Thursday, January 31, 2008

House Republicans Propose Repealing Tax On Computer Services

The efforts to repeal the sales tax application on computer services have numerous co-sponsors, including a handful of Democrats. The press release reads as follows:

Media Release

January 30, 2008

Contact: Carrie Simons-Sparrow, 410-841-3401
Shannon Oxley, 410-841-3401

House Republicans Present Alternatives to Computer Services Tax

Annapolis – House Republicans today outlined a plan to repeal the expansion of the sales and use tax to computer services. The Republican proposal does not require replacement with revenues from other taxes nor does it require shifting the tax burden to local government.

“The expansion of the sales and use tax to computer services was one of the more egregious examples of the get-it-done-quick attitude that permeated the Special Session”, said Minority Leader Anthony J. O’Donnell. “It was pushed through in the dark of night, without any public input. The citizens most impacted were never given the opportunity to voice their concerns”.

The sales and use tax was expanded to include computer services during the Special Session in November and is set to go into effect July 1. There are several bills aimed at repealing the tax including
HB 187, HB 253, and HB 326.

“Over the last several weeks there have been several other taxes floated as alternatives to the computer services tax”, said Minority Whip Christopher B. Shank. “These have included everything from an increase in the alcohol tax to an increase in the gasoline tax. We are confident that the computer service tax can be responsibly repealed without backfilling with additional taxes.”

The Department of Legislative Services (DLS) has estimated $200 million in revenues from the sales tax expansion. Members of the House Republican Caucus worked with DLS budget analysts to identify $203 million in spending reductions.

“Maryland continues to have a spending problem rather than a revenue problem and this was not remedied during the Special Session”, said Delegate Gail Bates, the Ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee and the lead sponsor on HB 187. “Reasonable spending reductions can completely negate the need for the computer services tax.”

“The computer services tax sends the wrong message at a time when we are trying to promote Maryland as a leader in the knowledge-based economy”, said Assistant Minority Whip Jeannie Haddaway, the lead sponsor on HB 326. “These are high paying jobs in a clean industry that is not confined by geographic borders. Their business can be conducted from anywhere in the world and we simply cannot afford to lose them.”

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

O-51-07, R-60-07: Building Permits For Home Repair Minutia

Sometimes coming up with blogging material is easy, as the actions of our elected officials provide such amusement and amazement that the posts basically write themselves. Other times, nothing jumps off the news page, requiring me to use a high level of talent to provide useful information. I have decided that in such times, rather than making nonsense posts like this one, I will detail various bills being considered by the city council, as I sometimes do not have time to catch them when they are introduced.

Today's valiant attempt to defy total boredom will encompass some proposed new fees for building permits, introduced by Mayor Moyer. Sources tell me that building permits are not free, and these bills would make them even less free.

O-51-07 imposes a building permit requirement on minor construction that currently does not require a permit, and as a matter of course, R-60-07 sets the fee for this new permit.

So here's how it currently works. If you want to make a "non-structural like-kind replacement and/or repair of windows, doors, and siding", you can do it for free--i.e. without getting a permit. The new rules would require such repairs to obtain a building permit, which would cost $50. The current code requires all building projects with a value of over $500 to obtain a permit, so the new code would require all $500+ projects AND all "non-structural..........siding" projects regardless of value to obtain a permit.

Can you imagine how annoying it would be to follow this law, and how hard it will be to enforce? It's crazy. I just had a sliding door replaced at my old headquarters and residence in ward 5, and it took the contractor like 1 hour to do it. The theory of building permits is to have inspectors guarantee that construction is structurally safe and environmentally safe, right? Why does the government need to be worried about windows, doors, and siding?

Also, let me describe my general theory on permits and licenses. By granting a permit or license, the government is saying that the applicant has met all requirements for safety and expertise. My contention is: if the government OK's a project, and that project goes awry, then the government should be on the hook for the repair costs! Think about it--if they collect money in recognition of your worthiness, then they should be liable if you aren't worthy. Or they should just stay out of the way and let people pay for their own stupidity, or reap their own rewards.

Clarification: Mayor Moyer For Convention Delegate

A recent post here revealed some details of the Mayor's candidacy for delegate to the Democrat National Convention, resulting in various speculation in the comment section of the post. The provider of that information contacted me, and accepted my offer to publish a comment to set the record straight. As I told her, I am interested in information, not misinformation. So says she:
Dear Mr. Gill,

I see that one of your correspondents
forwarded my letter asking voters to support Ellen Moyer for delegate to the
national convention.

For the record, I am not an employee of the
City of Annapolis. I circulated the letter at the request of the Mayor,
whom I consider a friend. It went to my list of past supporters of hers,
which I maintained from when I was her campaign manager in the 2001 and 2005
city elections.

Since I didn't mention who the Mayor is affiliated with, let me
give you a hint -- she's an accomplished woman (which applies to both of them
when you think about it).

I know the way Democrats select their
candidates may be different than what you are accustomed to, but please be
assured it is inclusive and collaborative, just like the Mayor herself.

While I have the floor, I would like to remind any readers who are
registered Democrats (I realize this might be a long shot) to be sure to vote
for my friend Ellen Moyer for delegate to the convention. And for all you
who aren't Democrats, have a happy Lincoln's birthday.


Kathleen M. Nieberding
Coldwell Banker
Residential Brokerage
572-A Ritchie Highway
Severna Park, MD 21146
Web Site:
Direct: 410.212.1051

Monday, January 28, 2008

Mayor Moyer On The Ballot Again

Mayor Moyer is running for election in 2 weeks.....for delegate to the Democrat National Convention:

We all know how important it is to participate in the
primary on February 12th, no matter who we support. The race is too close;
the stakes too high to sit on the sideline.

Maryland should play a significant role in the selection of our party's standard bearer, and we have the opportunity to have an Annapolis presence in that process.

Annapolis Mayor Ellen Moyer is on the ballot as a delegate to the
Democratic National Convention. So please, no matter who you
support on the national level, if you are a Democrat, select Ellen
Moyer as a delegate and send her to the convention in August.

February 12 happens to be Ellen's birthday (which she shares with
Abe Lincoln, who isn't running at this time). I know she would love
to celebrate her special day as part of this historic national

Please help me spread the word, friend to friend, by sharing this with
other Democratic friends. Do us a favor, and forward this message to your
personal contacts. Thank you!

To me, nominating conventions are baffling. As I understand, the delegates who want to go to the convention have to say who they plan to vote for at the convention; that way, the candidates who won the primaries know they will be represented proportionally in the nominating process.

I think this process even varies by party. For the Democrats, it's my understanding that half of the convention votes are determined by party leadership, rather than by the results of the primary! WTF???

Anyway, I can't explain this line: "no matter who you support on the national level, if you are a Democrat, select Ellen Moyer as a delegate and send her to the convention in August". Like I said, I hardly understand the convention process, but I have to believe that it does matter who you support on the national level. Is the mayor asking that the voters simply reward her and send her on a vacation. And do sitting elected officials normally do this?

I guess it doesn't matter anyway....Mike Huckabee all the way to the White House!

(Just Kidding)

City Council Meeting 1/28: Live Blog

Welcome to the second ever live blog of a city council meeting! The atmosphere is warm and welcoming!

6:30 p.m.

The city clerk inquires if I am married at the moment. I informed her that I was not and that I enjoy drinks after city council meetings. I then immediately hacked into Mrs. Politics' computer and disabled her internet browsing functions so she cannot read this.

(Note: Everything in italics is false.)


Alderman Sam gives me a prototype version of the city of Annapolis reusable canvas bags. I will upload a picture this week.


OMG the servers just went down for like 12 minutes. I am so far behind!

Ok, the meeting was adjourned at 7:07.


Alderman Sam gives me a prototype of the new, official, city of Annapolis reusable canvas bags! I will post a picture at some point.

(Note #2: I love Mrs. Politics very much. Today she gave me an edible arrangement, which is a group of fruits, dipped in chocolate, and arranged to look like a bouquet of flowers! Delicious!)


Public hearing opens for O-06-07, a highly technical and procedural ordinance concerning review time for legislation. Local Eastport activist Chris LaDue opposes it (I think) on the grounds that it reduces transparency.


Hearing for O-24-07, which allows those tent-style sandwich/menu boards to be places on sidewalks outside restaurants. The bill would formalize a practice that already exists, specifying various standards. The planning and zoning staff thinks this is fine, in principle, however there is concern that some of the signs are ugly.

Residents are concerned that the signs clog the sidewalks, and businesses want maximum advertising. Alderman Arnett raises a good point--who will decide which signs are allowed (pretty) or made illegal (ugly). Noteworthy is that current sings are required to meet certain requirements for sidewalk space still available.


Alderman Cordle suggests that sandwich boards should be made to include ash trays to accommodate the smokers that will now have to stand on the sidewalk as of February 1st. Hilarity ensues.

Alderman Sam noted how crowded our sidewalks would be with the sandwich boards and police segways! A swipe at the Mayor?! Total hilarity.

The Mayor notes that the city uses sandwich board sings, and implies that the council should not do something ridiculous like ban them.


Debate about sandwich board signs is still going on. Chris LaDue is talking again, which he tends to do, but he is telling the council to enforce the laws that already exist, which is this blog's favorite solution to almost every problem. He says that this is a "solution looking for a problem". The mayor suggests "perhaps you weren't here when there were consistent problems and people wanted solutions".


John Spencer informs me that since the start of his tenure, legislation concerning signs has quadrupled. Debate on this ends.


Hearing on O-27-05 begins, concerning what appears to be annexation rules for including federal property in city boundary lines. I confess that I haven't read the bill. Doug Smith, the ward 1 President, testifies to his confusion about what this would mean. How would the wards be affected? I don't know. Nobody knows.

(Note #3: somebody knows.)


It occurs to me that this concerns the Naval Academy. Prevailing wisdom in the back of the room (a.k.a. the "cool" area, a.k.a. the VIP area) is that there would be no registered voters in the Naval academy, because their voter registrations would be where they lived before.



He tells us that China has banned plastic bags. Relevance points: -10,000.

He then brings up concerns about what services we would have to provide the Naval Academy. Relevance points: +16.

Ooh, he suggests taking the mayor's vote away--165 bonus points.

Sadly, I have lost interest in what Tony is saying.

Wait.......he just suggests that adding 4,000 people is a perfect way to stick it to Ward 1 by diluting their voter base!

The Mayor seems to know a lot about this, and just brought up some good points which I will tell you if you email me. She then ended in a passively aggressive fashion, thanking Tony for his testimony.


The meeting is out of control. The Mayor was arguing with Tony for a while. But, Alderman Sam just jumped in, failing to resist the urge to comment on plastic bags. He claims that while in college he obtained the journal of an important Chinese person, who said that "we will sell the USA the rope to hang itself", apparently referring to plastic bags.


Order is regained.


Hearing begins for O-53-07: green buildings! The Sierra Club naturally is in favor.

The difference between this bill and O-27-07 is that this bill deals with private construction, whereas the other bill provides internal standards for the city to meet.

(Note #4: I am about to take a bathroom break, plus I am going to buy a soda, which means I am going to have to take another bathroom break before the night is out. If you need immediate assistance, you can view the council meeting on Comcast channel 99. If, however, you are like myself and have Verizon Fios television, you have to wait for me to return, because they don't show the meetings.)


I'm back. I thought the soda machine didn't give me the soda, but it was just hidden. Exact change was dispensed.

A gentleman is speaking about LEED standards (which are some type of green building standards), and states that such standards for residential construction is not feasible at this time. Builders simply have not had enough time to make it economical. "LEED for homes is too much", his extended testimony can be reduced to. He suggests a more obtainable standard that would be a more moderate step.


The gentleman basically says that low income housing with LEED standards is impossible without government subsidy.


Another homebuilder type is testifying against the bill for several reasons. She also questions the credentials of the "Green Building Council", which I was wondering about as well. The Green Building Council would specify the building standards.

Building to LEED standards, she says, costs 12% more and saves $250-$295 per year. If true, this is very interesting, if true, which is nice, because not much else is interesting tonight.*

(*with the exception of my humorous commentary.)


The kind lady just said that home builders are like aircraft carriers. Geez, that's one business I don't want to be in.


Various people are speaking, some in favor of green buildings. Various other people are annoyed that time requirements for speakers are not being enforced, which they rarely are.


Ok, that's done. Next, nobody wants to testify for O-57-07, so we are done with that.

Now for O-58-07: to renew the leases for the people who do the boat shows. A guy in a suit from, of all places, the Sailing Hall of Fame is the first to testify. He notes the relationship between the boat show lease and the doings of the SHOF. He seems to be upset that nothing in the proposed new lease with the boat shows takes into account possible collaboration with the SHOF, nor acknowledges any of their interests. It was quite boring.

However, another guy in a sweater (not a suit), said a respectful 'up yours' to the suit guy. Guy #2 apparently was a founding member of the SHOF, but represents the boat shows, and has reserved his testimony on this matter for 38 years, only coming forward now to promise that the SHOF's needs are being met.


I have determined that I am not staying a minute past 9:00.


O-61-07: grant funding. Alderman Stankivic wants to make grantees pay a percentage (50% for now) of any money they get from a city grant. Doug Smith says it's a good idea. Tony Evans says it's a good idea because we needn't have children raised entirely by the state. I say it's a good idea because it incentivises organizations to validate their market worthiness.

A member of a non-profit testifies against this because Annapolis grants are used to "leverage" other grants, which I'm assuming means that other governments use grants from the city as a qualification to give their grants, reducing their need to do their own investigation. I actually think this is a valid point.

This one's done.


O-62-07, hearing on lease for 'New Year's Annapolis'. Seems benign, although having not read the lease, it seems like the city will lose money as a basic premise of this arrangement. I'll try to check it out.

Alderman Israel says that if event planning company makes money, that the city then shouldn't have to lose money. This supports my thought that the city is willing to lose money initially.

I am ASSUMING that the following things will happen, because it is 9:01 and I am leaving.


O-04-08 passes (first reader).

R-03-08 passes (second and third reader). Reclassifies civil service compensation.

Public Hearing Tonight: 7 pm

The city council will convene tonight for its regularly scheduled public hearing meeting, which happens the 4th Thursday of every month, except August, when the city shuts down and an informative sign (see right) is hung on all doors.
I will be attending the meeting, and plan to set up an exciting live-blog experience. I have made precise configurations to my computer to allow a fully secure, highly secretive feed straight from my mind to these pages, and into your homes.
I am attending despite the fact that doing so will prevent me from keeping a 6 year tradition that I have established for this date, determining that tomorrow will suffice as keeping the streak alive.
The agenda for the meeting can be seen HERE. Some highlights to look for:
-Citizen Involvement. The last city council meeting was fabulously entertaining, as citizen uproar to fight crime was met with indignation. I have heard rumblings of a major stunt today, however am highly skeptical. Tune into the live feed for an update.
-O-24-07: public hearing on sandwich board signs. I have not read the bill, but there is no possible way that it could be important. I can't wait to see if someone testifies on this.
-O-56-07: green buildings public hearing. I actually thought that this was rolled up in O-27-07 Revised "D", but apparently not. Quite confusing. Anyway, the home builders promise to be there and remind us that it is not good for economic stimulation to make it necessarily more expensive to build houses, especially at this point in time.
-O-61-07: public hearing on grant funding. The bill would require anybody receiving city money to match 50% of what they are being given--i.e., fundraise on their own. I will enjoy hearing how angry the non-profits are, and how they will all close up shop if this happens.
As per usual, the city will go out of order and consider legislation at the public hearing meeting, this time on 2 items. The second item is approving a reclassification of civil service classifications, which I'm assuming is needed for the budget, which is legally required to be ready by the end of February. Then, on a first reader is a bill to move the authority for granting subdivisions from the Planning Commission to the Board of Appeals. It's fishy to me why this is so much of an emergency to put on a special agenda. I'll let you know if I find out.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Election Endorsements

Myself and the others at Red Maryland put together endorsements for President and most of the MD congressional races, which you can see HERE.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Missing Person

The police department sent out an email blast asking for help finding a missing peson:
Maurice James Wells was last seen on Thanksgiving Day, 11/22/07 at 24 Carver
St. Mr. Wells frequents the Carver Street area. He also goes by the
nickname *Jose*. He is described as a black male, 62 years old (05/26/45) 5
feet, 11 inches tall, and weighs 195 pounds. Anyone with information about Mr.
Wells is asked to contact Sergeant Jessica Hertik at 410-349-0217, or at

Citizens For Better Government Update

Greg Kline has a very informational podcast updating us on the activities of everyone's favorite rogue political group, the "Citizens for Better Government" Slate. I am going to provide some back story, and reproduce some of his podcast and links for easy navigation.

The Annapolis Republican Central Committee, of which I was formerly treasurer, was pitched in October by Doug Burkhardt to commit to a table at a fundraiser being held by a Political Action Committee (PAC) that had recently been formed. The officers of the PAC were Burkhardt: treasurer, and Lawrence Scott: chairman. Three republican state delegates: Nic Kipke, Steve Schuh, and James King, were on board with informal roles, as elected officials could not have formal roles in a PAC. At this October meeting, Mr. Burkhardt attested to having 25 donors at $5,000 each. As Greg reports in his podcast, this claim was repeated publicly on several occasions.

In November, Delegates King and Schuh took the show to the Wednesday Republican Breakfast club, defending their decisions and their stake in the organization. However, many audience members had experienced first hand negative experiences with Scott and Burkhardt, and vehemently expressed their opposition. That sentiment was widespread, and in response the group was changed from a PAC to a 'slate', allowing the delegates to (reportedly) have more control of how the money is dispersed.

This brings us to today (actually last week), when the campaign finance report for the group was released. Uh-oh. Lies, all lies! Despite claims from the group of $125,00--even $200,000-- in donations, the total amount was only $67,322. That amount includes $5000 apiece from Delegates King and Schuh, but nothing from Delegate Kipke. What's worse is the disbursements. The slate disbursed only 1 check, for $15,000, to Lawrence Scott's consulting business, covering "event location expenses and printing materials".

Greg's podcast is provides very poignant analysis. The worst fears of republican activists were realized: that large sums of money are being controlled by, and funneled through, Lawrence Scott. The slate's main fundraiser, which took place two days before finance reports were due, featured President Reagan's son Michael as the guest speaker. Yet, no entry was made for Mr. Reagan's fee, which is probably in the $15,000-$20,000 range. Greg predicts that next year's report will show a check for this fee, with a posting date just after this year's reporting, so the slate wouldn't have to disclose their true cash on hand, which Greg estimates to be in the low $30,000 range--a far cry from the bill of goods that was sold to many people over the past months. With such financial shortfalls, why would Delegate Kipke be exempted from ponying up his $5K? Perhaps in exchange for his role of spokesman, and the duty of misleading the public as to the group's status.

I'm certainly glad I didn't give them any money.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

How Do Other People Deal With Public Housing Crime

One strategy for fixing problems is to look at people who have solved the same problems in the past, and do what they do. While Annapolis looks to San Francisco, Europe, and China to solve global warming problems, it seems to ignore the other jurisdictions that are facing public housing issues.

Apparently, Charleston, South Carolina faces the same problem:
The story of the Gadsden Green public housing evictions is as complex as it
is tragic.

In October, six boys, ages 14 to 16, were arrested for allegedly
confronting people on Wentworth Street late at night in two separate incidents
and demanding money. One of the victims was shot in the hand with a pellet gun.

The six youths were members of five families — all headed by women —
who lived in Gadsden Green. In signing their federal Housing and Urban
Development leases, the women had agreed that if serious criminal charges were
brought against any member of their respective families, the whole family would
be subject to eviction.
Misplaced outrage from a city council member sounds eerily familiar (they even have a President St. near their public housing):
Last Saturday, Charleston City Councilman Wendell Gilliard held a rally for
the five families at Nichols Chapel AME Church, across President Street from
Gadsden Green. About 50 people came out in support of the families.

There was a jarring disconnect Saturday between what I saw in that
small church and the reality of what was going on.

"I chose to work from the church," Gilliard intoned to his
constituents. He went on to invoke the name of Martin Luther King, Jr. He called
the eviction of the five families from public housing a lynching and said the
HUD code that made the eviction possible was a Jim Crow law.

Gilliard shamelessly played the victim card, demanding that HUD put
central air conditioning in Gadsden Green and revamp their eviction
The conclusion arrived upon by this columnist:
Most of the talk last Saturday was about the rights of the five families. I wish
the councilman and his constituents had given some consideration to the rights
of the citizens of Charleston to not be robbed by young punks on the street.
What about our right to live in safety, councilman?
and the 'second' from one of his commenters:
As an MUSC employee, that area west of Rt 17 would be better utilized as
privately-owned, tax generating, student and employee housing for medical
residents, as well as CofC students and faculty. Right now it's a blight which
we avoid for the obvious reasons, and we refer to the highway as the "moat" to
keep out the riff raff. There must be a more suitable location for
this population up the peninsula or in North Chuck. A lot of us used
to be social liberals but we've had it with having to constantly be confronted
by these creeps.
It appears that HUD is perfectly willing to punish residents that commit crimes, so the "it's not Annapolis property" argument fails. That the administration denies that a problem exists is unacceptable, and that we would further allow offenders to live on untaxed property is an abomination. There are things that can be done.

More Homicides Narrowly Avoided; Stray Bullets Fly Into Houses

Perhaps my headline skews the facts, but check out these two events from today's police report. Both are public housing areas.
THREATS: On January 23rd at 12:30 AM, a 20 year old resident of 711
Newtowne Drive was threatened as she was standing outside of her residence. The
victim said that an adult female with whom she is familiar came up to her and
started an argument over an unspecified matter. The woman*s 15 year old son then
came up and joined in the argument. He then told her that * he had something for
her* and ran towards his residence. A few minutes later, she heard two gun shots
and ran out of fear for her safety. She did not see who fired the shots, but
felt that it may have been the juvenile who had just threatened her, as she said
he has bragged before in the neighborhood about possessing a gun. The victim did
not report this until 3:30 the next day, and the other parties involved could
not be immediately located. The investigation is continuing.

SHOTS FIRED: On January 23rd at 11:08 PM, an officer, on patrol, heard
numerous gun shots coming from the 1300 block of Tyler Avenue. Upon
searching for the source, he found that the front of a townhouse had been struck
by four or possibly five bullets. The occupants were checked on, and no one was
injured. One bullet came all the way through a front room, coming to rest inside
a closet. Officers searched the area for suspects with negative results, and the
investigation is continuing.

CA-01-08: City Administrator

Alderman Israel has introduced a charter amendment that would redefine the responsibilities of the city administrator and other key city roles, cementing his position of guru of governmental operations.

CA-01-08 would do a number of things:

-Give the city council supervisory power over the expenditure of public money and delivery of municipal services; however, with the specific exclusion that no alderman may "direct the work of a director or an employee of a department".

-Create permanent, full-time support positions exclusively for the aldermen: budget analyst/financial advisor, research assistant, and administrative assistant. The day-to-day functions of these individuals would be determined by a majority vote of the aldermen.

-Specify the city administrator as the boss of daily city operations.

-Specify the Mayor's primary duties as "formulation of policy and long-range plans, the recommendation of implementing legislation; and the general supervision of the city's finances".

-Have the city administrator, rather than the mayor, appoint department directors. The city administrator's appointments would have to be approved by the mayor and confirmed by the city council.

-Make it harder to fire the city administrator, by requiring the Mayor AND four or more of the aldermen to support removal.

What The 'Players' Think About This

Alderman Israel's head is in the right place--he wants to install more checks on the Mayor's power and give more power and resources to the city council. From his guest column in The Sun:
An election does not guarantee that a mayor will have the managerial skills
needed to effectively supervise the delivery of routine municipal

It has long been recognized that there is a distinction between policy and
administration. This distinction is reflected in the existing charter, which
characterizes the mayor as the chief executive officer and the city
administrator as the chief administrative officer.

The proposed charter amendment that I will introduce tomorrow would give
the city administrator the initiative in hiring and firing decisions. To make
sure that there is accountability to the voters, an appointment would be subject
to approval by the mayor and the consent of the council. Dismissal would be
subject to approval by the mayor.

His column mainly serves to detail the provisions of the bill; however, the implied theme is to guarantee professional management and accountability. The column is short on rhetoric, but does offer an attempt at persuasion:
As the city's residents prepare to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the
granting of the first charter, nothing could be more appropriate than amending
the charter to provide for more effective professional administration and yet
retain accountability of elected officials through the electoral process.

The Mayor, for her part, is not happy. The Sun gave Mayor Moyer her say, and here's how she made use of it:
I am amazed that Alderman Richard Israel, who has spent most of his career as a lawyer in the office of the attorney general, would begin 2008 with an assault on
representative government as he does with Charter Amendment CA-01-08.

Article IV, Section 2A and Article 5, Section 1 of the proposed
amendment muzzle the aldermen and mayor by making any direction to city
employees relative to policy an action of misconduct subject to recall. This is
a gag rule that renders null and void the vote of the public for representative
government. Like Oliver Cromwell in the 1600s, Alderman Israel would transfer
the essential powers of government from the mayor and city council to a non elected

I mentioned above that Alderman Israel's column was devoid of rhetoric, and the Mayor was certain not to make that mistake, as you can see. After defending her record of accomplishments as the chief executive and describing the adverse costs of the proposed amendment, she provided some fabulously pertinent soundbites:
This amendment would not be implemented until I am out of office. However,
I believe that the deeper implications of this proposal are grave. This is not a
simple "clarification of roles." Passing this amendment would result in a
fundamental change in governance.

If we really want to shift power to a non elected bureaucrat,
it would be more honest to eliminate the mayor as chief executive and reduce the
salary to $25,000 for time spent cutting ribbons, leading parades and making
speeches. The salaries of the aldermen could also be eliminated and council
meetings held less frequently.

Our current system of checks and balances may be frustrating and slow,
but government is meant to be as it was established in Maryland in 1632 -- open,
constituent-based, respecting the will of the people, arguing, debating and
finally coming to consensus. This is democracy.

What Do I Think About This

Despite what the Mayor would have you believe, this charter amendment is nearly meaningless. If you are going to empower a non elected bureaucrat, you had better guarantee accountability, and this bill falls short.

Let's elaborate. The problems with the current form of government--at least those problems potentially addressed by this CA--are as follows:

1. Too much power for the mayor. The mayor is the chief executive, the chief operating officer, and the chief ambassador.

2. City administrator position is useless. The city administrator, who should be a strong chief operating officer, serves at the pleasure of the mayor, makes less money than the department heads he is supposed to supervise, and has no authority to hire or fire. Even if he did, the Mayor can fire him at a whim, so if he wants to keep his job, he will do what she wants. The result is that his duties are controlled by the Mayor.

3. Poor treatment of city council. For goodness sake, they don't have offices, staff, desks, or even letterhead, they work all day long, and they get paid $12,600 per year. Awful.

Let's start with the good things. Providing a shared research staff for the aldermen is absolutely a good thing. As everyone knows, famously in the case of Alderman Arnett, the alderman have an impossible time keeping up with their duties and responding to citizen concerns. To the extent that this staff helps them, it is a good thing.

Unfortunately, that's where the good ends. The shortfalls with this bill are:

-The city administrator is still appointed by the Mayor. The city council cannot hire him, and they cannot fire him without approval from the mayor. The bill gives the council the "power and duty to conduct oversight of the expenditure of public money and the delivery of municipal services", but provides no vehicle for that oversight and even provides a specific restraint on what they can do. To me, the council gains no more power and can no more effectively guarantee accountability or effective government.

-Alderman Israel supports this bill because it weakens the Mayor; Mayor Moyer opposes this bill because it weakens the Mayor; but in actuality, the bill does not create a weak mayor. The Mayor is still the direct supervisor of the city administrator, but it prohibits her from directing the work of the directors. The Mayor's power is reduced (good) but is not given to anyone else (bad)--it's like saying "you are no longer responsible for daily operations, but you are the supervisor of the person who is responsible. And, if he screws up, we are going to hold you accountable, even though you can't affect the things we are holding you accountable for". Talk about a mixed message--even I'm confused.

-The bill provides no more incentive to be a good alderman. A support staff is not enough. Provisions should be made for office space and salary increases.

If you are going to have a strong Mayor, you cannot prohibit her from directing the departments. If you are going to have a weak Mayor, she cannot be involved at all in operations, and the city council must hire and fire the city manager (or administrator). In between solves nothing, and this bill is in between.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Recall Election "Did You Know"

When I was driving the other day, I saw a bumper sticker that said "". I had not heard of such an 'org' before, and I must admit a bit of embarrassment that such an internet-based political journal was outside the purview of my internet-based political journalistic expertise.

To my glorious disappointment, the site no longer exists. Nevertheless, I have anticipated the following question to be asked more and more: What can we do about Mayor Moyer?

There is an answer. Article II, section 9 of the city charter provides for the removal of elected officials via a recall election, much like the fate suffered by former California Governor Gray Davis (who was replaced by Arnold). The charter says the city council should figure out the details of the recall process, which is done in Chapter 4.46 of the code.

The first thing that needs to happen is a petition. The code provides very detailed requirements for a valid recall petition, including specifications for paper type, font, language, and enumeration of reasons for the recall. If the petition is signed by more than 30% of people who were qualified to vote (not registered voters) in a ward (Alderman) or the entire city (Mayor), then you have yourself a referendum election. The question on the referendum ballot is "Should the Mayor/Alderman be removed from office", and is subject to a simple majority. If it passes, the city council must pass a resolution declaring a vacancy within 10 days of the election.

So what happens next? It depends on the timing. If the removal occurs less than 15 months prior to the next election, the central committee of the political party that held the seat can appoint a new mayor/alderman. (This would apply after July of this year). If the general election is more than 15 months away, there is a special election. The removed official cannot be restored to office through the central committee process, but is not disqualified from running in the special election.

So, is this appropriate? Ehh, I really don't know. I see the Mayor as the ultimate lame duck. She has been on the city council forever, and doesn't face reelection. To me, she seems only concerned with leaving her mark (environmental measures), furthering her pet projects (sister cities), and rewarding the people who helped her get to where she is (Malinoff, Miron). She seems genuinely annoyed that citizens would have concerns that she has to address. This is truly how I view the Mayor right now--doing just enough to avoid being recalled.

I generally view recalls as severe and counterproductive. With Governor O'Malley as the exception, I do not think you should recall an elected official for the purpose of reversing a particular policy. However, the recall provision is meant to guarantee accountability, which is precisely the deficiency in the Mayor's leadership. Citizens have repeatedly offered their suggestions and demands, only to be met with directives to become more involved in neighborhood watch. If the Mayor was truly concerned, there would be an emergency session of the city council with emergency spending measures, and the Segways and horses would be on the streets tomorrow. Of course, that's if she really thinks these things would work.

If I'm honest, I was trying to think of reasons to oppose a recall election, but I find I cannot think of any.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Police Department "Did You Know"

The Mayor recently sent out a fact sheet regarding the police department, a strategy and position that will be futile in mitigating the backlash stemming from her inexplicable denial that the crime trends are going in the wrong direction.

I was not on the Mayor's email list, but fortunately the document found its way to my highly active email inbox, allowing for this analysis. Actually, it's not really an analysis; the problem is evident--a blind man could see it in a minute. Let's take a word-for-word look at the mayor's response to demands for action.

The Annapolis Police Department received National Accreditation in March, 2004 and was reaccredited in March, 2007. This puts the APD in elite company along with only 29 out of 183 police agencies in Maryland and 593 of approximately 17,000 police agencies in the United States.

Here we go! This fact is irrelevant; the elite accreditation status of the APD has nothing to do with our crime problem. "Fully staffed departments with effective tactics don't solve crime--accreditations solve crimes", the saying does not go.

Annapolis Police are among the highest paid and have the best health and retirement benefits in the state. The current pay for newly hired officers -- $44,630.00 annually -- is among the highest in Maryland. It is substantially higher than the starting salaries paid by Baltimore City, Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County, Howard County, and Montgomery County.

The problem here is that the $5000 hiring bonus is included in that $44,000+ figure. So, the first year they make that much, but in the second year when there is no bonus, they have to take a pay cut to under $40,000. Not good. And not better than other jurisdictions.

There have been 51 officers hired since 2002 and 7 new officers were hired in 2007.

But how many retired? And how many positions remain vacant despite funding? And most importantly, even if we hired ten thousand officers, is crime getting better? (Answers: a handful, 18, no.)

The national clearance rate average for homicides is between 50-75%. Annapolis' clearance rate for homicides consistently surpasses the 80% mark. Over the past 5 years, the department has cleared 17 of 19 homicides. In addition, the clearance rate for all crimes reviewed nationally is about 21-22%. The Annapolis Police Department averages 30% for all cases reviewed.

First of all, how can the clearance rate average be between 50 and 75%? If you have national statistics, you should have a single number. Anyway, a city where you know all of 100 murderers is inferior to a city where you don't know the only murderer. See what I'm saying? But, good work to the APD for the higher than average clearance rate.

Chief Johnson, Captain Imhof, Captain Marshall, Lieutenant Powell, Lieutenant Della and Sergeant Hall have all received training at the FBI National Academy.

I have received training from the Oxford Institute for Influential Blogging, yet this is merely the 63rd most influential political blog in Ward 5.

Captain Simpson, Lieutenant Powell and Lieutenant Cynthia Howard have all been trained at the Southern Police Institute.

George W. Bush went to Yale.

1/3 of City of Annapolis Police Officers have either some college or full degrees.

Enough already. Nobody is doubting the ability of the rank officers. The issue is: without their full compliment of resources--specifically more officers--they cannot be fully effective..

The training process to become a member of the Annapolis Police Department includes 6 month training at a police academy and 8-12 weeks of field training. The entire process takes between 8-10 months. Annapolis uses police academies in Howard County, Baltimore City and occasionally Frederick. Training dates vary and occur between late September and early January.

This "did you know" is becoming more and more unrelated to the issue at hand. Who is complaining about the training process? Actually, I want to complain--notice how (A) we don't have a police department of our own and (B) how we don't send our recruits to Anne Arundel County because they steal our officers away from us by offering higher pay!

The national ratio of officers per 1000 citizens is 1 per thousand. The Annapolis Police Department currently maintains a ratio of 3.6 officers per thousand citizens.

I recently saw this described as a "tortured" argument, which is highly brilliant commentary worthy of mention. Ratios such as this are not useful because:

1. The International Chiefs Of Police say so.

2. Annapolis has an abnormally high density of public housing, which accounts for most murders and a disproportionately high number of drug crimes.

3. We are a capital city and have a unique non-resident population.

I have chosen to present the mayor's document in it's entirety, so now you will have to read through some boring statistics before arriving at the next bit of brilliant commentary. Also, take a look at this article called Officer-per-thousand Formulas and Other Policing Myths. You'll particulary enjoy the part where it says "We have worked.........for managers with 3.6 officers per thousand who delcare they cannot do proactive policing without more cops". What a fabulous concidence--we have 3.6 officers per thousand!

Statistics - The numbers game

The charts included in the addendum of this report include data supplied by the Annapolis Police Department to the FBI that accurately reveals significant progress in the City’s commitment to improve public safety and security.

In 2005, 2097 violent crimes were reported, the lowest number reported in the City since 1990. And while it is true that 2006 showed a nationwide spike in crime levels, the 2,415 crimes reported in Annapolis were still far less than the levels of nearly 3000 crimes per year reported in the mid 90’s. As of July, the year 2007 is showing a downward trend-some 6% lower than last year, and 2% lower than 2005.

The charts also show that the number of officers currently on the streets protecting the citizens of Annapolis is consistent with, and, in some cases, higher, than historical numbers.

Some attempt to show crime rates by comparing the numbers of incidents with the census population of a city. These types of comparisons are convenient but inaccurate, especially when discussing a City like Annapolis. They do not take into account the common sense factor that the City of Annapolis entertains more than 4 million visitors each year and may, on any given day, have over 100,000 people inside her borders. The Naval Academy, St. John’s College and other state and federal residents and employees are not included in the census for Annapolis.

And, we're back. DID YOU JUST READ THAT???!!! The mayor speaks of the "common sense factor" that this city is a Capital city and has a high non-resident population. Isn't this the same common sense factor that would invalidate officer-to-population ratios?

Other destination communities like Ocean City, Maryland, with a census population of approximately 8000 and a non-resident population of over 200,000 on many days face the same challenge.

Statistics, when manipulated, can be used to “prove” that based on the number of crimes per 100,000 residents, Ocean City is a much more dangerous place than Washington, DC or Baltimore.

So let's forget ratios. The city for the second year in a row has set a record number of murders, with 8 and 9 respectively for the past 2 years. The early pace for 2008 is 36! Any worries? Plus, Ocean City is a terrible comparison that is not made anywhere else. Are you really trying to deny there is a problem?

Using the numbers, Ocean City, Maryland, a “city” of approximately 8000 people, would show a crime rate about 300% higher than the national average. Double or triple the rates of cities like Newark, Detroit, Baltimore and Atlanta. Using the census population to number of crimes comparison would lead one to conclude that they are four times more likely to be robbed, six times more likely to be burglarized, seven times more likely to be raped, and ten times more likely to be assaulted in Ocean City than in Washington, DC.

Common sense says that is simply not possible in a city of 8000 people.

But, when Ocean City’s public safety numbers are compared to those of a city of 200,000 – the number of people that may actually be there on any given day - they fall far below national averages. Richmond, Virginia has just under 200,000 residents. They had 84 murders in 2005. Ocean City had one.

So, are you saying that the tourists here are the problem? ARE THE TOURISTS THE PROBLEM? NO. THIS IS WHY OCEAN CITY IS A TERRIBLE COMPARISON.

Someone seeing the numbers alone could easily make the mistake of assuming that the crime rate in Annapolis is higher than that of the national average for a City of its size.

Or, they could call upon their first-grade arithmetic skills and understand that 9 murders is more than 8 murders, and try to fix a problem.

Again, common sense says that is not true.

If you want common sense, I'll give it to you. If you asked anybody who didn't follow the issue what to do about the crime problem, they would say fix the projects. That's common sense. We have a lot of public housing, section 8, subsidized housing--whatever you want to call it. And many to most of the drug and violent crimes happen in or near these areas, or by someone living in or near these areas.

When Annapolis’ numbers are compared to a city of 120,000-the number of people that may actually be here on any given day-they also fall far below the national average. Waco, Texas, a city of about 117,000 people, had 692 auto thefts in 2005. Annapolis had 150.

Statistics such as these do not consider the large numbers of visitors that swell the daily populations and create public safety of cities like Annapolis and Ocean City. Improving Public safety in Annapolis depends on working with the real statistics, and not playing a “number’s game.”

I mean, this is incredible. The mayor is intensely laboring to defend the record. To her, this is a problem of statistics. She is just getting to how she intends to "solve" the problem.

Public Safety Initiatives by the City of Annapolis –August, 2007.

1. Increase visibility of existing police personnel

The pool of personnel for public safety has been depleted nationally by the war in Iraq and other Homeland security programs. Like other jurisdictions around the country, Annapolis is facing new challenges.

Reduce the number of shifts at the Annapolis Police Department from the current five to three. This will increase the number of officers available for each shift and result in a higher level of visibility and protection and the most efficient deployment of available officers.

This is crazy. Rather than hire more actual officers, the mayor plans to adjust the patrols to make it look like we have more officers. Unbelievable. By the way, this is not a new idea. None of this stuff is a new initiative that the mayor has come up with in response to the increasing citizen concerns. This is all recycled ideas from last year.

Purchase 4 additional Segways. Segways increase “feet on the street” by providing greater mobility and allowing officers to cover a wider area.

So does a bicycle. Or more officers. Why do we need Segways? They are like thousands of dollars each.

Examine the feasibility of adding one horseback mounted unit to the City’s police force. Officers on horseback are highly visible and research shows that in crowd and emergency situations a single mounted officer is equal to ten officers on foot. This allows foot officers to be deployed elsewhere.

I once fell off a horse. Oh, and this is a terrible idea. Good for riot control, meaningless for drug enforcement.

2. Improve recruiting efforts

Returning from a National Conference on Employee Recruitment, Director of Human Resources Kimla Milburn offered new insights and outlined some tips for successful recruiting.

"In speaking with my colleagues from around the country, it is evident that we are all facing tremendous challenges in recruiting police officers," she said. "Positive statements about the department go a long way in encouraging people to consider a career with the APD. Negative articles and Letters to the Editor bashing the Department simply do not help. We need to work together to increase the level of interest in working for the Annapolis Police Department."

There is no shortage of applicants.

Enhance recruitment efforts by creating a team of ambassadors to help bring officers to the Annapolis Police Department. The team will include Director of Human Resources Kimla Milburn, Public Information Officer Ray Weaver and the members of the City's Public Safety Committee-Aldermen Ross Arnett, Dave Cordle and Alderwoman Sheila Findlayson."

Create new brochures and marketing messages and materials.

"A team of ambassadors" armed with wagon-loads of "new brochures and marketing messages and materials" is a steaming heap of useless horsecrap. I can tell you from several years of recruitment efforts that cash is king. It's not the only factor, but in the case of police, it is reasonable to assume that being an officer in Annapolis is roughly the same as anywhere else. That being the case, if we pay more, we get more officers. The mayor will have you believe that we pay more already, but since a $5000 signing bonus goes away, we really don't. (On a side note, the sister city budget is thriving).

Also, why should we even worry about this since our crime rate is so much lower than the national average?

3. Fight illegal guns and drugs

Request the City delegation to the General Assembly to submit legislation designating the entire City of Annapolis a Drug-Free Zone. This action will double the fines to anyone convicted of dealing drugs in the City.

I've never understood this one. Are drugs more illegal in some parts of the city than others? Why is there even debate on whether or not the entire city is a drug-free zone? I guess they teach that at the FBI National Academy and the Southern Police Institute.

“We need to send a clear message that dealing drugs in the City of Annapolis will not be tolerated,” said the Mayor. “Hitting dealers in their pocketbook, doubling their jail time and in general making Annapolis a hostile environment to this type of activity will help convince dealers that our City is not a place they want to be.”

Great. Couldn't agree more.

Request the City delegation ask for additional state funds for a comprehensive drug plan for both treatment and prevention in the City of Annapolis.

If we can get more money, fine. It doesn't hurt to ask. However, treatment programs benefit users rather than dealers, and don't get at the bigger crime problem.

Initiate a new illegal drugs and illegal guns task force with State & Federal agencies.

This was already going on--even before the mayor announced it the first time.

“In 2006, the Annapolis Police Department made 275 arrests on drugs and conducted 45 raids,” said Mayor Moyer. “The goal of this unified effort is to double the number of arrests and to make it crystal clear that the Capital City is not a Drug Capital.”

Yes, who knows how bad it would be if the message "that the Capital City is not a Drug Capital" was muddled and murky.

3. Forge partnerships with communities

Call on citizens to identify places in the City that need better lighting

This, of course, would never happen because leaving lights on is anti-environment, and environmental chicanery is the #1 Moyer priority.

“Leave your porch and outside lights on or set them up on motion detectors-people that are up to no good don’t like bright lights,” said Mayor Moyer. “If you see a dark place, or a street light out anywhere in the City, call us and we’ll work with your Alderman, Public Works and BG and E to get the lighting improved. We want to help you improve your sense of security and safety in your neighborhood.”

Continue training for Neighborhood Watch. Since the beginning of the program in the mid 90’s, 7000 citizens have attended Neighborhood Watch training sessions. In the past year, over 1400 citizens have actively participated in the program.

The whole point of Neighborhood Watch is to identify problems, then report them to the police. The citizens are already doing this!

Continue the collaborative process with at risk neighborhoods.


Continue the “Heroes” mentoring program for at-risk youths


Offer more real-world job skills training programs like the Sherwin Williams painting program that offers at-risk adults the chance to learn a marketable skill.

.......vague and without substance. Also, other training programs include the "Maryland State Archives historic preservation program", the "Parole Town Center city council lobbying program", and the "Worst Idea Ever, Al Gore memorial O-27-07 green collar job program".

5.* Develop a new agreement between the City of Annapolis and the Housing Authority on the use of existing dollars for public safety.

(*I don't know what happened to #4, so don't ask.)

HA!! "Developing a new agreement" actually means "figuring out how to justify not paying HACA the $200,000 we already owe them", because that's what's happening. Rumor is another lawsuit may be in the works.

"Since 2004 Annapolis has provided the Housing Authority with $200,000 to employ police officers to work as off duty security," said Mayor Moyer. "This money was to be matched with HACA funds for a $400,000 public safety program. HACA has not utilized all of the City’s contribution. It has also been unsuccessful in recruiting from other law enforcement agencies. We need to clarify accountability for services and define roles and responsibilities.”

No BS: I didn't read this last paragraph before making the "HA" comment--it was just sheer clairvoyance and understanding of the situation. The Mayor is feuding with Eric Brown and is not paying the city's invoices.

Ok, the rest of this you can read on your own--there's not very much more. By now I hope you get the point.

The Mayor proposes that a new and separate agreement of understanding be negotiated to include shared costs and partnership on:

-The use of surveillance cameras
-A sub station program
-Agreement on the assignment of undercover police in the area and enhanced Neighborhood Watch
-Implementation of community service programs for All HACA residents as required by HUD

New initiatives

-Continue working on a revitalization district for Clay and Washington Street
-Install speed cameras on Duke of Gloucester Street
-Propose amendments to the City Code to strengthen the noise ordinance

Request that the City’s Community and Housing Board review successful housing programs in other jurisdictions, research opportunities for home ownership and social service needs and recommend the changes in our federal housing program required to enhance public safety. Some changes may require federal or state legislation.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

In Defense Of The Free Market

A stream of business failures downtown was recently reported by The Capital and other sources, leading calls from some for heavy intervention to save our precious downtown. Fighting the temptation to do the same, I eventually allowed reason to prevail, advocating that the free market can do the job better than any amount of planning, regardless of how perfect or obvious that planning seems to be.

A manager of a store selling rugs provides anecdotal support of my contention in her letter to the editor today:
As a relatively new member of the Annapolis business community, we have
seen nothing but success since we have arrived. Our first year was way
ahead of projections, and we are looking forward to an even better year in

Much of this is due to our fun and wonderful rugs. but much is also
the result of our proactive stance of never sitting back and waiting for
business. This is the same attitude I see in many of the new businesses in
town. These stores offer unique and interesting product that cannot be
found elsewhere.
The question to answer before undertaking any development policy is whether there is an insurmountable structural problem with businesses downtown. I tend to think no, as does this letter writer. Furthermore, it's quite noteworthy that this business makes money selling rugs, as opposed to booze.

Arguments for government involvement in economic development are almost always arguments for protectionism, which I almost never support. Businesses failing is a natural part of economics, and an important one. The last thing that we want to do is support an inefficient or outdated business. This would unfairly disadvantage entrepreneurs thinking about opening a new business downtown that may be better or more useful. The best thing the government can do is get out of the way.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Double Homicide

Today is not a good day for public safety:

On January 18th, 2008 at 10:54 AM, a citizen went to visit a friend at
29 A Bens Drive. She received no response. The door was open, and she began to go in to check on her friend when she saw two people lying on the floor with some blood around them. The victims did not appear to be conscious, so the citizen retreated from the apartment and immediately called 911.

Officers and Paramedics arrived and determined
that the two victims, a male and a female, were deceased. Preliminarily, the
victims appeared to perhaps be in their twenty's. The case is being actively
investigated as a double homicide at this time. The cause/manner of death is
unknown as of now, however, all preliminary indications point
to a double homicide.

The victims have been identified as follows:
Cecelia Brown, 50, of 29 A Bens Drive and Charles Cully, Jr., 29, of the unit
block of Marcs Court, Annapolis. The investigation is still in the active phase at this time.

View Larger Map

The location of the event is in a community called Bay Ridge Gardens (I believe), and while it is not a HACA community, to the best of my knowledge it is a federally subsidized Section 8 community. I would imagine the Mayor will be entertaining some more rhetorical bombs from angry citizens.

$37,000 Worth Of Crack Found In Eastport

View Larger Map
On January 16th at 11:33 PM, officers on foot patrol in the 1100 block of
Madison Street checked on a suspicious man seen loitering near building 1155.
The man fled upon the officers* approach, and could not be located. The officers
checked the area in which he had been seen, and a bag containing approximately
375 grams of crack cocaine with a street value of about $37,000.00 was found. It
was confiscated, and the investigation is continuing.
The location of the crime is 1 block away from Housing Authority Headquarters.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Politics On Tap

Tonight 7 pm at the Weather Rail bar in the Loews hotel. 7 pm. Sunday attire required. (not really). Parking validated!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Mayor Indignant About Resident's Crime Concerns

In case you are vacationing in the Bahamas, and your cruise ship only allows you 2 minutes of internet access each day, and you loyally check only this blog for your news, allow me to update you with regard to citizen outrage over crime.

Eastport residents, upset over being put to sleep buy gun-shot lullabies, have formed a task force leading a fight for real solutions to the problem:

(The person sitting down in the photo is none other than CP, boldly representing the blogging contingency, as your's truly was boldly cheering the UMD women's basketball team in their first home victory over Duke in a decade.)

They showed up in force to protest the city's lack of effectiveness. Their mantra includes the charge that the mayor lives in denial about the problem. In my humble opinion, this has been true twice. She originally denied that there was a problem, explaining that we already had 3 times the number of officers than the national average. She seems now, alternatively, to deny that she has not been adequately addressing the problem.

This is my 5th post today, so I'll let someone else write:

At the January 14th Annapolis City Council meeting, I spoke as a
representative of the “Stop the Gunfire in Eastport Now” Task Force. My
remarks specifically acknowledged that the Council alone does not bear sole
responsibility to address these problems. Further, I offered our help to
come up with a plan and solutions. There were nearly 100 witnesses to my
statements, and I distributed written points in advance that underscored our
recognition that all of us need to work together to solve this

The January 16th edition of the Baltimore Sun reported:

After the meeting, Mayor Ellen O. Moyer criticized the group's strategy,
saying that instead of acting as "problem solvers," they were acting as
"rhetorical bomb throwers." "What I don't get from them is an indication
that they want to partner in any way," she said. "To assert that we're ignoring
the issue is plain folly."

The Mayor’s comments reveal one or more of the following: (1) she did not
listen to my remarks or read the written points, (2) she is so defensive that
she was unable to hear our pledge to partner with all stakeholders including
her, or (3) she is trying to spin our efforts in a way that justifies ignoring
this critical situation.

People's Republic Of China Shames Annapolis; Bans Plastic Bags

Or so Alderman Shropshire would argue.

In a move certain to influence City Hall lawmakers, the People's Republic of China has semi-banned plastic bags:
China is banning free plastic bags common at shops and supermarkets and
ordering customers to be charged for any they use, the government said

The rules, which take effect June 1, come as the country tries to tackle a
significant source of litter, a statement on the government's Web site

The bags also are banned from all public transportation, including
buses, trains and planes and from airports and scenic locations, the government

Shops have been instructed to mark the price of the plastic bags clearly
and not fold them into the cost of other items.

My first point is that banning private market transactions is what socialists do. The Chinese government is telling businesses what prices to charge! That should not be what happens here, and we should not interpret China's action as an example for us. Take a look at the penalty for non-compliance:
Companies caught breaking the new rules face fines and possible forfeiture of
goods, the government said.

The government tells you what to do, what price to charge, and confiscates your inventory if you fail to comply! Sounds like a great place to start a business.

Now for my second point: China's plan is actually less communistic/socialistic than the plan that would have been implemented in Annapolis! The Chinese government at least allows for the option to buy plastic bags for an additional cost, whereas the Annapolis plan would have banned them altogether.

For me, China's plastic bag policy should not be our example to follow; rather, it further proves why the council did the right thing in shooting the bill down, albeit in a crooked, back-room way.

This Blog's Rumor Policy

I found myself involved in an internal debate regarding the professionalism of publishing a rumor, and after nearly 6 minutes of deliberation, I have determined that publishing rumors is acceptable for the following reasons:

1. I offer a disclaimer and do not claim such rumors to be facts.

2. Publishing a rumor offers the readership of this blog a chance to research the rumor to see if it's true, and if it is true, we have contributed to the body of knowledge. In other words, if I publish a rumor about something crazy going on, then like 8 people keep their eyes peeled for crazy goings on, we are more likely to find out the craziness if it is really happening.

3. 'Professionalism' implies a profession--i.e. a money making exercise--and seeing that this blog is a consuming asset rather than a producing asset--i.e. I don't get a red cent for doing this--I can be as professional or unprofessional as I want.

Alderman Stankivic: Silver LEED Standards Not Enough**

**Rumor Alert.

In technical terms this is a rumor because I did not hear it first hand, but I am quite sure of the accuracy, so read with courage. You can also try the original source in case he posts on the subject, or the original original source.

I recently noted how every Alderman except Stankivic and Hoyle co-sponsored the conglomerated environmental bill, a.k.a. O-27-07. Part of the bill would apply Silver LEED standards to all city funded construction, adding certain up-front cost but possibly saving in the long-run.

I have since learned that Alderman Stankivic's dissenting view originates from her belief that the bill doesn't go far enough, and that Platinum LEED standards should constitute the degree of compliance!

I suspect that the platinum standards are so named because the taxpayers will need platinum credit cards to pay for the customizations.

Annapolis Alive Party At The Mall

One of the new sections of the Annapolis Mall (located outside of the city limits) will be transformed into a party for 'Annapolis Alive', an organization headed by probable mayoral candidate Chuck Weikel, and charged (amongst other things) with celebrating the tri-centennial anniversary of Annapolis' chartering. This is in sharp contrast to the 'Annapolis Asleep' party, where residents eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at Lewnes' Steak House and immediately go begin to sleep off 10,000 calories.

The party takes place on Sunday, 1/28:

On Sunday, January 27, 2008, Annapolis Alive! celebrates three centuries of
Annapolis rich history at a major public event at Westfield Annapolis from 7-10

The three-hour party will feature top name
celebrities: Baltimore Raven Matt Stover, Annapolis Sailing hero Gary Jobson,
nationally known Rams Head favorite Leon Redbone, and the local R&B group,
Raw Hands.

The brand new section of the Westfield Annapolis
will be transformed for this community-wide 2008 kick-off of the Annapolis
Charter 300 Celebration. This one-of-a-kind party will be complete with terrific
entertainment, as well as food and beverages.

The evening will be accented by displays that commemorate Annapolis history over the past 300 years; the best of Annapolis art and photography, maritime & culture. Guests will be able to participate in exclusive shopping at some of Westfields newest

In case the food, fun, entertainment and shopping aren't
enough; there will also be gift give-aways, and a silent auction! The proceeds
from the auction will go to the Chesapeake Childrens Museum for scholarships to
be awarded to students (public, private and home school) for historical
Annapolis field trips.

Tickets can be purchased online in advance
by visiting Ticket
price is $25 per person in advance and $35 at the door.

Sponsors include:

The Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Conference and
Visitors Bureau, ARINC, The Capital Newspaper, City of Annapolis, CBS Radio,
Comcast, Maryland Office of Tourism, The Main Ingredient, Westfield

If you would like more information about this topic, or to
schedule an interview with an Annapolis Alive! committee member, please call
Mary Anne Stevenson at 410-268-9330 or email Mary Anne at

Is Annapolis Bankrupt?

The answer of course is yes, believing the words of the Mayor. If, however, your are of the 'actions speak louder than words' persuasion, we've got money to burn.

Most city expenses are required, and somewhat rigid. Around 85% of the city budget goes to salaries and benefits, which are negotiated only periodically via a union contract. (Hooray unions.) The other 15% is more discretionary, and 4 recent actions regarding the city's discretionary spending portray a care-free attitude when it comes to the taxpayers' money.

1. Sailing Hall of Fame. A group of sailors, well funded and led by the owner of the Boatyard Bar and Grill, want to raze a historic building downtown and put up a Sailing Hall Of Fame. The city gave them a grant of $260,000, which is $260,000 more than the organizers said that they needed, and $10,000 more than the legally approved amount in the budget.

2. Money For The Homeless. Citing only the hardship of being homeless in the winter, Mayor Moyer proposed giving money from 5 parking meters taken in during the coldest 4 months of the year to the homeless, based on the recommendations of a "Housing and Human Welfare Committee". No estimates were given as to how much money will be spent.

3. Going Green. A distant incarnation of the plastic bag ban, O-27-07 is now more of an omnibus environmental bill. Its passage would direct the city to spend up to 10% more on products deemed to be environmentally friendly, and would also direct the city to buy from 'reasonable' local sources without any price consideration.

4. Free Bus Rides. The transportation department is not what you would call an efficient operation. From inside accounts, the director is on vacation a lot, and they consistently spend more money than they take in*. Yet, they have again decided to offer free bus rides for a day in memoriam of Martin Luther King.

(*Interpreting the budget for transportation is tricky. If you scroll down to the transportation fund summary, you will see that it requires a $1.8 million 'subsidy' just to break even.)

For each of these actions, you could argue that the policy is appropriate (some arguments are better than others). My point is, they are not the actions of a financially weak city. Free bus rides and sailing halls of fame are not priorities when we have underfunded police. Any money problem in Annapolis is a spending problem.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Legislative Meeting Tonight; Paone To Be Sworn In

The city council will convene for the first time this year for its monthly legislative meeting at 7:30 pm, preempted by a swearing in quasi-gala for Alderman-Elect Paone at 6 pm.

Some of you may be wondering about the distinction between the "legislative" and the "public hearing" meeting. Aside from the 7:30 start time of the former and the 7:00 start time of the latter, not much. In theory, the public hearing involves exclusively public testimony. However, often the rules are suspended to allow "special" votes on various things. The legislative meetings are supposed to be reserved for the voting; however, the agenda allows for the public to testify in the beginning, and unlike the public hearings where the testimony has to be related to an agenda item, you can say anything you want at legislative meetings.

Sadly I will not be in attendance tonight, because Mrs. Politics' mom really wants to take us to the UMD-Duke (women's) basketball game tonight. I'll have to alert my sources on the grape vine.

To see the full agenda, click HERE. I am about to present some items that interest me, and for those of you trying to decide if you want to show up, remember: typically nothing happens to bills that are on first reader. Some highlights:

-CA-01-08. First reader. This is the charter amendment to amend and clarify the the role of the city administrator that Alderman Israel defended in the paper yesterday. Taking power away from the mayor is good in theory, but only if that power is given to the city council. I think this bill falls short.

-O-27-07 "Revised", versions "C" and "D". Second/Third Reader. (The fact that this is not on first reader is a miscarriage of the legislative process.) This is very confusing. The original O-27-07 was the ban on plastic bags. However, that bill went down in flames and was replaced by O-27-07 revised, which really was an entirely different bill and should have been given its own number. Apparently O-27-07 revised went through more revisions, and listed on the online Agenda is O-27-07 revised "C". However, we now know that version "C" will be replaced with version "D".

-O-39-07. Second/Third Reader. This bill requires all new construction and "major" renovation in the historic district to include sprinklers so the buildings quit burning down all the time. "Major construction" was originally defined as construction whose value exceeds 50% of the current value of the house, but that number was amended down to 10%! The bill has no exclusion for residential properties, so anybody in Murray Hill remodeling their kitchen and like 1 other room will have to put sprinklers into their house! Starting tomorrow!

-O-46-07. Second/Third Reader. To finalize the lease with the open air market that will be open on Sundays downtown.

-Various parking hoo-has.

-O-48-07. Second/Third Reader. To finalize the lease with Race Across America, a cycling event whose entire application argument was "Look, we're not the triathlon".

-O-02-08. First Reader. To require local retailers to inform us when they are exposing us to 'bisphenol-A', an apparently harmful substance. I will submit to the commentary of an emailer:

Since when did Annapolis City decide it had the technical knowledge and resources to become the FDA? I'm sure the area merchants will be thrilled by (under penalty of law) being forced to put up a sign that says their products may brain damage your child. Plus, why stop there? Why not put up signs on potato chips and such, since the heart disease and obesity caused by these products has killed many more people than the effects (if any) of BPA. Better yet, why don't we put up signs around public housing saying studies show that entering this area may result in death by gunshot.

-R-04-08. First Reader. To give away money. The bill starts with a lot of rhetoric designed to make you feel sympathy towards homeless people, especially during winter. Such compassion is praiseworthy, but the bill uses this emotional ploy as the only justification for giving money to the cause. The money from 5 specific parking meters, from November 1 through February 28 of every year, "shall be given solely to homeless assistance within the city based on the recommendations of the Housing and Human Welfare Committee". I have no idea how much money is generated by 5 parking meters in 4 months, and it would be nice if the city told us just how much they think this will be. Plus who is the Housing and Human Welfare Committee? More to come on this one.

R-61-07. First Reader on an amendment I think. To create a commission to say that 'Lincoln was here'. This is not a joke! The full version of the bill is not online, and on the agenda it's listed as a "motion to reconsider", but it is also listed as being passed by the council on 12/10/07. I feel embarrassed that I missed this one a month ago. The bill's subject line presents the intent of "commemorating President Lincoln's presence and walk through Annapolis with the erection of a historical marker". Fantastic. Then the kicker, ....."and to direct the Mayor to appoint a nine member Lincoln Bicentennial Commission". A NINE MEMBER WHAT?!! The city council plus the mayor comprise nine people, and if they pass this, I will have a new name for them that suggests an entirely different purpose.