Monday, November 24, 2008

City Council Meeting 11/24: Live Blog

I'm here!

This is a public hearing, and man is it public. There are untold numbers of persons here to speak about the city manager stuff, and Ed Hartman has assembled an impressive stock of supporters for the lease giving him the rights to the boat show. I shoved my way to the front of the line, and was able to obtain my normal VIP seat with borrowed internet access, so here we are.

I can't see a darn thing, which is good, because it also means that anybody watching on tv cannot see the soy sauce stain that soiled my sweatshirt in the line of duty today. Mrs. Politics is at a Tina Turner concert, so you, the faithful readers, are all my dates tonight!

7:18

The public hearings are starting. The mayor has adopted the strategy of hearing the bills that nobody is here for first, so we are starting with O-38 (updating the recycling code). Tony Evans supports it. Also, Tony Evans supports a sense of humor, as he is sitting next to me and told me a funny joke no more than 4 minutes ago that made me chuckle out loud.

7:21

O-40-08: Lawn Fertilizer Regulation in the city. A man claiming he is the only person affected by the bill is testifying against it, because it will prevent him from even carrying fertilizer. He says the city should wait for the county and/or state to pass it. But, he supports an amendment that extends the process, I think. Tony Evans just stood up, so this guy might be in trouble.

7:23

Alderman Shropshire is addressing the masses, and just commended the above mentioned guy for.............getting rid of plastic bags. Then he just made a claim that was not true and the guy corrected him.

7:24

Tony Evans argument: "condoms and pornos are above the counter, but we can't display fertilizer?" Good argument.

7:26

R-62-07: Supporting the state-funded redevelopment of the Annapolis Gardens and Bowman Ct. housing projects. Eric Brown (the HACA pres.) is here supporting this, and is talking now. I have been informed that HACA is getting out of the property management business, and the private companies that are going to develop and manage the property are here with Mr. Brown. The housing authority would have the land, but not much responsibility, as I understand it. Even though the city's money is not on the hook, the state requires local support as part of their approval process.

Mr. Brown indicates that the CIQ (Cash In Question) here is around $20 million.

7:30

A big shout out to all my peeps reading this live feed, probably in posh, climate controlled, couch-filled abodes--the exact opposite of the conditions here.

7:32

The R-62 people are still making their case, which is probably a bit frivolous, because I don't expect many of the Aldermen to throw up any road blocks. In any case, it gives me some time to work on a proposal for an upcoming catering event that I have, for which the CIQ is only like 1000 bucks.

7:33

Alderman Hoyle asks if we will lose any public housing units in this process, probably a fair question for people who are concerned with such issues. Answer: of 144 units being redeveloped, 6 will change from public housing to home-ownership opportunities. Also, if the state $$ doesn't cover the project, the developer will have to cover the shortage, and not Annapolis taxpayers.

7:37

Alderman Israel calls the idea of a public-private partnership an "experimental approach", perhaps suggesting that he supports public housing funded entirely by the taxpayer. He says that he would not be inclined to support any arrangement like this for the duration of his tenure on the council. I must say that I am surprised at his position.

7:38

The council doesn't seem to understand that the city has no financial obligation here--they just need to approve the idea in principle so the developer can get state money. As you might have discerned by now, the ownership and management responsibility for public housing is very confusing which is probably why nobody can figure out a good way to address the problems.

7:43

Boat show public hearings!! See my boat show post to understand the bills in question (O-35 and O-36). I have no idea how I am going to describe what are these people have to say.

I don't think that counting the number of people in support of each bill would be a fair representation of how many people (if given all the information) would be in support of each applicant. I can predict that more people here are in support of Ed Hartman.

7:47

The mayor suggests that she would entertain other bidders for the boat show, inviting "anybody else who might have a contract like this should come to the hearing". (Note: that is not an exact quote).

7:49

So far, the Dowling/Barthold crew (O-36) have had their supporters up first. Dowling is telling his story, which has not been told publicly (other than on this blog) before, and if you are watching on TV, pay attention because you might learn why much of the VIP crowd back here is supporting the D/B bid.

7:58

The first Hartman supporter says that changing the shows might be troublesome because international participants might be spooked. "If it ain't broke...", etc. His implicit claim is that the show is not broken, a claim that would be argued by the other lease applicants.

(By the way, "H" stands for Hartman and "D/B" stands for Dowling and Barthold.)

8:00

Ed Hartman is speaking right now, and claims that D/B are avoiding personal responsibility by creating a corporation, which is not really a critique because this is a common practice of people starting a business. I have Limited Liability Companies, but rest assured that it's my ass on the line if those corporations go bust. H is arguing that, even though he has a corporation too, his has a history and a financial background. He is positioning for the argument that his company is more financially equipped to handle the shows than the investors that D/B have put together. He is taking a long time to do what I just said in that last sentence.

8:04

Right now H is giving a visual presentation, complete with a laser pointer. The presentation is basically a laundry list of all the expensive S that has to be purchased to run the boat show. Again, this is simply an attempt to somehow show that D/B cannot afford this equipment, unless he is going somewhere that I don't anticipate.

(By the way, "S" stands for what you think it stands for.)

8:07

H got to his point, that he brings $4.4 million to the show. Not quite a logical argument, but he just asked the people in the audience that support him to raise their hand, and like everyone raised their hands. As someone promised me earlier, H puts on a good show.

8:08

H just made the "business needs continuity" argument, an argument that I have made in some of my economic development posts.

(Note to amateur bloggers: see how I just took a seemingly unrelated issue and used it to support an argument that I believe in? That's good stuff.)

H just said that he proposed and extra year on his lease (until 2014) because "my employees are asking me if they are going to have a job in 5 years...they are looking for a career", failing to establish the link between their careers and the requisite implicit approval from the taxpayers.

8:12

I was also alerted that H has the support of the 'Good Old Boy Sailing Crew', of Arnie Gay, Bert Jabin, Knut Aarsand (don't quote me on that one), and others. So far, so true--Rod Jabin is here in support. The implication was that a sense of entitlement has developed amongst people who feel they have created the sailing business in this city, an implication that I am too young and too landlocked to indulge further.

8:19

The H people are continuing the accusation that D/B are a "limited liability shell", where as the H corporation is not because it has declared assets. They also are hitting on the argument that the shows are not broken.

8:24

Alderman Israel's 4 factors for determining who gets the lease:
1. rent
2. financial backing
3. experience
4. management plan

He just said (not in so many words), "What are we going to do when Mr. Hartman dies"? He used the item #4 on his list to address this issue. To his credit, the H guy is answering well, saying that there is a good team in place that knows what to do.

There is also a bit of a side argument, in that the H corporation does other things, like wine festivals and the like. One side of the argument implies that it favors H, as they gain expertise, but the opposition says it favors D/B, because they are not distracted.

8:27

Alderman Paone points out the D/B were part of the team that the H guy just mentioned. B is now speaking, and the room is respectfully devoting their entire attention to paying attention.

8:31

I confused the start time of this meeting and didn't realize my error until like 20 minutes before the meeting started, and tragically I was prevented from having dinner or even coffee in preparation for this feat of blogging endurance. I hope some of these boat show people leave soon, because it's getting hot in here, and for reasons named above, I am cranky.

8:33

The boat show hearing is over. We will take a recess. Predicted time for restart: 8:42.

8:44

Back in business. 2 minutes off with my prediction. Time for the city manager parade. There are like infinity bills pertaining to city manager, or purporting to pertain to city manager, so I'm just going to cite certain points, I think.

8:49

On second thought, I am not going to pay much attention to the people testifying. Instead, I will now launch into a soliloquy as to where we are at this point.

The city manager idea was considered and rejected in Annapolis some time ago. In the past couple of years, the idea is gaining steam again. The idea is that city managers can manage operations, and elected people can make policy decisions. Right now, the mayor of Annapolis can do everything.

Probably in part because of the disappointment with the current mayor, the idea is being pushed by notable factions, namely Wards 1 and 8. The politics behind the idea is intriguing. Most aldermen who want to stay aldermen support it, because it would give them more power and more evenly divide power. The current Mayor opposes the idea, for reasons unknown, but probably related to the belief that the Mayor is important and should have the power. The Aldermen that want to run for Mayor, ignoring the ethical problem of voting for their future self-interest, also oppose the idea because they want to have that power when they get elected! In fact, I have heard that Cordle doesn't want to run for Mayor if City Manager Legislation passes. Josh Cohen seems to have a similar feeling, without having formally declared he is running for mayor!

The jumble of city manager legislation is the result of efforts from any number of politicians to support their positions. One of the bills is closest to the real city manager form of government, and others simply 'put lipstick on pigs' by changing a few words and calling it a city manager. In my estimation, a real city manager is defined as one who is hired/fired by a majority vote of the council, and is the operational manager of city employees, with the instruction to carry out the policy of the council. Whichever bill ends up getting closest to that is the one that I will support.

9:02

Alderman Shropshire just complained that a city manager would prevent him from going to a department head and telling them to do something for his ward. I guess that's what city employees do, but that just sounded weird to me.

9:04

A demand is made that the city manager issue be put to referendum, alluding to the oddity that is the city's failure to have all Charter Amendments go to a referendum. The only referendum procedure is through voter signatures on a petition.

9:08

Alderman Cordle just spoke for what I estimate to be the first time tonight, and he gave a mini campaign speech. I guarantee you that before the end of the night, Alderman Sam will one-up him with an inspirational speech of his own. I look forward to it, as well as the Polish sausage dinner that Alderman Sam has been promising me for some time now.

9:15

Note to readers: people are still talking about city managers.

9:15:20

Note to readers: I am still hungry, so if you have any Polish Sausage, put it in a reusable container and I will pick it up on my way home.

9:28

Josh Cohen is speaking about the philosophy of city managers. You'll remember that he is against, and the other Aldermen are challenging him a bit because they are more expert than him at this point in term regarding the specific terms of the legislation. Plus you learn in city council 101 to never miss an opportunity to challenge your county councilman when he has to debate in your forum.

9:34

Don't fall asleep or do anything fun! Keep reading because the council is scheduled to vote on the homestead credit tonight, which means lowering property taxes, which means you getting more money, which is hopefully important to you.

9:54

The mayor must be more bored than the rest of us, because she just left. Now Alderman Arnett is sitting in the important chair. FYI, Alderman Paone left like 20 minutes ago.

10:03

Ok, I did some snooping around, and found out that Alderman Paone is still here. Also, early word on the Homestead Credit bills is that the 102% (2%) bill is going down, but that Alderman Arnett is the swing vote on the 105% (5%) bill.

10:16

Alderman Sam gave the inspirational speech I was waiting for. "I wasn't elected by the people of Ward 7 to vote only on the easy issues".

10:18

Attendance Update:
Paone: here
Moyer: here
Cordle: just returned.

10:27

It's fair to say that most people here tonight support the "real" city manager idea that I described above. Nonetheless, people are still talking about it.

10:59

Alderman Sam addresses the people watching on TV! Yes!! Like clockwork.

The public hearing for a city manager ends.

There is a 6-3 vote to suspend the rules and consider f'ing legislation past 11:00.

11:01

Classie Hoyle just made the odd comment that there are like 6 potential mayors in the room, and that they should learn to ride in convertibles and wave because they are about to lose the power that the mayor has been privileged to have. That is weird.

The mayor just said you can reduce the homestead credit and reduce the tax rate if need be, but we have been the only jurisdiction to reduce the rate. It really doesn't matter. High popalorum or low popahirum.

Legislation:

O-31-08: 105% Homestead. POSTPONED. 5-4 vote to postpone (Israel, Paone, Cordle, Stankivic). The aldermen are actually really fighting about this and calling each other out. Alderman Paone, in particular, is on the warpath and called out the 5 people that voted to table this, calling them the same people responsible for the budget increases and higher taxes. "The present budget has more fat in it than a weight watchers convention", he said word for word.

O-32-08: City of Annapolis Exempt Service: PASSES. 6-3. (Paone, Cordle, Stankivic)

O-34-08: 102% Homestead: POSTPONED. (see above)

R-62-07: Support For Redevelopment of Public Housing: PASSES. 8-1. (Stankivic)

R-46-08: Reclassification of Transportation Positions: PASSES. 5-4. (Paone, Cordle, Stankivic, Arnett)

R-47-08: Stanton Center Recreation Manager: ?

R-48-08: Dance and Fitness Coordinator: ?.

R-49-08: Hispanic Community Liaison: ?.

R-50-08: Police External Affairs Officer: ?

R-58-08: Excepting Parking Fees At Park Place: ?.

R-59-08: Economic Affairs Advisory Commission: ?.

I had to leave because I couldn't take it anymore. I will try and call the city clerk to see if the rest of that stuff passed.

1 comment:

laura townsend said...

Without knowing more, I tend to concur with Israel, Brian. If HACA turns all responsibility other than property ownership over to another entity, and a private one at that, you have created yet another layer of potential who, me? denials and layers of red tape when it comes to addressing any of the myriad of issues that can affect public housing. And we all know, vis a vis the crime and drug issues, that anything that affects public housing affects the residents of the greater Annapolis area. Ergo, while this debate does not involve any city $$, it does perhaps have a direct, profound ability on the city's ability to have a say in the public housing environment which often transcends the boundaries of same.