Thursday, February 28, 2008

Breaking: Police Chief Johnson To Retire In June

Citing medical and personal reasons, Annapolis Police Chief Joseph Johnson will retire in June of this year. I'm not for yourself:

February 28th,
2007 5:15 PM

Annapolis Police Chief Joseph S.
Johnson, Jr., announces that he is retiring as of June, 2008.

is a message from Chief Johnson in which he announces that he is retiring as
Chief of the Annapolis Police Department. In addition, the Chief would like to
thank the citizens, businesses, media, and everyone else who have helped him in
his mission along the way.

Chief Johnson's message:

I plan to retire as the Chief of Police for the City of Annapolis in June of 2008.
I spoke with Mayor Moyer on my 65th birthday, which was considered retirement age back in the day. It was not a decision made lightly, but after consultation with my wife of 37 years, my family, and my doctors, I reached this conclusion. After my
hospital stay in June 2007, for heart bypass surgery, both my primary doctor and
my specialists recommended that I not return to work. However, out of commitment to this community and working through my doctors, I was able to convince them
that such a sudden departure was not healthy for the citizens I serve. Conversely, it would not be healthy for me to continue to serve indefinitely. We reached a compromise that would allow me to stay on without undue medical risk, primarily to assist with finding a suitable replacement and make the transition as smooth as possible.

There were also a few things I wanted to set in motion to give my successor a firm foundation to address our most pressing current needs.

Key to this is the new Capital City Safe Streets Initiative involving a partnership of
residents and city, county, state, and federal officials to address the urgent
needs of public safety, to be rid of the criminal activity which impacts
our community. I've heard the anger and the outrage about the crime in
public housing. All good citizens living in our city deserve to feel safe and
secure within their neighborhood, and I believe this initiative will achieve
this goal. We should use this new initiative to significantly increase police
presence in public housing, as well as installing cameras and other technology
to keep criminals and those who support them out of public housing.

While there have been some disappointments during my tenure, there
have certainly been more achievements. I*m very pleased to have seen the agency
through the consent decree, earn fully accredited status, and reach such a high
level of achievement with our Neighborhood Watch Program. I*m very pleased
with the high quality and high standards we've set for our police officers. I*m gratified that the Headquarters renovations are finally on the right track. In addition, I'm extremely proud that I was a part of the team that produced the five years of
the lowest UCR Crime rate on record in Annapolis.

By planning my retirement for June 2008, I will leave with pride in what we as a
city have accomplished in the fourteen years that I have directed the force. My
retirement will allow me to spend a lot more time with my wife, children and
grandchildren, and after forty - three years in the demanding career of law
enforcement, it's long overdue. Delaying my retirement until June will allow for
a comprehensive search for, and selection of, a new chief. This will allow
my successor to become well acquainted with the Annapolis community and the
unique requirements of its police chief that our city deserves and demands, and
be ready to lead on day one.

Joseph S. Johnson, Jr.

I think most observers would agree that "it's about time", but there are at least some who attest to the chief's ability and dedication. Murders and drug related crimes are trending upward, and the nature of modern-day police recruitment is clearly not grasped by the Moyer/Johnson administration. However, the chief can only work with the resources he is given, and I have heard stories of him standing up to the Mayor, putting to her "Either this is your department or it's mine".

It will be interesting to see the strategy for the next chief--an internal promotion or someone who makes a splash?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Free 411

Now that the charge for using 411 is like $2, you all will be happy to know that there is a free 411 service. Google, the information giant, offers '1-800-goog-411'. Try it out--it's the same as regular 411 but it's free.

Monday, February 25, 2008

City Council Meeting, 2/25/08

Once again, the live blog of the city council meeting is coming to you on a delay because all wireless routers within a close distance of city hall are password protected, and I cannot steal internet from anyone to upload the post.

Let’s see what we’ll cover today!

Public Hearings:
-CA-01-08 City Administrator
-O-02-08 Notification of Bishpenol-A by retailers and R-01-08, the corresponding fines
-O-03-08 Lease of City Dock to Chesapeake Marine Tours
-R-08-08 Capital City Arts and Entertainment District

Legislative Action:
-O-27-07 Revised “D”: the Plastic Bag Ban that won’t die
-R-04-08: giving “parking meter money” to “homeless”
-R-09-08 First Sundays 2008
-R-10-08 Waiving Fees for Maryland Avenue Festivals

Let’s go!


HACA is here asking for money and various help for various things. There are a lot of people here listening to them.


Today’s back-of-the room VIP crowd includes John Spencer, myself, Tony Evans, and 2 police officers that are stationed here because somebody in some town came into a city council meeting and shot up the place. Also one guy I don’t know dressed in a suit.

(Post Intermission #1: What do vegetarians like to eat? I have come to believe that if make a good vegetarian menu at my new joint, I will rake money in hand over fist and can then hire a team of formerly-striking writers to transcribe my thoughts on to this world wide web).


The HACA meeting is running late, cutting into the public hearing and ultimately into my leisure. Also, Mike Miron has joined the VIP’s and is eating some Jelly Belly’s. Personally, I prefer Skittles, but to each his own.


Alderman Shropshire has launched into a diatribe about mentoring programs, showing he is always prepared to give a sound bite.


HACA meeting ends. Mayor announced 2 minute break. 2 minutes my butt!! Ten bucks says we start no sooner than 7:14. And I will collect if I win, because I just bought a magnetic spice rack for my kitchen and those things aren’t free.


I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many people at a council meeting. Is there free cake somewhere? Many people are wearing suits, an ill-advised idea in this place, which still has HVAC from the Mesozoic era.


Speaking of failing city hall construction, the ceiling still has not been fixed—it fell down like 2 years ago.


Goodness gracious, there are a lot of people here and they are all standing in my way.


The gavel is sounding to start. Ha….the mayor just said “that was a long 2 minutes”. Let this show you that I know what I’m talking about when it comes to mistimed breaks.


All aldermen are present. Let’s do this thing.


What Would It Do: Give the city administrator slightly more leeway, however would not allow independence from the mayor.

Arguments For: Council should be policy making body. Mayor should be figurehead. City administrator should run operations. This moves in the right direction. City manager is a professional manager. CA does not diminish the role of the mayor.

Arguments Against: A full city manager system is what we need. City administrator is not accountable to voter. The council should not give up its oversight. CA does not diminish the role of the mayor (same argument used by both sides). CA does not go far enough. CA is confusing and conflicted at points.

Division of Speakers: 4 for, 3 against

What Is The Correct Position: Against. The bill doesn’t really take power from the mayor and give it to the council. The city administrator would still make less $$ than the people who he supervises. Remember, this is not necessarily against the principle of this bill, but rather against the execution.



What Would It Do
: Require retailers to disclose on packaging when their products (or packaging, as the case is) contain BPA, a chemical used for 50 years as a liner on the inside of metal cans.

Arguments For: If public information is harmful, isn’t that the fault of the product? BPA can be dangerous. There is a study that says this product in the current commercial concentrations is harmful to children and fetuses. This is not a ban, simply a requirement for notification. What’s wrong with that? It should be the consumers to decide what’s right for them. The reason why the federal government has not come out with this ban is that the powerful corporate lobbyists have prevented it. Those lobbyists will never be pregnant!

Arguments Against: This is unnecessary—nobody else has a law like this. Repeat: no federal, state, or local jurisdiction has found the need to do this. It has a chilling effect on business because it would negatively differentiate products sold in the city. Now is not the time to make it harder for retailers. BPA content of most packaging is approved by the FDA and is safe. BPA and epoxy resins are an important part of keeping food safe during packaging, and keep food safe. BPA has been studied extensively by people who have to resources to study it, and they think it’s OK. Even a notification would cause people to summarily avoid the product because they will accept it as adverse to their health. Plus, there are too many signs already and there are metal cans all over the store. The way the bill is drafted, you could have 30 signs!

Division of Speakers: 2 for, 4 against.

What Is The Correct Position: Hard to say without knowing how harmful BPA is, which I don’t. That being said, I have never heard of Bisphenol-A, which leads me to believe it is not the worst thing in the world. On face, it sounds like an unnecessary regulation, harm, and expense. It is highly unlikely that anybody on the council has the resources or expertise to determine if this ban is appropriate. That the city would be ahead of the FDA on this matter simply because they are keener is not plausible. You need to decide (1) retailers’ obligation to inform the public of a potential hazard, (2) how much of a danger this is, and (3) how negatively such a notification would affect business. I would say that in general, any actions by the government to promote the flow of information is appropriate. The argument here arises from a regulatory market imperfection, namely that we would be the only jurisdiction doing this, rather than the whole country, possibly disadvantaging the businesses subject to the requirement.



What it would do: Allow Chesapeake Marine Tours (Watermark Cruises) to extend its lease until 2014.

Arguments For: This is a responsible business that cares about the environment, provides, jobs, operates responsibly, partners with the city for various causes, and gives almost $200,000 per year in amusement taxes to the city.

Arguments Against: The government is granting a monopoly, I guess. Nobody really made this argument—or any against. I am just trying to be the Devil’s Advocate.

Division of Speakers: 1 for, 0 against.

What is The Correct Position: For. Unless someone else wants to compete then the city should do a bid process.



What it would do: Create a special district for arts and entertainment types, including tax breaks.

Arguments For: We like artist and entertainment types. Plus Maryland Hall is struggling and we need to help those guys. The bill reads that the city council “may” grant property tax exemptions.

Arguments Against: Are you kidding? Half of the property in the city is already tax exempt, and why give breaks to artists? Why not teachers? What about police…don’t we need more of them? Nobody will ever agree on the proper drawing of the zone. The district may serve as a justification for 2 am licenses (which I actually am in favor of). Singling out this particular industry to receive benefits is unfair and inappropriate. To believe that the council wouldn’t grant property tax abatements is foolish. Also, what happens to the art dealers on Main St. when they are not included in the special district? (Answer: no more Main St. artists.) There has not been enough public information nor therefore enough time to analyze the redrawn district.

Division of Speakers*: I lost count. More for than against.

(There were public speakers, but this was not the “highlight” of this public hearing. The aldermen talked amongst themselves, with a planning commission guy, and with Mike Miron for 45 minutes, sparking a demand for watching paint dry as a respite from the boredom. The council immediately slapped an amusement tax on paint stores. The planning commission guy didn’t even know what was going on, and asked for a year to do a sector study.)

(The other lowlight of the hearing on this bill was the sabotaging of the city hall meeting by the Murray Hill residents, who meticulously blasted the city for not giving enough time to review the new boundaries. Murray Hill residents held the floor for longer than it’s taking my contractors to renovate my house—and they’re getting paid by the hour!! {Just kidding Brian and Randy})

What is The Correct Position: Against. Even if you support preferential treatment by a government, there are more deserving recipients, and perhaps ways that maintain taxable properties. If you are rational and realize that preferential treatment by governments is unfair and produces unintended consequences that are never good, you have a stronger reason to be against. Logistically, drawing the district will be a nightmare.

(Post Intermission #2: I have a very pleasant relationship with an artist on Main St. His name is Mr. Yang, and he created a painting by Dali depicting Dali’s own hometown in Spain, where Mrs. Politics and I visited in 2006. Fabulous work, really. We can look at the painting and see where we walked—where we ate!)


“one and a half minute break”


Meeting resumes.

Legislative Action:

O-27-07 Revised “D”, amended. Long story short, it disregards fiscal consequences in favor of supposedly helping the environment, and does it in every way possible. Nobody knows what is going on with this bill because, as usual, Alderman Stankivic submitted revisions and amendments too soon before the meeting.

(Excuse my language, but these last minute changes are fucking bullshit. Everybody is so confused because of last minute amendments, and it is taking forever to vote on a bill that basically should have been already figured out. Alderman Stankivic can’t even figure out her own amendments, the city attorney and the city clerk are baffled, and the rest of the city council doesn’t want to pass the amendments but they also don’t want to postpone the vote. I would request alcohol at this point.)

PASSES. REPEAT: PASSES. Wait, oh my God, Alderman Shropshire wasn’t paying attention and he and Alderman Stankivic made a motion to reconsider because he didn’t get his chance to amend. Only Alderman Israel knows the proper parliamentary procedure, but somehow now the bill is back on second reader. Ok, here we go again: PASSES. Good or bad: bad.

R-04-08, amended. Gives the amount of money taken from 5 parking meters during the 4 winter months and gives it to “the homeless”, which is actually defined as recipients designated by a commission. PASSES. Good or bad: bad—slightly ambiguous for my taste.

First Reader Passages:
R-09-08: exempting “First Sundays” festival from fees.
R-10-08: exempting “Maryland Avenue” festivals from fees.

Ratification of union contract to give police raises.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

City-Wide "Time Out" Day; Everyone Must Sit In the Corner For 15 Minutes

In one of the oddest proclamations I have seen, the Mayor has found inspiration from the President of St John's college, and deemed February 29 a "Time Out Day":
In a recent conversation, Chris Nelson, President of St. Johns College,
identified three concerns that we all face in todays (sic)

1. A crisis of authority
2. Middle-class anxiety
3. The problem of speed and urgency that overwhelms our time for
personal reflection.

Lets (sic) Talk (sic) about the latter point. 2008 is a Leap Year. We have been given the gift of an extra daylets (sic) not waste it!

I propose making February 29, 2008 a Time Out Day.

Why dont (sic! geez, proofread!) ) we all let the rats run their race without us on that day?

Use this gift of time to relax, read, take a walk in our
beautiful City and State, read a book (may I recommend The Discovery of Slowness
by Sten Nadolny), call old friends or simply reflect on all of the good things
that are happening in your life.

On Friday, February 29, take a Time Out from the stress and agitation of the modern world and live life at slower, more reflective pace.

Perhaps well find something inside ourselves that we can give back to each other.

Ellen O.

Mayor, City of Annapolis

This is so weird. I imagine the mayor being overwhelmed by the outrage at her position on crime, grasping at a chance to avoid scrutiny for one peaceful day. "Everyone just needs to calm down", John McCain and now Mayor Moyer advise their detractors.

Here are the things I plan to do on my time out day:

1. Celebrate my dad's birthday. He was born on Leap Year's Day in 1952, and is turning 14.

2. Walk around downtown from the hours of midnight and 2 am, frantically making the "T" sign with my hands to inform the drunkards that it is Time Out Day and urinating in flower pots is not permissible.

3. Sun bathe. With global warming and daylight savings time, it should be like 95 degrees that day.

4. Play the lottery. There is never a Time Out for gambling, and if people are at home reading The Discovery Of Slowness (what a liberal sounding book by the way), then it will give me a better chance to hit the Pick 4.

5. Work. With the competition lazily gallivanting all day, it will give me a good chance to get a leg up.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Public Safety Metting Last Night

I was not in attendance, but one of my surrogates/friends has provided us with this fine info:
The PSC is Cordle, Finlayson and Arnett. Also in attendance were the
Mayor, Israel, Paone, and Stankivic from Council. Only two not there were Hoyle
and Shropshire.

There is a website for the PSC. I assume it is off the city page
but didn’t hear that part. Since I didn’t attend tonight to take notes,
probably best to go here for details.

The APD speaker talked about recruiting and difficulties of marketing
(getting sufficient number of applicants to ensure a few get all the way
thru). I think we’re still 20 guys down. Someone from audience asked
about starting salary ($39.6K) and whether that was competitive. They also
asked about numbers serving in Iraq/Afghanistan: 2 (not counted into 20

The AFD chief mentioned that he’s looking for 12 new positions to fill
to compensate for “Kelly” days (extra days off that reduce working week from
56hrs to competitive 42hrs/wk). The APD is currently at full staffing. The
AFD is also looking to replace a truck at $800K (fire truck: carries ladders,
20yr lifespan, $800K – versus fire engine: carries hoses, 15yr lifespan,
$450K). Same member of audience asked about starting salary ($38K???)
which was also competitive, as long as Kelly days included. The new
Annapolis Neck county fire house should help greatly with EMS response

A sergeant spoke on sting operations within city. He carefully
avoided policy opinions, but when Paone rephrased his question to ask how many
cops are taken up by such efforts, the answer was 1 to 3.

There is a nationwide, perhaps international, group that Alderman
Arnett is associated with dealing with common issues and responses to crime
(called IMCA???). I missed much of the detail about this, sorry.

Minor Carter is overseeing a mutli-jurisdictional state effort to
target repeat offenders in city areas. Audience members wanted to see plan
details but got impression this is very much a work in progress. One
audience member complained that effort targets drug users and ignores youths
with guns. Committee member Finlayson said there were other efforts going
on targeting youths. Cordle mentioned how his boss (States Atty Weathersbee) was
looking at the “revolving door” of justice within county, a topic Stankivic was
quite animated about.

The Mayor spoke on a conference of mayors (Baltimore, Trenton, etc.)
she attended where crime was the topic. Seems like many are seeing uptick
in crime. Big push to improve collection, sharing and reporting of data –
and using new techniques such as microstamping (ammunition) for tracing.

I asked a question about reporting of shootings (in relation to media
reports that crime in several standard categories of reporting were down).
Cordle said these were already reported to the extent that they are called in or
identified. Looks like PSC is moving ahead on ideas such as audio
monitoring of gunshots, which would also count such incidents. Mayor says
she is seeking money from state to pay for initiatives (she told me audio system
for a city our size, 7sq miles, is $500K installation and $??K more for
maintenance). Mayor also restated the importance of citizens calling in
reports of gunshots.

PSC meetings will be held in City Hall 3rd Monday of every month and
will be televised.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Public Safety Meeting

I was watching the channel 11 news today while waiting for my oil to be changed (the dealership offers free wi-fi!), and the 2nd lead report was about the homicide that happened in Annapolis over the weekend. Showing the media disposition towards alarmism, the broadcast noted that Annapolis has already seen nearly half of the number of murders reported all of last year; the fraction is actually 1/3.

Alderman Stankivic got some TV time, and promised that the issue would be on the agenda for tonights 7 pm meeting of the public safety committee.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

2008 3rd Homicide

The date in the press release is the wrong one, because February 18th hasn't happened yet, but the point is made:

Date: February 17th, 2008
Release Time: 06:45 AM

View Larger Map


On February 18th, 2008 at approximately 12:30 AM, Annapolis
Police Dispatch received a report of shots fired in the 1300 block of Tyler
Avenue. Upon officers’ arrival, a victim was found suffering from a gunshot
wound(s) inside a car. He was identified as a white male from Severna Park. He
was flown to Shock - Trauma in Baltimore, where he succumbed to his injuries at
approximately 430 AM. His identity is being withheld at this time pending family

No suspects or motive are known at this time. The
investigation is still in the active initial stages, and further information is
either not available or not appropriate for release. This is the third homicide
in Annapolis for 2008. ( The first two were a double homicide on January 18th at
Bens Drive )

Further information will be disseminated in this same
manner when available and appropriate. Updates are also posted on the web at

The shooting took place in Robinwood (public housing), which is not unusual. The racial element of the crime, however, is unique. All of the homicides in 2007 involved black perpetrators and black victims. This is the first white victim of a homicide since I have been paying attention.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

City Council Meeting, 2/11

As a service to those of you who don’t come outside when global warming takes a day off, I will hereby provide you with comprehensive coverage of tonight’s city council meeting. My apologies to those expecting a blog of the emergency environmental bill public hearing--I was painting my house and couldn't get there early enough.

Devastatingly, the wireless connection that I formerly used to provide the live blogs is no longer available. You see, there is no wireless internet access in city hall, and I was “borrowing” an unsecured wireless internet connection from a chap named Garreth. Fare thee well, Garreth.

So, I am coming to you on a delay, but these thoughts and words are real-time.

7:31 P.M.

Invocation and pledge of allegiance. All aldermen are present. As usual, the sound system is inadequate and I can barely hear anything, especially when I am whispering things under my breath to other people.


Whoops, Alderman Sam was late. I didn’t notice at first because there are a ton of people here and I’m sitting in the back with the VIP crowd.


Periodically, the committee chairmen (who are various aldermen) give reports as to what the committees are doing. This is happening right now. I suspect it makes everyone feel good to know that the government is doing something.


Sitting in the back with the VIP crowd pays off, as Ray Weaver just informed me that the city council meetings will now be viewable on Verizon Fios!


Have you ever stared at a light and focused so intently that your peripheral vision becomes a blur and you are temporarily blinded? Isn’t that the best?!


I notice a police officer standing guard at the door. I understand that this will be permanent. Also, a reporter from The Capital was talking about a reporter getting shot. Was this in today’s paper? Geez.


Minor Carter, a lobbyist who represents the city to the general assembly, informs us that the Mayor, Speaker Busch, and the Governor have collaborated on a public safety plan for the city. This was just a tease, as the full details are not completely worked out yet. (Edit: I later learned that this involves manipulations to the parole/probation process).

On a side note, Mr. Carter dresses very nicely, and is a founding member of the A.S.S. fire brigade.


The stop the gunfire signs are out!
Timm Kostenko, another local blogger, stood and implored collaboration—effective collaboration—to address the crime problem, evoking a tragically inspirational anecdote. The mayor immediately responds that there are already public safety groups in the area. Do I hear a denial of the problem?


Bob McWilliams is up to speak on behalf of the Eastport group ‘Stop Gunfire Now’. The signs are up again—I can’t see a thing. Seemingly there will be a parade of such testimony, and I’ve only painted my living room so far!

The Mayor is continuing to place emphasis on citizens doing things themselves. She is very short on patience with Mr. McWilliams, who ran against her for Ward 8 Alderman some time ago. She directs Bob to make a plan and send it to her. For me, the citizen demands have been made clear—START BY HIRING MORE OFFICERS. WE KNOW IT TAKES TIME BUT TELL US IT’S STARTED.


The parade continues. These people have been standing up for like 10 minutes. The tone is the same: Annapolis’ crime rate is high when compared to almost every peer of ours, and high compared to objective measures. They have stats to back this up, and everyone has anecdotes to back it up. I have carpal tunnel syndrome.


Oops, I did that thing with the lights again.


Parading. This, in case you forgot, is the legislative meeting where things get voted on. Nothing has been voted on yet.


The parade slogan is “We live in fear”. Alderman Sam assures us that the council and mayor are working behind the scenes in ways we don’t even see! He also wants feedback on gun control, noting that guns pull their own triggers.


The mayor informs us that there have been many press releases related to public safety. How true!


I gave up soda for Lent, and right about now I really want one.


The parade requests a date of March 15 to come up with a joint plan. Of note, ‘parade’ is not a derogatory term.


The mayor defends herself, saying she is doing more than talking. She is becoming quite defensive, although I can’t see her facial expressions because these people are still standing and I don’t plan on moving.


Mrs. Politics alertly realized that our Valentine’s Day plans conflicted with the Maryland-Duke game, so we promptly suspended our affection for each other to accommodate the TV schedule. Just kidding—we just changed our reservations.


Macy’s Thanksgiving Day, Parade of Roses, etc. Paul Foer is currently testifying, and has somehow wandered to an unrelated topic. He is talking about Tiananmen Square. On a brighter note, people are now seated.


The VIP crowd is exchanging humorous quips and one-liners to amuse ourselves, as none of us has any soda. Nothing has been voted upon yet.


Paul Foer accuses people of only caring when white people get beaten. I am anticipating someone challenging me on this, so here is his quote: “Don’t just be active during a crime wave. Don’t just come out when white people get beaten.”


The parade continues. The current speaker is a former resident of public housing, a current Eastport resident, and a convicted murderer. He lost 3 brothers to gunfire in public housing, and the shooters didn’t live there. He is here, apparently, to support the Mayor. More inspirational than most of the other speakers, and the message is different. It praises the job of the Mayor and police. Sort of difficult to tell where he is coming from, or indeed his point.


The aforementioned inspirational speaker is still speaking, and Paul Foer verbally objects to his abuse of the 3 minute time requirement. They jab back and forth a bit, entertainingly. Paul had a point though.


People are standing again. Residents are displaying remarkable stamina.


3 minute break, then the legislative action will begin!


The “3” minute break ends.

Legislative Items.

O-6-07: Review Time For Legislation, specifically Zoning Map legislation. Apparently this bill failed to be referred to the correct committees. There is a revised version, and amendments to that. PASSES (second/third reader).

O-27-07 Revised “D”: Environmentalist Paradise Bill. 12 Amendments moved by Stankivic, who is being guided by the city attorney. This bill is headed for postponement, clearly a move that was anticipated and worked out by the aldermen and mayor.

There is a bunch of procedural babble that is frustratingly taking place. The babble can be attributed to Alderman Stankivic, who didn’t introduce the amendments until this afternoon and nobody had time to figure out what to do about it. Three members of the city council are staring at the lights, and 2 aldermen aren’t even present right now. Ok, now POSTPONED.

O-47-07: 2 Hour Parking Limitations. Amendments. PASSES (second/third reader).

(9:24 Alderman Hoyle is gone. It’s been like half an hour. Edit: she never returned.)

R-24-07: Extending Water Service To County Fire Department. This has been revised from what’s on the internet. I’ll have to check it out. Alderman Stankivic opposes because the county is not being forced to pay triple the rate for water like other non-city residents receiving city water! PASSES.

R-4-08: Giving Parking Meter Money To Homeless. Amendments. Apparently new meters are actually being installed for this. Alderman Stankivic sensibly requests a fiscal note, and Arnett seconds it. Shropshire opposes the fiscal note. POSTPONED.

First Reader Passages:


Monday, February 11, 2008

City Council Meeting(s) Tonight, 2/11/08

Normally, as we all know from our 8th grade civics class, the second Monday in Annapolis is reserved for the legislative meeting of the city council, and a 7:30 pm arrival at city hall. That is indeed happening tonight, but there is another scheduled meeting of note. There will be an emergency public hearing for O-27-07 Revised "D", A.K.A. the comprehensive environmental bill. This will start at 6 pm.

As we all also know, O-27-07 has been before public hearing before, and normally bills are not subject to double jeopardy. However, if a majority vote of the council determines that there have been 'substantive changes' to the bill, it must go before public hearing again. And since the original bill was to ban plastic bags, whereas this bill proposes to sacrifice chickens*, here I stand before you, making plans to power up the laptop for a live blog at 6 pm.

(*The bill actually mentions nothing about sacrifices, or foodstuffs. Instead, it is all about the environment, but has nothing to do with its original self.)

Remarkably, the bill is also on the legislative agenda for the normal meeting that starts right after this public hearing ends!! I would say that if you want to have your say before this bill is passed, your chance is 6 pm tonight; however, I doubt that will be the case. The bill is on the agenda due to a time requirement (the 120 day rule), and most of the committees have withheld their opinions pending the public hearing. I suspect the vote will be postponed, but I've been wrong before**.


To see the full agenda for the legislative meeting, click HERE. To see a few highlights, or lowlights depending on how the votes go down, read below.

Second/Third Readers (Vote Happens Today):

-O-06-07: Review Time For Legislation. I read through this bill and almost fell asleep...and that was after 2 cups of coffee. From what I can tell, it places a distinction on legislation that affects the zoning map, and attaches a different time requirement for such legislation to be reviewed and acted upon. Good or Bad: I have no idea.

-O-27-07 Revised "D": Environmental Omnibus Bill. Good or Bad: bad. Read why. Technically, and only technically, this is a revision of the plastic bag ban. This bill does not ban anything, which is good, and provides some directives to do reasonable things like increase recycling, which is also good. But, the bill goes farther, mandating various environmental standards without regard to economic consequences, and further directing city purchases of local or environmentally friendly materials with specific knowledge that the cost will be higher and without stipulation of correlation to benefits.

-O-47-07: Parking Issues. This would limit non-residential parking in residential parking districts 1-5 to 2 hours, for all times between 8 am and midnight. The current law has the same 2 hour requirement, but for a smaller time window. Good or bad: good first step, I guess. The problem is not during the day--that is when the residents are working and their cars are not there. The problem is at night, when they come home from work. I know there are people who get paid to study parking, but it strikes me that the perfect bill (for residents) would ban outsider parking from 4 pm to 10 am. This, of course, would disrupt the delicate balance of residents vs tourists, and force the city to build more parking garages (or find other ways to get people here), which isn't a bad thing.

-R-24-07: Running City Water To A County Fire Station. The county is building a fire station on the Annapolis Neck and asked the city to run its water there. This bill would do that. Good or bad: goofy, and seemingly inadequate. The city/county relationship is very weird. Why wouldn't they combine departments? R-24 makes no mention of the county paying the city for the water, and the last I checked, fire departments use a lot of water. What gives?

-R-04-08: Giving Parking Meter Money To The Homeless. This bill dresses up outright granting of money. It says that the money derived from 5 parking meters downtown, from November 1 through February 28, will be given to the homeless. But really, the same thing would be accomplished if that money went into the general fund (which it does), then a specific amount from the general fund was given (which is what will happen). Good or bad: bad. Let's back up: helping the homeless is not bad; this bill is bad. First of all, it doesn't tell us how much money this amounts to. That would be nice to know. Also, "the homeless" is quite the vague recipient. How, you might ask, is the exact distribution of the money determined? Well friend, it is "dedicated solely to homeless assistance within the city based on the recommendations of the Housing and Human Welfare Committee". I have no idea who is on that committee, or even what level of government the committee comes from. This bill is too vague, and vagueness=corruption of the system.

-Union Contract. This is not a legislative item, but appears under 'business'. Now, this is important because like 85% of the city's budget is spent on salaries and wages--which are negotiated in the union contract. Let's see what we find out.

First Readers (Almost Always Passed And Referred To Committees)

-CA-2-08: Requirements For Director Of Public Works. This charter amendment would delete the requirement that a DPW has to be an engineer. Now, cynics would say that this is to allow Bob Agee to continue to be the Acting DPW, but reassurances have been made that this is a phenomenon with precedent, as the position is evolving to a managerial one.

-O-6-08: Parking On Cornhill St. This would allow only residents to park there during road and sidewalk construction.

-O-7-08: Membership Of The Retirement Plan Commission. This might as well have been written in Latin, because I have no idea to what this refers. I'll get the research staff right on it---oh, right....I'll put a post-it note on the fridge.

-O-8-08: Requiring English Speakers On Work Crews. If I remember correctly, The Capital did a piece on this. Anyone with eyes can see that most work crews are Hispanic, but most people who need work done speak English. This could create a problem, especially if the work is dangerous/urgent. So, this bill would require at least 1 English speaker per crew. This travels with R-06-08, which sets a fine of $100 per day for breaking the rule.

-R-7-08: Naming A Park. They want to name the park here...............

View Larger Map

....................."Commodore John Barry Park".

-R-8-08: Arts And Entertainment District. This would give preferential tax treatment to artistic types who live in the district, which would stretch nearly the entire lenght of West St., as I remember. However, rumor is that people currently living in the proposed district are pissed because they are being pressured to leave.

Tune in for the fabulous, 3rd ever live blog...unless I get stuck painting my house.

The Future of Annapolis Shopping

Recently, I obtained this prototype of a reusable canvas shopping bag that will be politely offered to the consumers of the city. The reusable bag program is one of the new initiatives enveloped in O-27-07 Revised "D", which is the 2nd cousin, once removed, of the plastic bag ban.

Monday, February 4, 2008

I Am Taking A Week Off

Having gained the approval of the local union boss, I have decided to take a week off from my duties of fact checker and amateur pundit. You should take this time to review previous posting masterpieces on this blog, much like the situation in middle school if there was a substitute teacher.....or you can just close your eyes and put your head down on the desk.

I'm telling you this, rather than just stopping posting, so you all know when you can start checking back for new insights, which will be on 2/11.

The reasons for the break are as follows:

1. Work is very busy, including a possible restaurant deal.

2. I just took possession of my new house, and have a contractor and an architect on the "payroll", requiring my attention. Plus I need to move all of my crap into the new house.

3. Everyone needs a vacation once in a while, although I do feel odd vacationing from an unpaid job.

4. Valentine's day is coming up, and if I don't plan a fantastically romantic excursion, Mrs. Politics may search out other political blogging heartthrobs.

Be back soon.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Smoking Ban: We Will Like The Air Qaulity; We Should Fear The Loss Of Freedom

Today, being the first day of February, is also the first day of the statewide smoking ban for all indoor locations, including bars. Yesterday, I received the following email from a loyal reader and former college roommate of mine. The emailer, who I will refer to as "Dan" because that is his real name, is also a fraternity member of mine, which is to say that we spent a lot of time helping old ladies cross the street, cleaning up litter, and Christmas caroling. Dan had this to say:

Dear AP,

As your blog continues to grow in popularity, I think you should do a
weekly section where you field a question/comment from one of your loyal
readers. That being said, I would like to know AP's opinion/comments on
the recent no smoking ban. I just had a little tiff with a co-worker about
the subject. She wants to go out tonight and celebrate in a smoke free
bar. While I share her enthusiasm for a smoke free bar, I reminded her
that there were already plenty of non-smoking joints in the city. I also
told her it should be the owner's choice, not the gov'ts. She then replied
"it's not fair for me to have to breathe in smoke at bars". Good

My question to AP is, where does it stop? They took away
my trans fat (not exactly sure what that was, but i'm sure it makes food more
delicious) and making it illegal to smoke pretty much anywhere. Are they
going to make smoking illegal altogether? (Don't post that, I don't want
to give O'Gov any ideas). Is there going to be a study that shows people
who drink liquor are more likely to die quicker than those who drink beer, and
then the gov't will ban bars from serving liquor? When will the gov't realize
that people should be able to make their own decision on what's bad for them,
and let them be responsible for their actions?

After reprimanding Dan for talking about me in the abstract 3rd person, I decided that he makes a good suggestion. If anyone wants to have me answer a question, you can email me at If your internet goes down, you can receive the same advice by going to the library and checking out "Blogging For Dummies". For Democrats, a Cliff Notes version is available.

Let's move to the issue at hand. The first thing to consider is whether or not bars have a unique status when it comes to smoking--i.e., why smoking was not banned in bars when it was in other workplaces. The implication is that it's acceptable to smoke in bars, or perhaps that since bars provide leisure services, that people's lives are not adversely affected if they choose not to go to bars. If that distinction still exists, than the smoking ban is inappropriate.

The second thing to consider is the patrons. Is it too much of a hardship to ask them to go outside to smoke? Answer: no. Send them and their nasty habit to suffer in the brutal cold while I sip on a Hot Toddie. In the winter months, give them Al Gore's phone number so they can buy some global warming from him and it won't be so terrible.

The third thing to consider is the employees. Is it fair to force non-smoking employees to tolerate second hand smoke while they are working at restaurants? Answer: they are not being forced to do anything. Non smoking bar employees work in smoking establishments because they like some combination of the money and the lifestyle. If the negative effect of the smoking outweighs that, they can quit and work at a non-smoking bar. If there aren't any non-smoking bars, they can work somewhere else. If enough good employees quit because of smoke, an enterprising capitalist will open a smoke-free bar and hire the good employees. Then, he can charge more money because he provides a smoke free establishment with the best service. The industry might endure some shake-ups along the way, but this is how the free market works.

The final thing to consider, and the thing that wins the argument, is the loss of freedom. Does the government have a right to tell businesses what to do in cases where public safety can be adequately protected with normal means? Absolutely not! As a business owner, I can assure you that the number of things the government says you can't do is appalling--especially the things you can do only if you give the government money. "Where does it stop" is the absolute correct question to ask. Here is a very partial list of things the government controls with respect to bars:

-closing times
-type of alcohol sold
-if alcohol is sold
-cooking temperature requirements
-dry good storage requirements
-chemical storage requirements
-use of ingredients!! (including trans fats)

Here is my prediction for the next 5 things that will be banned by government:

1. Little League Baseball. Because the kids on the losing team will be too emotionally traumatized, and we don't want to send the message that there always has to be a winner and a loser. Plus steroids aren't really appropriate until high school.

2. Making a profit. Because corporations are evil, and a person's hard work ethic and ingenuity should be used to subsidize society rather than reward the person who took a risk or worked hard. All profits will be transferred to the government, which will recycle the bills into breast implants (females) and pec' implants (males). Parents will suffer, as when their kids ask them for a higher allowance, they can no longer respond "What, do you think I'm made of money?".

3. Forks. Because they are way too dangerous. The Chinese use chopsticks, and who wouldn't want to be like them?

4. Turbochargers. Because fast cars create more pollution. Now, the previous 3 things were jokes, but I'm serious about this one. If at any time while I am still writing this blog the government imposes a speed limit under 65 mph or a horsepower limit below 300 bhp, everyone reading right now owes me a nickel. Don't worry; I'll turn it all over to the government.

5. Cell Phones. Another legitimate possibility. Because they cause cancer, bad driving, and bad walking. Plus they facilitate text messaging, which is like the new MTV.

The 'nanny' attitude extends all throughout government. In several states, the government wants to control the temperature of the thermostat in your house. In Virginia, they are trying to ban payday loans because they think people are too irresponsible to manage them properly. Government takes your money and gives it to charities, because apparently we are too inconsiderate to do it ourselves. THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD NOT PROTECT PEOPLE FROM THEIR OWN STUPIDITY, AND IT SHOULD NOT MAKE CHOICES FOR US.

It is for the above reason that the smoking ban is inappropriate, which is not a popular position to take, as Dan found out. Most of my political friends and most of my bar friends supported the ban. I think the reason is that smoking, and the lack thereof, is an immediate and tangible result. In contrast, the erosion of our freedom continues to be a gradual process.

Today's Non-News

Cuts to the news department at The Capital are clearly taking their toll, as here is today's front page:

The lead story above the fold is that "rain hampers commutes". Previous weather headlines are just as awful. In comparison, the top headline for The Sun relates business to the upcoming super bowl, and the next story is about a hot politcal issue: Nancy Grasmick. Oh well, at least we now know how the commute that we were in this morning went, and the cause of the slowdown.