imagine the frustration of the midnight bars. They follow the rules, yet have to literally take the drinks out of their customers’s hands and throw them away, only to see their customers spend money 300 feet away for the next 2 hours. How is this fair? Better yet, what is the justification for keeping things so UNfair?

Even if you don’t agree with the 2 a.m. closing time (which makes no sense because the time is not the issue), you certainly must acknowledge that all bars should be evaluated the same. If you want to keep the same number of 2 a.m licenses, let all bars make a case for themselves. No more protection for the bars that were grandfathered in—make all of the bars go before the Liquor Board and prove how they are following the rules, and how the help the community. Protecting problem-causing 2 a.m. bars at the expense of the responsible bars needs to stop.

There Are 8 Wards In The City—The Rest Of Us Want This To Happen
Ward 1 will tell you that their opinion is the only one that matters, since their ward contains the overwhelming majority of liquor licenses. This couldn't be more wrong. Let me address Ward 1 directly:

As taxpayers and city residents, you have the right to protest things if you
want to. But so do the rest of us! We pay taxes just like you; our
taxes pay for the police in your ward, for your roads, etc. Furthermore,
we like going downtown to eat and drink. And if we, the other 7 wards,
outnumber your opposition to the bill, then we win. Like I said before, it
was your choice to live downtown.

The bar issue, like all of politics, is victimized by rent-seeking. Special interests, both for and against, have the biggest incentive to voice their opinions to the city council. Forgotten in the discussion are the people in the middle.

To over-simplify, bar owners are for the bill and Ward 1 residents are against. But what about everyone else? You know, the people that live in the other 7 wards in the city? I bet that every Ward except Ward 1 is in favor of this bill overall. But we don’t hear from these people because they aren’t affected enough to take the time to testify. Shouldn’t the city council take into account the view of the majority of its citizens?
An unscientific poll showed an even split on the issue.....much different from the sweeping opposition that will be displayed at the city council meeting. Some aldermen started out talking a good game. So said Alderman Shropshire:
I requested a City Council study session with the Annapolis Alcoholic
Beverage Control Board. I will be requesting stricter enforcement of laws and
stiffer penalties for serving underage drinkers and for over-serving other
restaurant/bar patrons.
Even the mayor proclaimed Annapolis to be a 2 a.m. drinking town. But the latest word is that most aldermen have backed off, and will vote in the negative. All the council knows is that Ward 1 will be up in arms if this bill passes, and that’s enough for them.
Now Is As Good A Time As Any
In response to the proocedural objection, there's more than 1 way to skin a cat. Yes, another Ward 1 sector study could include a new study of the issue. So could the Comprehensive Plan. But if 5 members of the city council think this is a good idea--and based on the points I have just made, they should--then an ordinance to do so is appropriate at any time, such as now.

What Will Happen

Unfortunately, as I have alluded to before, my opinion will be the dissenting opinion. The smart money is on the council voting down the bill on Monday.

What Should Happen

Someone, perhaps soon-to-be-elected Fred Paone in Ward 2, needs to draft a new bill.

Here are some suggestions: some for fun, others for real.

1. Hire 23 more police officers and put some of them on late night shifts to catch the people who are grievously offending property and quality of life. Heck, have them enforce parking laws on residential streets as well. And while we're at it, give them a raise, and a fine fruit basket at Christmas time.

2. Fix the police department building, so that when the above hooligans are arrested, there is someplace to put them.

3. Require a yearly review of all liquor licenses, whereby a bar that doesn't run a good/safe operation can be, perhaps, rolled back to a midnight closing, forced to close during Naval Academy graduation week, etc.

4. Use the threat of revoking a liquor license to incentivize bars to clean up their acts. The county did that to the Green Turtle in Edgewater, and they now have to close at midnight for a year!

5. Require all new liquor license holders to operate with a midnight license for a year before being allowed to have a 2 am.

6. Allow ward 1 residents to conscript into servitude the drunken idiots who ruin it for the rest of us.

7. Provide tougher enforcement (or any enforcement, really) of nuisance laws, for example by putting putting 1 newly hired police officer on 23 different blocks in ward 1, with the authority to write $500 citations for violations.

8. And lastly, the drum beats on for collaboration. Residents and businesses should figure out ways to work together. Bars should run operations that don't cause problems, and residents should realize that some things come with the territory when you live within walking distance of a downtown area.

Update: Local Businesses

A couple days ago I made what I thought to be a harmless post that mentioned two companies that I am familiar with, North Star Games and Hook and Ladder Brewing.

I made a comment that one company was more successful than the other, and the founder of North Star saw the post (on these highly-read pages), and pointed out that I probably don't know what I'm talking about, especially since these things are hard to measure.

I feel horribly bad about this, because I have met these guys and have great respect for what they do. They were the first ever winners of Cupid's Cup, and impressed the event's organizers so much that it gave me the opportunity to compete for money in the same contest a year later.

So now let me update you on the success of North Star:
Wits & Wagers won 14 industry awards last year, making it the most
awarded party game of all time. says it is the best trivia game of all

Target heard about all of the buzz and decided to pick it up nationwide
for the 2007 holiday season. That's pretty good distribution.

A video game version of Wits & Wagers will be coming out in January
by one of the biggest video game companies and a major Hollywood agency is
interested in producing a Wits & Wagers television game show. We are
currently working on the contract.

I hope that I can be forgiven!