Saturday, March 29, 2008

RAPS Police Chief

During election cycles, I sometimes see letters to the editor from candidates thanking the people who voted for them. The titles assigned to those letters are always "RAPS __(candidate's name)__". At least that's what I remember them being. What the heck does RAPS mean? Even google doesn't know. Anyway, I believe that today's article in The Capital is RAPSing the police chief. Let's examine it.

The Peerless Rens Club in Eastport holds some special memories for Chief Joseph S. Johnson who retires in June.

Most of my "special memories" involve some sort of chemical compound and at least 1 trip to the emergency room.

In 1994, he was meeting with then-Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins when he got the mayor's nod to become chief of the Annapolis Police Department. It was also the site of his wedding reception 37 years ago.

I know that I haven't been posting regularly, so let me take this chance to hit on one of my biggest issues: the use of the middle initial when publishing someone's name. DOES ANYBODY NOT KNOW WHO MAYOR ALFRED HOPKINS IS? WERE THERE MORE THAN 1 MAYOR AL HOPKINS'? NO. This blog's official position is that there are only 2 instances where publishing the middle initial is acceptable:

George W. Bush
Michael J. Fox

And last night, Chief Johnson returned to the club where community members and local officials said their goodbyes to the chief.

"We love you, we respect you, and we appreciate your leadership," said Carl O. Snowden, the Maryland attorney general's director of civil rights who served as emcee for the evening.

Well, at least Carl Snowden is earning his paycheck.

Chief Johnson announced in February that he will retire after 14 years with the department and more than 40 years of service in public safety.

About 100 people, including elected officials, attended the event last night. "Since he's been here, (the department has) run like a Swiss watch," said Sen. John Astle, D-Annapolis.

Goodness gracious. As Roger Clemems would say, I believe Senator Astle misremembers. Even if certain things were not the chief's fault, the department has been far from a swiss watch. As we speak, I believe they only have 1 cell. 1 cell! And, if someone happens to be arrested, the arresting officer has to spend hours in the booking procedure. On any given night, 5 people are arrested. And since each patrol shift has only a dozen or so officers, on any given night 40% of the patrols are not patrolling but rather are booking suspects. The ratio of supervisors to patrol officers is like 1:1, the homicide investigation unit is comparatively understaffed, and the proportion of vacant positions is 500% higher than in the county. But other than that, Swiss precision.

Chief Johnson has been known throughout his tenure as a man who spoke his mind, which sometimes drew criticism, but also garnered admiration from some.


County Councilman Josh Cohen, D-Annapolis, said he could always count on the chief to speak at community meetings or events. "I knew I could always count on Chief Johnson to say what he thought," he said.

I suppose that decorum requires a recitation of platitudes in a situation like this, but if I were the chief, I would much prefer praise for my accomplishments rather than my bluntness.

Several city council members who attended the event told Chief Johnson they'd like to take him out to lunch."We need to learn from you," said Alderman Sam Shropshire, D-Ward 7.

I do believe that if the issue of the day were what color I should paint my basement, Alderman Shropshire would manage get his name and his opinion on the matter in the paper. Furthermore, he would choose beige.

Col. James Teare, chief of the county Police Department, said he looked to Chief Johnson as a friendly face when he took over the county post in January 2007.

"You look for stable ground, and friendship. I found all of those things in Joseph Johnson," he said.

Chief Johnson is credited with gaining national accreditation for the Annapolis police force in 2003. Only about 10 percent of the nation's police departments, including the county's, tout that ranking.

The only reason why such an accreditation would be important is if there was a proven correlation between accreditation and crime fighting. Good luck finding one.

Sheriff Ron Bateman said it's the sign of a good leader when he has the support of those beneath him. "His troops have the utmost respect for Chief Johnson," he said.

I wish that it was appropriate to call employees "troops" in every industry.

Chief Johnson said the he prides himself that the department has had no major scandals on his watch and has had a good working relationship with neighboring jurisdictions.

The claim that we have a good working relationship with neighboring jurisdictions is insane. I would define neighboring jurisdictions as the Anne Arundel County police, since Annapolis is located in Anne Arundel County. The city doesn't have it's own police academy. No problem, you say, we can just have our friendly county neighbor train our cadets in their academy. Wrong!! The county expresses its "good working relationship" by hiring away the officers that we send to their academy--so much so that now we have to send our cadets to Montgomery and Howard counties. The more accurate quote would be "We have a good working relationship with all neighboring jurisdictions except the one that neighbors us on all sides."

I don't know about the scandal claim--I suppose there are no major scandals that I can remember.

"I leave you a quality, professional police department," he said. And, he said, there are several captains and lieutenants who would be able to be chief someday.

"I suggest not looking too far outside" Annapolis to find a new chief, he said. "I hope the citizens insist on getting someone committed to the 36,000 residents that reside in this city."

I suspect that this comes from the mayor. She has declared that she finds no need for a nationwide police chief search, which is unacceptable. The Mayor's current Director of Neighborhood and Environmental Programs previously worked for the city of Newport, but apparently the city needs not to even consider an outsider for the charge of running its most important department.

Chief Johnson spent 24 years with the Baltimore Police Department before he came to Annapolis in 1991 as a major, and eventually became the city's first African-American police chief.

Born in Birdsville.....


....a tiny south county community near Davidsonville, Chief Johnson grew up in Parole and Eastport, so returning to Annapolis was an easy decision. "It wasn't just an issue of providing public safety. I was home among friends," he told the crowd last night.

Chief Johnson underwent heart bypass surgery last June and took a short leave from the department. He cited health concerns as a reason for his retirement.

Doctors advised him not to return to his job. Following discussions with his family, including his wife, Margaret, and his three adult children, Chief Johnson determined it was time to step down.

He earned a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from the University of Baltimore, and also received management training at the FBI Academy before his stint with the Baltimore police.

He left the Baltimore force as commander of the 1,800 officer patrol division, the agency's largest.

So, there you go.

New Blog

A good friend of mine and overall regular guy has solicited my help in starting a blog of his own, called What's Wrong With Annapolis. I believe that it is his intention to open the posting to anyone, thereby creating a true forum for citizens to air their grievances.

Andrew is currently on a golf trip in Georgia right now, satisfying the requirement of the International Association of Bloggers that all potential blog authors must have a schedule that allows them to take time off work at a time when everyone else is very busy.

The URL is

Monday, March 17, 2008


The fourth murder in the city this year took place late last night in Robinwood, a public housing community. Continuing at the current pace, the city would see 13 or 14 homicides this year, which would easily shatter the record of 9.

View Larger Map

Released on March 17th, 2008 at 7:00 AM

On March 16th, 2008 at 11:21 PM, Annapolis Police Dispatch received several calls for shots fired in the 1300 block of Tyler Avenue. A male victim was found lying on
the ground near 1368 Tyler Avenue suffering from gunshot wounds. Paramedics
pronounced him as deceased. He was identified as a local 17 year old, but not a
resident of the immediate neighborhood. (Robinwood). His identity is being
withheld pending suitable time for family notifications. 1368 Tyler Avenue
has no known association with this crime except as a point of reference as being
the nearest physical address to where the victim was found. There is no known
motive or suspects at this time, and investigators are still seeking witnesses
or other people with knowledge of the circumstances.

This is the fourth homicide in the City of Annapolis in 2008.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

What Happened With The Capital Arts District Bill

So, last night was the vote on R-08-08: the bill to form the Arts and Entertainment District here in the city. The bill passed, but the process is very confusing. Therefore, I will do what I do--make the complex understandable.

Let's start from the beginning. The state runs this program, and it is already in place in some cities--possibly Hyattsville, Frederick, Cambridge, and maybe some others. Who knows. The state determines which artists and entertainers are eligible to participate in this district, and mandates certain tax advantages for those people. Apparently--in a time long, long ago--the city applied to the state for this program and was passed over for one reason or another. Alderman Cordle pointed out that there must have been a reason, suggesting that maybe this is a dumb idea.

The state sets the parameters for application to this program. If the city didn't abate property taxes in the district, for example, the application would have been rejected. The purpose of the program is to enhance economic development of the city as a result of creating an arts district, a process which apparently involves black magic, as I have a degree in economics and cannot recall a correlation between arts districts and economic development. The city's only real responsibilities are to (1) decide that this program is a good idea (2) make sure their application complies with the requirements and (3) draw the map.

Therein lies the problem. Deciding that this program is a good idea has basically been taken for granted, or so it seems. That citizens of one particular profession should support citizens of another profession, via the taxes of the former subsidizing the taxes of the latter, is appalling. It is less appalling when we are supporting public servants, and is even less appalling--perhaps even a good idea--when we are supporting public servants that risk their lives. But artists? Why are they entitled to special treatment? What about caterers? What about landscapers? Don't be surprised if this keeps going and the only people actually paying taxes in 10 years are used car salesmen and the "stop/slow" guys on construction sites. (Those guys are purposefully evil and live to see traffic stopped.)

Even if you think this district is a good idea, you may still have an objection as to how the map. As with most things that give advantageous treatment to some at the expense of others, it is nearly impossible to figure out which areas should be included and which should be excluded. I think the Mayor mentioned changing the map on 11 different occasions.

The lack of consensus on the map boundaries was the issue that almost derailed the bill. Councilman Cohen came to testify, and asked the council to postpone the bill so there could be more time to study the new map drawing, as the most recent version was only introduced last night! Alderman Paone led a spirited charge for such a postponement, stating that he hadn't even been informed about changes to the map and his ward and his ignorance made him look like a big jackass to his constituents. Aldermen Cordle, Stankivic, and Israel agreed, with Alderman Israel actually producing an opinion from the Attorney General that postponing the bill would not prohibit the application from being accepted by the state.

Moyer, Hoyle, Finlayson, and Arnett then immediately launched into successive diatribes saying that they needed to pass the bill right away, and anything less would result in killing the bill. (Alderman Shropshire was apparently thinking about what to make for dinner, because he didn't say much on the issue. However, his vote was never in doubt, as rumor has it that the Mayor was prepared to postpone the bill herself if he wasn't back from vacation to vote for it.) So the vote to postpone failed, 5-4.

The vote on the actual bill, however, was 6-3 in favor. Alderman Paone voted for the bill even though he led the fight to postpone. I would have done the same thing--everyone agreed that Clay St. should be included in the district, and since Clay St. is in his ward, voting in the negative on the roll call would have been a political nightmare.

So, now we have an arts and entertainment district, with boundaries you can see HERE.

Monday, March 10, 2008

City Council Meeting: 3/10

No preamble tonight, let’s get right to it.


There is pre-meeting chaos, almost as much as I have ever seen. The state of the city address is tonight, and I have been promised that it is 40% more ‘to the point’ than last year. The budget also must be introduced tonight by law—we have the summaries, but not the details. And according to a quote that I just made up myself and have never heard before nor borrowed from anyone else, “the devil is in the details”.

(Of note, I will be making the master order guide for the restaurant that I am taking over next week. I expertly planned such a tedious task to coincide with the hours of idle time that I am about to have, even after posting brilliant and poignant commentary.)


Started relatively on time. All are present with the exception of Alderman Paone, which is tragic, because there are a lot of things to vote on today and we need his republican vote.


The Mayor is immediately into her State Of The City Speech. I will post the transcript at some point, but some highlights:

-drug arrests increasing
-multi-agency drug fighting collaboration
-$1 million investment in public safety
-$43,000 starting police salary*
-salary, health, and pension “places our police dept. at #1 in the state”
-proposed “Office of Youth And Community Action”
-calls on all citizens to make moral commitment to city’s youth
-calls for $1 million endowment fund for education (?)
-multi agency and public-private partnerships to foster education and skills
-“stem the tide of violence” by “inspire(ing) dreams”
-property tax RAISED by 1.5 cents per $100
-resistance to change causes worthy projects to die a death of 1000 cuts
-still racism in city
-Annapolis IS financially sound
-“we have been able to reduce and hold the line on the City tax rate”**
-Annapolis is a special place

(*questionable, **total bullcrap)


State Of The City Address ends. I currently have running through my intensely active brain enough material to have a 72 hour marathon blogging session, but alas, the intricacies my secret pulled pork BBQ recipe beckon.

Of note, the finance committee will start deliberations on the budget on 3/24 at 5:00.


The honorable councilman Cohen is here and gets to speak first. He is asking the council to postpone the vote on the arts and entertainment district, for what appear to be political reasons for himself. ( Maybe he sponsored the bill when he was on the city council. Or maybe it reflects on him b/c it’s his county council district). He thinks the bill is moving too fast, and has heard complaints from his constituents, who include city residents.


Whoops, Alderman Paone is here now. How did I miss him? He’s like 7 feet tall.


Minor Carter is here talking about, umm, criminals. The general tone is that they (they meaning someone) are doing a better job enforcing laws and punishing criminals.


The Eastport crime fighters are here, sans signs. Oohh, they have a new name: Annapolitans United Against Crime. They want a public safety plan by Saturday.


I think Alderman Paone just grew another inch.


I sort of (but not really!) wish we could restrict free speech a little bit, because people continue to speak for and against bills on non-public-hearing nights. The first of such persons is speaking on the sailing hall of fame, whose resolution is only on first reader for goodness’ sake. I don’t have time for this: I only have time for shrimp and grits.


Damn it, if these sailing people go past 8:21 I am going to be furious.


This person is talking about the arts district, saying that Ram’s Head wants it. But that’s no guarantee that there aren’t any more sailing people! The lady from Ram’s Head just demanded a level playing field regarding the amusement tax that threatens to be eased for the new entertainment venues at Park Place. I find this amusing, because that’ s precisely the argument of Sly Fox, located a drunken stumble away from Ram’s Head, articulates to deaf ears regarding the gross inequity of the city’s 2 AM drinking policy. (Edit: Classie Hoyle said this same thing about 2 hours later. So, I am 2 hours smarter than everyone.)


Eliot Spitzer just testified in favor of the sailing hall of fame, as he no longer is preoccupied with more pressing matters.


I went sailing before, once. Actually twice. The average size of the boat was 11 feet, and the average time that we regained control of the boat before capsizing was half a heartbeat.


Tony Evans! Tony Evans is talking about pigs ears and purses, which somehow relate to the awful O-51-07. Now he’s talking about Thomas Stone and slavery—I don’t quite know why—but who cares. In my book, he can say whatever he wants. He just said that the state police maintain a flock of chickens. Who knew? Fabulous.


A guy is here right now is telling the council to be smart when hiring a police chief, which incredibly is actually appropriate subject matter for this particular point in the agenda. Sadly, he says nothing new, pleading only to “do everything you can to hire the best possible person”.


The leader of the Annapolis Business Association is here asking the council to let certain downtown businesses sell stuff on the streets for 3 days in March. Let me re-phrase: NOT the Department Of Economic Affairs has organized the affairs of the downtown economy.


Damn it, it’s now been an hour into the legislative meeting, and they haven’t legislated anything yet. I think they should have 3 public hearings a month, including one called the “opportunity for public bitching about anything”. Concurrently, there should be a penalty of 10 years in jail for speaking at a legislative meeting. I’ve got eggs to whisk!


The Mayor correctly asserts that we are confused about all this multi-agency crime fighting rigamarole. I believe she went on to explain this but then Alderman Shropshire said something and I temporarily lost my memory.

Mention is made of MS-13, a notoriously violent gang.


Math Quiz: # of things voted on by the city council—a lawmaking body convened for a meeting-- minus # of things voted on by me--an unelected jackass.

Answer……………………………: -1.

(Early in the meeting I took a straw poll and decided to sit in the 4th seat from the left, rather than the 3rd).


Damn it, Doug Smith, you should know better. Once and for all, the legislative meeting introducing the first reader of a bill is not the time to testify on that bill!


The owner of Fawcett Boat Supplies (which is going through chapter 11 bankruptcy, tragically) says that commercial vacancy = crime, that businesses are leaving downtown for Parole, and that the sailing HOF will be good because it’s the opposite of those last 2 things.


The only city official to have a fan site on this blog is Ray Weaver, for his animated objections to Alderman Shropshire’s plastic bag behavior. I am proud to announce that Alderman Paone now too has an ‘Annapolis Politics’ sponsored fan club, because he was stern with Doug Smith when he spoke out of turn at 8:48, and because he just mocked the proposed arts and entertainment district by asking a testifier “do you want to see the map of the week?”.


For the purposes of the official bio listed on the Fred Paone Fan Club, Alderman Paone stands 7’2”.


Still no voting. I’m not going to be home until midnight! Mrs. Politics is going to be pissed!!


A keen gent just pointed out that by regulating the homeowner but not the construction industry, the unintended consequences of the city council passing a requirement for sprinklers is price gouging and prices 5 times those which were anticipated. THE GOVERNMENT CANNOT PLAN THE ECONOMY NO MATTER HOW MANY SMART PEOPLE TRY TO FIGURE IT OUT.


I just finished the master inventory list for the restaurant, making remarkable time due to the overt lack of accomplishment at this meeting so far. There are only 125 items on the list, which is joyfully low.


The mayor just asked people wishing to speak on upcoming resolutions to come back at the time of the appropriate public hearing. Where was this 1 hour and 51 minutes ago?


“2 minute break”

6 Minutes later:

2 minute break ends. Ok I think we are ready for some voting. I am going to make it easy on myself and simply tell you what passes and what fails. For a description of the bills, click HERE.

O-51-07: Minor Construction Quick Permits. POSTPONED.
O-52-07: Historical Markers Commission. POSTPONED (I think).
O-53-07: Street and Sidewalk Closing Policies. POSTPONED.
O-54-07: Electrical System Upgrades. PASSES.
O-56-07: Green Buildings. PASSES with 8 amendments.
O-57-07: Updating Committee Responsibilities. PASSES.
O-60-07: Residence Requirement For Historic Preservation Commission. WITHDRAWN.
O-61-07: Grants For City Funding. FAILS.
O-62-07: New Year’s Annapolis, Inc. Lease. PASSES after a good amendment.
R-07-08: Commodore John Barry Park. PASSES.
R-08-08: Arts and Entertainment District***. PASSED on a 6-3 vote. But, only one vote short of postponement. VERY heated debate.
R-09-08: Waiving Fees For First Sunday Festivals. ?
R-10-08: Waiving Fees For Maryland Avenue Festivals. ?

***Alderman Paone lambasted the process of the map making for this silly district, earning him several new fans. The Capital and Sun reporters were writing fervently, so look for his quotes in the papers. Example: “If this were presented in a corporate board room, the person presenting it would be laughed out of the room. What the heck kind of proposal is that?”

Also, Alderman Arnett is lambasting Alderman Paone for his lambasting, but Alderman Arnett does not have a fan club, so his argument is invalid.

Legislation Passed On First Reader and Referred To Committee:

(I am assuming all of the following—I had to leave because it was after 11:00 and even though Mrs. Politics and I are not married, a happy wife = a happy life.)

R-11-08: Sailing Hall Of Fame
R-12-08: Reclassification (and raise) of Economic Affairs Director
R-14-08: Designation of Parole As Designated Neighborhood.
R-15-08: City Support For Mt. Olive Neighborhood BusinessWorks.
O-09-08: Operating Budget.
R-13-08: Capital Budget.
R-16-08: Fee Schedule.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Historic Construction

Capital Punishment posts about a Sun article detailing the fight that Bryan and Valerie Miller are having with the Historic people because they used fiberglass instead of wood to build a column in front of their house. Concerned with alienating his friends, CP politely suggests that sticking with wood might have been the right way to go.

I too am friendly with the Millers; I used to cater parties at their house, but I sense that such business opportunities will be rare in the future because they don't quite enjoy my position on the 2 AM issue. Or maybe they found a better cook than me!

Anyway, the Millers are right. Who cares what material you use if it looks the same? Answer: people without real jobs care. Would you stick with asbestos ceiling tile and lead paint just to stay historic? Of course not. I can't believe there is even an argument on this. What a pain it must be to live downtown.

City Council Meeting 3/10: Preview

It's everyone's second favorite time of the month: the city council legislative meeting! The Mayor doesn't like public testimony at legislative meetings and truthfully neither do I, but considering that government is of, by, and for the people, it seems reasonable that folks can comment pretty much anytime.

To see the full agenda for the meeting, click HERE. Or, you can just read the succinct summary that I am about to provide.

This is the first council meeting in March, and according to section 6.16.010 of the city code, it's budget time! This is the first time in my limited political memory that the budget threatens to be unveiled on time (i.e. not illegally), and we are all shaking with anxiety. Let's have a quick contest--the reader who provides the closest guess to the actual 2009 operating budget will win $.65! My guess: $81.7 million.

The introduction of the budget is accompanied by the State Of The City Address, which promises to be fabulously unhelpful in explaining anything or signaling any policy.

Legislation To Be Voted On:

O-51-07: Permits For Minor Construction. This is the awful bill that proposes to charge $50 in permit fees to replace a $5 window screen. Quite egregiously bad.

O-52-07: Historical Markers Commission. I love this one--this bill establishes a 7-member commission to identify historical buildings, then authorizes the commission to fabricate at public expense audio and visual markers to place on the building to inform passers-by of the historical significance of the building. Ask yourself: is this the type of thing a "bankrupt" city spends money on?

O-53-07: Sidewalk and Street Closing Policies. Surprisingly, this seems like a halfway-decent ordinance. The bill first stipulates that streets or sidewalks may be closes unilaterally by certain department heads if they think it serves the public interest, with the certain people being the police chief, fire chief, director of public works, or the director of rec and parks. I don't quite know why the director of rec/parks would have to close a street, but fine. Then, the bill states that any request by an event, festival, or celebration to close a sidewalk or street must be approved by the mayor, and must include a plan for re-routing traffic. The city council may request a public hearing for that traffic plan, and may vote it up or down. I have decided to call this the "triathlon control bill", and I like it.

O-54-07: Electrical System Upgrades. Apparently there is a fund in place to assist businesses to put in sprinklers, and this bill would incorporate electrical system upgrades into that fund's purview. However, the agenda says that Alderman Stankivic intends to propose a revised version, so who knows what will happen.

O-56-07: Green Buildings. In summary, this bill indoctrinates certain environmental building standards for construction. Construction on all public buildings would have to meet silver LEED standards. Private construction--residential and commercial--that is new, or construction that increases gross floor space by 20%, or increases parking spaces by 20%, must meet a LEED "certified level" standard. All applications for construction permits must be accompanied by burdensome plans for the green building, including something fancy called a "LEED scorecard", complete with "LEED points". The problems are that (1) LEED standards for residential construction are not even fully developed and (2) the private market can do this without government intervention. Oh, and (3), what part of our lives does the government want to control next?

O-57-07: Updating Committee Responsibilities. This is routine housekeeping: a certain title of the code was repealed, so it also has to be deleted from committee responsibilities. Also, the APFO was passed, and needs to be added to the committee assignments.

O-60-07: Residence Requirements For Members Of The Historic Preservation Commission. This would allow 2 out of the 5 members of the Commission to reside in an Annapolis address that is not within the actual city limits. I suppose this is fine, by why only 2 out of 5? If someone lives in Glen Burnie, or Delaware, or anywhere else, but they have an interest in the history of Annapolis and they can come to the meetings/hearings, what the heck?

O-61-07: Grants For City Funding. This requires anybody asking the city for a grant to prove that they have 50% matching funds from private sources. Opponents of the bill have argued that private funding requires proof that you have obtained a grant from a government! I sympathize with the non-profits because I'm sure it's hard to raise money, but I like this measure because it is anti-entitlement and sends the message that it is not appropriate for government to blindly confiscate and allocate money to anybody and everybody.

O-62-07: Leasing Of City Property For New Year's Eve. "New Year's Annapolis, Inc." is the organization trying to succeed where first night failed, and this bill authorizes a 5 year lease with NYA. In accordance with tradition, the citizens get screwed. The bill expressly states that the city is willing to offer services at less than cost because they think it is better for us. So, in 2009 and 2010, NYA pays a grand total of $0 for use of all city property and services. Zero dollars! In 2011, they pay $1000 for renting the space, plus the lesser of $20,000 or 5o% of the calculated cost of police, fire, sanitation, etc. For 2012 and 2o13, they pay the 2011 cost adjusted for inflation--totally unrelated to the actual cost in those years! This sounds technical, but it really is terrible. The city justifies this by saying that it encourages locals to stay in town and promotes tourism, but why should they decide where we celebrate? My favorite part is where they politely ask NYA to be considerate of people who are too poor to buy their own tickets:

The foregoing fees are established with the understanding that NYA will continue
to develop a partnership with all of the people of Annapolis by attempting to
maintain and hopefully expand the activities the activities and performances it
offers to those who cannot afford to purchase tickets.

There is absolutely nothing legally binding about that--it's simply a feel-good line that the city puts in for itself and NYA will totally ignore. I love it.

R-07-08: Renaming a park "Commodore John Barry Park".

R-08-08: Capital City Arts and Entertainment District. The state runs a program for granting tax credits to artists and entertainers, and sets the qualifications for such. This year is apparently Annapolis' only chance to apply for this program, and this bill would set the boundaries of the district and formalize the application. There are the usual NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) arguments against, but for this bill there are also PIMBY (Please In My Back Yard) arguments being made by people who sympathize with starving artists. The important thing to remember here is that we will be giving preferential treatment to artists (as opposed to policemen, firemen, teachers, etc.), and we will be making more city property tax exempt when like half of it is tax exempt already. Sounds like fun! Somebody better send me a nice painting since I am paying their property taxes*!!

(*Actually, you will be paying their taxes, because I live in the county now.)

R-09-08. First Sundays Festival. Normal disregard of economics here: neat festival=waive fees.

R-10-08 Revised: Waving Fees For Maryland Avenue Festivals. See above. Also, provisions for alcohol sales are included, so maybe people will show up.

Legislation To Be Passed On First Reader:

R-11-08: Support For Sailing Hall Of Fame. As if giving a quarter of a million dollars when no money was needed didn't signal support for a sailing hall of fame, the city has offered a resolution saying as much. But, they "strongly recommend" that the HOF consider another site than the one that's next to Phillip's and DNR downtown. People who are concerned with historical preservation really care about this--as for me, I hope that (1) they stop spending taxpayer money on it (for goodness sake, Ted Turner is on the HOF's board) and (2) they have a parking plan for the 150,000 they plan to attract annually.

R-12-08: A Raise For Mike Miron. This one is not for the faint of heart. First, the Mayor created an office of economic development and appointed her friend to be the director. Then, she changed the charter to make this a full department. For some unknown reason, she then changed it to be called the "Department Of Economic Affairs". Now, the director of economic affairs needs a raise! For what?! Horseshit! Terrible. Once again, here's the entire economic development policy that the city needs:

-low property taxes

-streamlined permitting

-clear and consistent zoning

R-14-08: Designation Of Parole Neighborhood As A Designated Neighborhood. I'm not kidding--that's what it says. What will they think of next?

R-15-08: City Support For Mt. Olive Neighborhood BusinessWorks Program. Mt. Olive, for some reason, is Alderman Hoyle's pet church. She tried to change the MPDU program so that they could own rental units**, and now wants to express support for their dealings with the state even though it obviously has nothing to do with the city, except that the church is located in the city. I looked up her campaign contribution records and didn't see anything, but I tend to think that's just because I didn't look in the right places.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Does Anyone Know About The Double Homicide?

Responding to a reader demand, I have decided to resurrect an issue that is a couple months old: the double homicide in Bay Ridge Gardens.

Oddly, I have nothing to report, yet there is much to know. Normally when a homicide happens, the city immediately sends out an email saying that a homicide has happened. That is usually followed by at least 1 update a couple hours later, either saying that a suspect has been arrested or at least requesting help in located a wanted suspect.

With this homicide, that didn't happen. The fact that it was a double homicide in itself is odd. We didn't learn the nature (shooting) of the homicide until a week later, and I don't remember hearing anything else since then. This smells funny.

I recently asked Ray Weaver about this, and he said he knew nothing more than I did. However, he then remarked that he is purposefully kept out of the loop on these things, precisely so secrets could be kept if need be.

My curiosity spiked, I wonder what we don't know about this, or what I missed.

Private Market Shows It Can Promote Green Building

The city of Annapolis, and more recently the state of Maryland, have taken to the idea of legislating green building standards. Since my posts these days are harder to come by than a home victory for the Terps' men's basketball team, let me refresh my position on what the government should be doing:

1. Enforcing contracts and property rights.

2. Providing public goods, whereby 'public good' is a specifically defined economic term.

3. Promoting the free flow of information.

4. Investigating steroids in baseball.

5. Nothing else.

Most other things, if not all other things, can be provided by the private market. Not only can they be provided--they can be provided more efficiently and with better quality. Let's take the case of Green Building.

The Capital today ran an article chronicling a brief history of the growth of the green building industry in Maryland, dating back to when the mention of green building prompted responses like "I don't care what color you paint it".

"We've come a long way", remarked Joe Miedusiewski, keenly summarizing the fact that registered LEED projects have increased 3376% since 2002.

"But wait!", you are probably shouting, "how has Green building managed to grow without the help of government? Heck, they haven't even passed the LEED bills yet."

Well, my friend, the private market industry of green building has provided value to the market:
"Green buildings in general are just environmentally responsible, and also
profitable and healthier places to live and work," she said. Studies show that
inhabitants of green buildings - whether apartment complexes or offices -
experience reduced instances of asthma, take fewer sick days and are more

"A lot of people have noticed how fresh and clean the building feels,"
Belfiore said. "Kids who used to suffer from allergies don't seem to in this
building. People remark on how fresh the air is, and we've had fewer absences.
[The kids] seem healthier, and that's got to contribute to better learning."

Wow! Ok. So, green buildings save money in the long run because workers are healthier and more productive, plus energy bills are less. So the choice is to buy expensive but healthy green buildings, or cheap and dirty normal buildings. Most people will stick with the old stuff, but gradually the green building will gain ground, as long as it continues to create value. And, once enough rich people use the green construction, the green builders will figure out how to do it more efficiently and it will become more accessible to us normal folk.

Notice that I am a conservative, yet I'm not against the environment. (Notice also that the world needs rich people). Some of you don't understand that this is possible. The point is that the private market can take care of these things. Once the government mandates these standards, green builders will have no incentive to innovate because they will have a guaranteed rate of return.

Now then, let's take care of those steroids.