Monday, December 21, 2009

City Council Meeting Cancelled

PLEASE NOTE THAT THE PUBLIC HEARING HAS BEEN CANCELLED DUE TO INCLEMENT WEATHER.  THOSE MATTERS TO BE HEARD AT THE PUBLIC HEARING WILL BE RESCHEDULED.

However, the Annapolis City Council will hold a special meeting and take legislative action at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, December 21, in City Council Chambers, 160 Duke of Gloucester Street, Annapolis. 

To view the meeting's agenda, please click here.  For more information, please contact Seth B. Zirkle, Legislative and Policy Analyst with the Office of Law, at (410) 263-1184 or sbzirkle@annapolis.gov.

Monday, December 14, 2009

City Council Meeting 12/14/09: Live Blog

It works!  I'm here...with a new computer, a new internet connection, a new city council, and a new the same cynicism that has vaulted this blog to the 56th most popular local political blog in the General's Highway Corridor!

7:44

Ok, sorry for the late start.  Had to set up the new internet connection and it took me a minute.  Many new and old VIP's are here, and Mayor Cohen has started off the meeting with a brief statement from each Alderman of which ward they represent and where that is.  If you are new to this politics stuff, here's the location low down:

Ward 1: Downtown
Ward 2: West Annapolis and Germantown
Ward 3: Parole
Ward 4: Outer Forest Dr.
Ward 5: Hunt Meadow and Central Forest Dr
Ward 6: Robinwood, Tyler Heights, other random streets
Ward 7: Inner Forest Dr and Bay Ridge Dr/Ave
Ward 8: Eastport

7:47

The most disturbing thing I've noticed so far is how tall Kenny Kirby and Ian Pfeiffer are.  Being the only Republican, Alderman Paone in my opinion needed to rely on his menacing stature, voice, and trial lawyer experience to get his bills through.  But if Kenny Kirby puts on like 7 lbs of muscle, he will clearly be the most menacing member of the council.  I plan to immediately contact Alderman Paone for an emergency strategy session after this meeting.

7:49

A bit of procedural consideration:  Attention Eastport residents: I like you.  My last post was not meant to offend you.  Please appreciate the attempt at humor and please know that I agree with like 97% of the stuff you fight for.  Oh, and I know there are people from all wards involved in your causes.  No hard feelings? Great.

7:55

Josh says he aims for 'efficiency' and to be 'the best run city in Annapolis'.  Also, the third Thursday of every month from 1:15-4:15 will now feature a legislative work session aimed at increasing transparency and understanding of the issues.  This of course also means that every third Thursday of the month from 11:15-1:15 I will be hosting a political tailgate in Hillman Garage.

Too many changes!  Now, all Monday meetings will be BOTH a public hearing and legislative meeting.  This is really not a change at all, as the distinction between the 2 types of meetings was much like the current distinction between commercial banks and Savings & Loans after the banking crisis of 1981: nothing.

New public testimony policy: when the buzzer goes off, stop talking.

8:05

The public is speaking...time to test this new policy.

The first speaker is Julie Stankivic and she outed a controversy that I haven't gotten to yet!  Ross Arnett, an economics professional and chief understander of the budget, was left off of both the finance committee and the economic matters committee.  The committees don't have chair-people yet, and word on the proverbial street was that this snub might be the result of a failure to properly promise his vote for a certain chairperson*.

*Rumor alert.

I will post the committee list for you tomorrow (or some other day).

8:12

Herb McMillan: "Reverse the trend; cut the budget".

Resident of Miami Ave: "The time to cut the budget is now".

Steve Samaras: "Brilliant selection of Doug Smith."

8:16

I went to high school with Steve's son, Drew, and he produced one of the most memorable moments of my high school life.  In government and law class, Drew asked the teacher how fast over the speed limit do you have to be going to get pulled over.  Our teacher, Mr. Kirby, reclined to an incredible angle of nearly 180 degrees horizontal in his chair and said "Drew, it's the limit".


8:18

Public hearing time.  Like half of the room just left.  I imagine they were supporting this, not with testimony, by simply by their presence.

O-03-09: limiting the height of building accessories in the MX district to 100 feet.  "Accessories" appear to be  clock towers, indoor theaters, and other things associated with the Park Place development.

8:24

Although my view from the back is obstructed, Alderman Arnett appears to be sporting a winter beard.  I once tried to grow a winter beard, only to experience failure after 4 weeks of not shaving produced only the appearance of neglected hygiene.

8:27

A reader of this blog has cleverly utilized the comment technology, as I have received his real time complaint that I didn't list the committees.  So, friend, per your request:

Economic Matters:
Alderman Israel
Alderman Paone
Alderwoman Finlayson

Finance:
Alderman Israel
Alderwoman Hoyle
Alderman Pfeiffer

8:30

(Still talking about the height of Park Place).

Park Place representatives: "We want you to help us out".  What they actually said I don't know, as a late afternoon coffee manifested into an early evening bathroom break while they were talking.  But I'm assuming they said that.

8:37

While listening to the PPP (Park Place People), Josh leaned back in his chair to a modest reclining angle that I estimate to be 100 degrees--barely leaning back.  I will call Mr. Kirby (not Kenny Kirby) to see if he gives lessons.

Also, I would like to say that I use the moniker "Josh" not as a sign of disrespect, but in recognition of a commonality we have.  We both have economics degrees from the University of Maryland.  Sharing the experience of learning about 'Neo-Keynesian policies' and 'production possibility frontiers' while continuously being told to "Fear The Turtle" produces a "bond of lifelong boredom" that affords its bearers the right to call each other by any name or nickname they see fit.

But if he asks, I'll call him Mayor Cohen.

8:47

I've spotted a woman crocheting while listening to the proceedings of this meeting!  Wow.  If ever there was proof that meetings are boring, such proof exists in the fact that crochet is the reprieve from the monotony.

8:50

People disrespect the General's Highway Corridor.  Here are the 5 best things to do on that stretch of beautiful Anne Arundel County, listed in reverse order for added drama:

5.  Go bowling!  As my favorite comedian says: Some people have their own bowling ball AND their own bowling shoes AND.....no friends.  My ball is called the Activator*, my shoes are black Drexel lace-ups*, and....does anyone want to hang out tonight?

(*this is actually true.)

4.  Buy a Christmas tree from Matthew Weller's stand.

3.  Go to Lures.  Locals owners that welcome you to their dream.

2.  Bet on when the billiard supply store will go out of business, only to reopen as another billiard supply store.

1.  Get on I-97 without driving on Aris T Allen Boulevard.

8:57

If they don't stop talking about Park Place soon, I'll be forced to write more jokes, and political humor can get old real quick.

9:06

Serious business now...public hearing on O-47-09: to prohibit the use of a taxicab's horn to announce its arrival.  Those damned noisy taxicabs!  I know what you are wondering: and the answer is: former Alderman Stankivic sponsored this bill.

Robert Eades (owner of a taxicab company): "This is totally stupid".

Alderman Paone is asking a series of questions that alerts me to the fact that he thinks it's stupid too.

9:11

All of the Aldermen are seated at acute (less than 90 degrees) reclining angles--they are actually leaning forward! That's just silly.  A couple years of practice, and maybe they can learn to recline like a Mayor.

9:14

Alderman Arnett just pointed out that it's Maryland law that you can't honk your horn for any purpose other than an emergency.  What a spoilsport.  Oh wait.  His point is that this law is already redundant of state law.  So he thinks this bill is stupid too.  Good point Ross*.

(*also on the economics-degree first name basis).

9:16

Devin Heritage: Let's not create unenforceable laws.

9:16:30

A red-haired person just walked in!  Exciting!  The audience now includes:

-a red haired person
-a woman still crocheting
-someone with so little regard for free time that he is live blogging a city council meeting
-various city workers that more or less have to be here
-a taxi company owner
-several other people who have yet to distinguish themselves

We now move to a public hearing on O-59-09, which would update our stormwater regulations to conform with state law.

9:23

Voting time!  There is nothing on final reader because the new mayor and council want to learn more about the bills before making a final vote.  All of the following were passed on first reader and referred to committee.  The bills sponsors and co sponsors are listed in parentheses.

O-66-09: Clarifying Mobile Food Service Permits (Hoyle)
O-67-09: Rezoning of a Part of Duke of Gloucester St (#214) (Israel)
O-68-09: Changes in the Way Legislation Is Passed (Israel)
O-69-09: Establishing a Financial Advisory Committee (Israel)
O-70-09: Order of Voting (Rotating Sequence with Mayor Voting Last) (Cohen, Paone)
R-73-09: Establishing a Citizens Committee to Review Alcohol Laws (Israel)

Budget amendments passed over Paone's objection.

Adjournment: 9:37.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Eastport Residents To Offer Solutions To Budget

Eastport has always been special....sort of like when you are at a family gathering and realize the need to turn to your child and say "Little Suzie, just ignore Uncle Ralph--he's special".  You may remember such groups as 'Eastporters Against Gunshots", "Annapolitans United Against Crime", and most recently "Eastporters With Big Expensive Houses Against Another Eastport Resident With A Particularly Big and Expensive House".

What you may not know is that Eastport residents have long been active in community affairs.  Here is a partial list of some of their lesser known causes:

1517-Eastport residents give Ferdinand Magellan 1 end of a long rope in advance of his circumnavigation of the world.  Already knowing the world was flat and not round from their Wednesday Night Armada Races, Eastporters wanted to have a tug-of-war with New Zealand for ultimate nautical bragging rights.

1691-Eastport Witches For Home Cooking forms to combat the spread of restaurants.  (The first restaurant wasn't really recognized until the mid 18th century but the Salem witchcraft trials were in 1692 so just pretend the Eastport witches could predict the future).  Starting on the ground that now houses Rockfish, the women cast a spell that prevents any restaurant from being successful.  Fortunately for us foodies, before the witches could move down Chesapeake Ave (then known as the Chesapeake Brownish/Red Dirt and Rocks Path), they were burned at the stake by members of the Franyo and DeCastro families.

1861-Inspired by the Confederacy, this is when the first attempts to secede from Annapolis are traced to.  With land supply routes owned by the enemy and after decades of brutal Harbormaster regimes, radicals are relegated to "storming City Hall" once per year, followed by 72 consecutive hours of drinking at Davis' Pub.

Late Twentieth Century-The Chart House Restaurant replaces the old Trumpy Boat Yard.  (Remember, the witches didn't get down that far.)  Soon thereafter, the Eastport Civic Association is formed.  The mutual support of the neighbors allowed them to dine at a restaurant that represents the decline of the Maritime Industry while simultaneously complaining about the decline of the Maritime Industry.

In any case, Eastport has a cause once more, and this is a good one--budget reduction / tax increase prevention.  I have obtained an advance* copy of the letter they plan to present this Monday at the City Council meeting**.

(*I say 'advance' to make myself sound awesome, but for all I know this letter could have been printed 2 weeks ago.)

(**I will be at that meeting live blogging.)

We will be using the tried-and-true 'letter to the editor format', where their ideas are listed in bold and my commentary is in normal font.  Ward 8 unites!


1) Eliminate Contract Employees (Savings - $4.0 million):  Contract employees have mushroomed into a political patronage system.  As the Blue Ribbon Commission pointed out, this practice should be stopped until the City Council develops proper guidelines and oversight for this method of providing city services.

Ok....$4 million is a big nut, as they say.  Contract employees are really bad when you have a cunning person that uses them for patronage, as they allege and as is true.  However, contract employees are easier to fire and their benefits aren't determined by the union contract.  So IF we get the better oversight, contract workers can actually be more beneficial than municipal employees.  The financial horror of all horrors for the past 8 years was that the vague "contractual services" budgets for many departments were spent on contractual workers, only see see many resolutions aiming to convert those contract positions into full municipal jobs.  Certainly that has to stop, and until the process has its checks and balances, I agree with this suggestion.

2) Consolidate 18 Departments into 6 (Saving $3.0 million):  Given the six figure salaries for many Department Heads, and the cost of associated staff, City Department should be focused on our most immediate priorities.  Also consider consolidating the City and County fire departments into one unit.

Absolutely beautiful work by those drunk sailors.  Just kidding.  About the sailor part.  For an outsider looking to do business in the city, there are at least 4 places that can claim to be the "go-to" source for permit information: DNEP, Economic Affairs, Planning and Zoning, and Special Project Coordinator.  The redundancies are glaring and there is no doubt in my mind that departments started to reward the Mayor's friends turned into running jokes about how much money could be spent without providing any benefit.

3) Eliminate City Grant Program (Savings - $0.5 million):  We can all see some benefit in charitable giving, but the City simply doesn’t have money to be giving away.  Additionally, there is little accountability for how these tax dollars are being used.  Leaving charity to the private sector will allow the citizens to realize the tax deductibility of giving, and restore control how their money is spent.

This issue has been hotly debated and probably needs more attention than the 5 sentences I'm about to give it.  I think everyone agreed that there was too much dependence on the city for funds.  Alderman Stankivic introduced a bill (which I believe passed) requiring non-profits receiving city money to prove they raised a certain portion of private money.  The ironic problem is that a lot of private money often times has the requirement that non-profits get public money, because they take it as a sign that the government somehow approves of the work.  The next problem is that non-profits want money from more than 1 government.  An NP getting 90% of its money from the state might need the other 10% from the city to get the 90%, and if the city totally closes the coffers, they would be screwed.  For the private sector charitable giving to really produce the right incentives, the state and federal coffers would have to be closed as well.  Good luck.  And the last problem is that many people don't want to see the effective charities denied money, perhaps even in our current budget situation.  Even as a mean emotionless Republican I don't know if I would favor totally eliminating the grant program.  But I don't have a better solution either.

Ok, turned out to be 9 more sentences (plus the phrase "good luck").

4) Cut Non-essential Programs (Savings – TBD):  Things like the Sister City Program, Sea Level studies and such come to mind.  In a period of financial crisis, all the “nice to do” stuff must be set aside.

Goes without saying.  The challenge will be Josh and the council's interpretation of "essential".  Even so, all these types of programs probably account for half a percent of the total budget.

5) Audit the Transportation Department (Savings - $1.0 million): The overtime expenditures for many departments is spiraling out of control.  The Transportation Department, however, appears to be the primary culprit.

The poor transportation department has the dubious honor of being the only department singled out by EAT (Eastporters Against Things), and for good reason.  The transportation department reminds me of when I put a $3000 non-refundable deposit on an office space I never used, then leased an office for 3 years that COST me money instead of MAKING me money because I had to hire another manager and extra delivery driver, nearly bankrupting the company that has since afforded me the opportunity to buy the computer I'm using to write this post.  In other words: poor management.  There will always be overtime for police and fire because their union contracts say that OT is required for holidays, plus you never know when there's going to be a crime or a fire.  But for the transportation department--supposedly the king of schedules--to have a schedule so poor as to rack up millions in OT....fully support this "audit".

6) Outsource New Recreation Center to YMCA (Savings - $0.5 million):  As you may be aware, we have a new multi-million dollar Rec Center, but there’s no money in the budget to operate it.  A possible partnership with the YMCA might offer an opportunity to recover from this expensive budget omission.

No real plan here other than to explore a "possible partnership".  But, as I remember, this is the new headquarters for the Parks and Recreation Department.  It seems silly to have Parks and Rec employees there already and have to hire someone else to run the building.  Unless the YMCA pays the city for using the building, which would be appropriate, I can't see how this would make all that much difference.  But I'm with them in spirit.

Now I will explain what the real deal is.

85% of the budget is salaries and benefits.  Reducing that cost is the only possible way to prevent tax increases.  EAT has good ideas, and consolidation of departments would go a long way.  Even so, Josh has the biggest opportunity with his upcoming union negotiation.  The union contracts come up every 4 years, conveniently, so that the incoming mayor can negotiate for themselves.  I distinctly remember being at Ram's Head, drinking a Copperhead Ale while Josh had a Miller Lite, listening him explain to me that the city has considerable negotiating power especially in tough times.  What they come up with is crucial.

The next thing to watch out for is fees.  Lowering taxes by raising fees is like paying off your credit card with a loan from the mafia.  Silly.  The enterprise funds (water, sewer, parking, etc., which generate the fees) are supposed to generate at least what it takes to administer the fund.  For example, parking fees should at least pay for the parking enforcement officers.  In practice this does not happen, and I wouldn't be surprised if your "taxes" didn't go up but the cost of a residential parking permit was $1,564.87.

And the last budget buster is the Capital budget.  For many people, the capital budget is a separate magical land where hundreds of millions of dollars of projects are planned, funded by bonds, executed, and done with.  Sadly, there is a connection between the general budget and the capital budget, and it's debt service on the bonds we issued to fund the magical projects.  This year, debt service is almost $6 million or 7% of the budget.  For you math majors, if 85% of the budget is for personnel, 7% goes to debt service, the city hall roof is falling, and the city dock water is rising, how many extra projects can you slip into the capital budget.  Answer: like negative $100 million worth.

Should be a good council meeting.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Cohen-Smith Era

Politics makes strange bedfellows.  That was my pickup line to get Mrs. Politics to give me her phone number.  But I believe it was also said by a famous person.  (Or maybe not so famous.)  In any case, I'm confident that at least 3% of people recalled this quote upon learning that Doug Smith was appointed as the City Administrator and leader of the Cohen Team.

As with many things, I have thoughts about this matter.  First, the unavoidable hypocrisy from both Smith and Cohen cannot be ignored, and critics are right to point it out.  I mean COME ON!  YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING.  I would describe Cohen and Smith as no less than (policy) enemies during the campaign.  If there were 2 knocks against Josh, it was that he was too opportunistic / never finished anything, and that he was too closely tied to Moyer and the other Democrat higher-ups.  If there was another knock against Josh, it was that he didn't support city manager.  The latter was more of a strategic problem than a qualification problem--as Doug Smith chaired both the City Manager effort and Ward 1.  And since Ward 1 is an important voting block, there we were.

Josh made efforts to appease the city manager folk because he knew his policy stood to lose their vote.  I could be confusing candidates, but I doubt it, and I'm almost positive Josh promised to hire a 'credentialed administrator', assuring CM supporters that his CA would be just like their CM, and imploring people not to confuse Moyer's lack of leadership with a breakdown in our structure of government.  Focusing on the one department head that excelled under Moyer rather than the 15 that would have done better with a CM, Josh emphasized that only he could promise to retain the services of Chief Pristoop, as the other mayoral candidates would be subject to the police chief chosen by the CM.

By all appearances, Josh was Doug's last choice to endorse.  McFall was his candidate in the primary, and an endorsement from the ABC City Manager group was withheld until Cordle "suddenly realized" that a "change a language in the bill" was the only thing separating his lifelong view of the role of Mayor with the CM structure that Smith wanted.  I don't know if Doug would have ever supported Chris Fox, but I do think that Chris' support of CM from the get-go impressed Smith, as Doug was quite helpful throughout the campaign.

It seems that Josh was the only one not surprised by this appointment.  In Doug's own words:
Josh did surprise me by asking me to come in as city administrator. We were on opposite sides of the city manager issue, but I said from the time he announced for the primary that I thought he would be a very good mayor. The issue of city manager was always about structure, not about personalities.  And while we might disagree on one issue, that doesn’t mean we can’t work together. More importantly, there is a long list of things where we do agree.
Normally in politics I would suspect cynical motives: money or power.  In Doug's case, I am actually entertaining the possibility that he is most concerned with bettering the city.  WORA Pres. is a pretty pain in the butt job that does not guarantee future elective or appointed office, and Doug spent his own money on the CM issue which is like the ultimate proof of dedication to an issue.  In the end I think Doug just decided that he could better help the city as its administrator than fighting for an issue that the incoming Mayor would surely  fight against.  It will be interesting to see how vociferously the CM people continue the fight, and if/how Dough would support a measure that threatens his job and his boss' power.

Josh could only have 2 possible motives: political strategy or improving the city.   A quote from Josh's farwell letter to his county council constituents might shed some light: Politics is like water -- they both tend to follow the path of least resistance.  Rather than resist Ward 1 and the CM people and lose their vote in the next  election, have them involved in the process. 

I read a book once (actually I read it twice, going against all my bedrock beliefs) that talked about the "tyranny of the OR" and the "genius of the AND".  If you could only pick one motive OR the other, knowing Josh, you'd be forced to assign political strategy and get really mad.  There is no doubt that he created political value with this appointment.  The genius happens if Smith was appointed because of his political value AND his skills in running operations.  In that case, Josh is a good politician AND a good public servant.  

Friday, December 4, 2009

Cohen Team

Annapolis, MD (12-04-09) Mayor-Elect Josh Cohen announced his Core Administrative Team today, committing to advance his goal of making Annapolis the best run city in the state.

"This group of individuals is made up of professionals who are
passionate about Annapolis, possess a solid work ethic and a strong background in both public and private sectors," Mayor-Elect Cohen
said.

As part of the Core Administrative Team, the Mayor-Elect named the
following appointees:

Doug Smith, Chief Administrative Officer
Karen Hardwick, City Attorney
Tim Elliott, Director of Finance
Kimla Milburn, Director of Human Resources
Gail Smith, Director of Services
Phill McGowan, Public Information Officer

The Mayor-Elect also hosted a bus tour of city facilities for newly
elected council members, as well as new members of his Administration.

The tour included at least twenty facilities with stops at the Truxtun
Park Recreation Center, the Water Treatment Plant and the Police
Station.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Maryland Unemployment Tax To Increase By 50%

HERE is the letter explaining the increase to employers.

HERE is an Associated Press article saying how terrible the increase it, including a reference to local businessman (and friend of this blog) Chuck Ferrar.

As usual, I was ahead of the curve on this issue--not because I'm a good blogger--but because I own a business that will be heavily affected by this ridiculous increase.  I've been circulating a letter to whoever will listen for a few weeks, now, and now I'll share it with you.

--------

November 10, 2009

To Governor O’Malley, Legislators, and Whom It May Concern:

The purpose of this letter is to urge you to consider much-needed changes to unemployment laws in the state of Maryland. Specifically, I would like to express my anger at the outrageous shift in the rate tables for the upcoming fiscal year, and to outline the need for special consideration for seasonal businesses.

I am a lifelong Maryland resident and graduate of this state’s flagship University. In 2002, I started Gill Grilling Company to provide daily meal service to Fraternities and Sororities at the University of Maryland. Through hard work and sacrifice, a simple promise to provide food to a student who had none has turned into a thriving business. Gill Grilling Company has created literally hundreds of jobs in the seven and a half years we’ve been in business, and we currently employ 20 employees on a full-time basis—offering benefits rarely found in the hospitality industry: daytime hours, paid holidays off, paid vacation, supplemental insurance, and retirement IRA plans. Our efforts to provide value to the market and conduct business in a responsible manner were rewarded by the Small Business Administration, which awarded this company the distinction of “Young Entrepreneur of the Year” for 2003.

One problem with our business is its seasonal nature. Much like a teacher’s schedule, we only work during the typical “semester” time-frames during which normal classes are in session. During our lengthy breaks, our employees collect unemployment, causing our company to always be assigned the maximum unemployment rate allowed by law.

Currently that maximum rate is set at 9.0%, and this year-to-date my company has paid $16,935.37 to the Unemployment Insurance Fund. I recently received a notice that the maximum rate will be increasing to 13.5%. Much like the change in sales tax from 5% to 6% was not a 1% increase but rather a 20% increase, this increase in unemployment rates represents a 50% increase in taxation on businesses like mine. If we were to increase the cost to our customers by 50%, we’d be run out of business. The fact that the state of Maryland is willing to impose such an increased burden is appalling, and shows politicians’ ignorance of this fact: my company creates jobs. The private sector creates jobs. The $30,000 I will pay in unemployment taxes next year could be used to create jobs; to provide a valuable service; and to further increase the income tax base in our great state. The message to businesses is clear: the state of Maryland doesn’t understand the benefit its businesses provide, and is unconcerned with the burdens these policies impose.

Outside of the overall increase in rates, this company’s particular situation emphasizes the need for unemployment reform with regards to seasonal employers. Let me say that I understand the need for unemployment insurance and I support the philosophy in many situations. There will always be unexpected job loss due to illness, layoff, misfortune, and the like. The existence of unemployment insurance provides a needed buffer to families faced with such a situation, and I think that’s a great thing. However, unemployment loss should serve the interests of those who experience unexpected loss of employment. For companies like this one, employees claim unemployment benefits not because of a sudden event, but rather in the form of repeating conscious choices not to look for supplemental employment because they know they can get money without working. This practice has to stop.

I have spoken at length with officials from the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation, and have been assured that the current regulations offer no relief to seasonal businesses. Several of my employees have chosen a year-round pay structure, but are still able to collect unemployment due to a clause that allows unemployment benefits to employees when physical work time is reduced, even if the employee is getting paid.

During my research of this issue, I came across the website for the Department of Labor of the state of Kansas. They advise “Unemployment insurance cannot solve the problem of joblessness. Only more jobs can reduce unemployment”. I will be a part of the solution. I will create more jobs. I just need your help to make it happen.

Thank you for your consideration and support.

Sincerely,
Brian Gill

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Mayor Cohen Has A Blog!

This is gonna be great!  http://www.mayorcohen.com/ is the official blog of Josh Cohen.

Come to think of it, there are many reasons why this will not be great:

-It will inspire more people to become "blog stalkers", sucking otherwise productive people out of the private sector.

-It is much harder to take someone's words out of context and use it against them when the entire context exists in print for everyone to see.

-There are more blogs to read each day, reducing the number of people viewing this blog and the amount of time each person who does visit can spend here.

What I would love to see is an official Twitter page where Josh tweets his activities at several points during the day.  "Visited a sister city today", "My pen ran out of ink while signing the union contract", "Stressed out cuz expenditures exceed revenues".  Technology at work.

Update: I can't believe it.

The Future Of Democrat Leadership

Normally I avoid driving home in rush hour traffic on Fridays, but yesterday I found myself unavoidably stuck in agonizing traffic, so I decided to double up on the agony and ponder the future of the local Democrat party.

Here's where we find ourselves.  A former Democrat county councilman is Mayor, creating a vacancy in the County Council since the city elections are offset.  By law, the county council itself can decide on who fills the vacancy.

The spot must be filled with another Democrat, and there appear to be 4 leading candidates: sitting Ward 3 Alderman Classie Hoyle, sitting Ward 4 Alderman Sheila Finlayson, county board of appeals member William Moulden and former Mayoral candidate Trudy McFall.

Fortunately for you, rush hour traffic on a Friday simulates the experience of psychotropic drugs, allowing me to think like a Democrat, and I'm happy to report that I'm now confident I can predict who will be the next county councilman from the 6th disctrict.

It will be Classie Hoyle, and here's why.  The Republican majority on the council will not want a Democrat that would run a strong race in 2010.  Of all the candidates, Hoyle would likely best satisfy that requirement since she already lost a county council race for this seat and she was on the wrong side of a nasty issue that came up during the election.

The real genius of this prediction is how everything plays out after Hoyle's appointment.  I envision the Democrat bosses sitting in their gardens sipping Perrier and zinfandel, tickled that the Republican plan crafted in a smoke-filled back room will actually bring about exactly what the Dems want!

Hoyle's appointment to the county council only 14 days after being sworn in for another term as an Alderman leaves a vacancy on the city council for Ward 3.  There would have to be a special election, which is not as good as an appointment by the central committee, but not to worry--it appears to be impossible for a non-Democrat to win in Ward 3.  Guess which Democrat Cohen Transition Co-Chair and Primary Election Winner lives in Ward 3???  You got it.  With residency requirements rendered irrelevant and financial troubles addressed, Zina Pierre wins the Ward 3 seat.

Moving right along, the only direction for Cohen is up, up, up!  The bosses expect a victory from State Senator Astle over E.R. doctor and overall handsome fella Ron Elfenbein.  Little do the voters know, it will be Astle's last election.  Cohen won't want to run an actual campaign in District 30 because of the pesky Republican voters in Arnold and Edgewater.  Too risky!  Remember, we* need a sure thing.  So, Astle resigns in 2013, creating a much more direct route for the start of the Senator Cohen dynasty.  And wouldn't you know, Pierre will have completed 3.9 years of paying her dues as an Alderman, ready to receive full machine support for her run for Mayor.

(*The use of "we" and other stylistic writing in this post does not represent my personal wishes or beliefs, but rather is an attempt to put you, the reader, in the mindset of a Democrat strategist trying to ensure the burial of Republicans for 40 years.)

Ironically, the person who this works out worst for is Hoyle, who may or may not win reelection in 2010, and is left out of the long term plans.

If you find this post difficult to follow, just read it while in traffic on the Beltway and I assure you everything will be perfectly clear.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

City of Annapolis Interactive Crime Map

I don't know if this is new, but the press release says its new, and I haven't seen it before.  So there.

Interactive Crime Map

Cohen Transition Team

I envision the transition team for Josh being more a formality considering how easy the transition is for a person of his ideology and particular city experience.  Does someone with such steadfast views and experience with running city government need people to tell him about running city government?  HERE are the people who will do just that.

It's interesting to think about Josh's motive for selecting each of these people, and each person's motive for accepting the offer, especially for the following people:

Zina Pierre (co chair)
Greg Stiverson (co chair)
Reza Jafari (Cohen's fundraising chair)
Carl Snowden (newly appointed to HACA)
Dick Franyo (Boatyard, Sailing HOF)
Jeremy Parks (developer, Park Place)
David Prosten (Sierra Club, which endorsed Josh)
Chris Trumbauer (Cohen's treasurer)
Sandy Cohen (1 guess)

There are plenty of other people, probably close to 100 in total.  It will be interesting to see if these people are involved just for their expertise, or as a courtesy to candidates involved in the election, OR if this is the first step in finding these people paid jobs with the city.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Eric Hartley re: Hoyle's Handling of "The Flyer"

LINK.

Hoyle's about-face

Posted: November 10, 12:43 pm | (permalink) | (1 comments)

There's a reason Alderwoman Classie Hoyle's about-face on the racist, homophobic attacks against her political opponent seemed sudden: It was utterly insincere.

At last night's Annapolis City Council meeting, Hoyle introduced a resolution condemning attack fliers against Scott Bowling and calling for an investigation by prosecutors.

Before the election, when asked about the attacks, she either didn't return calls or refused to condemn them, simply saying she hadn't seen the flier and had nothing to do with it.

Later -- conveniently, after winning the election over Bowling -- she issued a statement calling the attacks "repugnant and offensive" and saying, "I absolutely reject the actions of any individual or group that circulated it."

A sincere change of heart? Apparently not. Last night, Stewart got Hoyle's attention as she walked past the press table on her way to her seat and asked her about the flier.

Hoyle said she had only seen it "on the computer." She said she had asked a number of people and didn't believe the print edition, so to speak, it was actually distributed in the city at all. I asked why someone would go to the trouble to make it and not distribute it.

"I think it came out of the other camp," Hoyle said with a smile, then walked to her seat.

Her resolution, however, says the flier (which said, among other things, "Keep us from Sin and Sexual Assault. Bowling will be danger to us all and our children - He is WHITE & GAY = SIN") was distributed around the city.

Later in the meeting, Hoyle said she had not heard about the flier until Election Night, which is a little hard to believe, since just about everyone else in the city who follows politics was buzzing about it. Hoyle publicly pledged to donate $500 out of her own pocket to a reward fund to find the person responsible.

Dave Miller, Bowling's partner, spoke during the public comment portion of the council meeting and called Hoyle's after-the-fact condemnation -- when she had already perhaps benefited from the noxious attacks by winning re-election -- "grandstanding."

That sounds about right.

-Eric Hartley

City Council Meeting, 11/9

Let’s cut to the chase. It’s hot as shit in here because infinity people showed up to the city council meeting. They came for the Energy Park work session, and decided to stay for what promises to be an “energy” filled portion of the ‘public testimony’ portion of this ‘not a public hearing’ meeting.

7:51

A city employee won an award for saving the city money, and was entitled to 10% of his savings in the form of a savings bond, which is like working for years to save the animals and getting paid in a fur coat.

7:52

Committee reports are starting, which are meaningless, so let me say this. It’s good to be back. Back in the private sector, thriving, an astute observer and watchdog for the people. I know many of you were anticipating reading these thoughts as they come to me, but city internet access being what it is, you have been left totally disappointed. And if you are looking for even more disappointment, I invite you to examine the city hall PA system, which I liken to a cell phone conversation with your hand over your mouth in the middle of a hurricane.

Before we get started, for your reference, here is the flyer everyone is about to talk about.

7:55

The meeting theoretically started 25 minutes ago, and nothing has been accomplished. But don’t worry!! Here comes the public to speak. First up, Zina Pierre!

Zina: “I support Hoyle’s hate crime legislation”.

Me: “That bill (which is not even on the agenda) is a load…a day late and a dollar short as they say. Or where the you know what was Hoyle BEFORE the election when this came out, as they also say”.

Zina: “I support Carl Snowden”.

Another lady: advocates the investigation of the Bowling/Hoyle flyer.

Karen Jennings: Green party condemns flyer. “Annapolis was already a gay-unfriendly city”.

Cynthia Carter: against the fees charged for the new recreation center. “I haven’t seen the flyer but I heard about it and I support Hoyle in her condemnation of it.”

8:01

For the record, I would bet several thousand dollars that somebody running for city office in the most recent election knew about “the flyer” before it went out.

8:02

Cliff Myers: “I’m almost 52, and there comes a point in one’s life where you can’t parse words. What happened in the city was pretty ugly, morally repugnant, and abhorrent.” Flyer caused “irreparable harm”. It’s time to align elections with county and state. 25% turnout = it ain’t working. Partisan elections are useful.

Mayor: “Happy birthday”

Cordle: “I’m contemplating legislation to shorten this (upcoming council) term to 3 years”.

8:05

Dave Miller: said everything elegantly and perfectly about the flyer and the council’s lack of action, especially from Classie. “I spoke with Classie Hoyle’s campaign manager the Friday before the election to tell her about the flyer. I find it reprehensible that Classie took no action on this despite knowledge of it, and gained advantage from it. I demand that Classie condemn this, deny all involvement, and help find the sources of funding and development. I call on Classie to resign her seat since she doesn’t have the moral fiber to deny this act.” The speech was like 4 times as long as that but I couldn’t keep up with the typing. Very frank, direct, and correct words.

After this heartfelt speech, most of which was directed at Classie, Classie turned to Finlayson and was laughing. Un-fucking believable.

8:11

Someone tell Sam he is not the only victim of this flyer.

8:13

Classie Hoyle: “My campaign manager did not relay this to me. I found out about the flyer when the results were rolling in on Tuesday night. I will contribute $500 to the reward fund tonight”.

8:14

Scott Bowling: (note to readers, he was the victim of the flyer): “I care about this city. I obviously was not elected, partly due to events that no Annapolitan should be proud of. This is not about losing an election, it’s far greater. My character and reputation were impugned. My name to whatever degree has been tarnished. My belief in civil discourse quite frankly has been shattered. As with most disappointments, opportunity often presents itself. Ward 3 is probably one of the most diverse wards in our city, but as you really go through the ward and observe, we still remain very divided, and that is very unfortunate. We are not divided by roads; the divisions go further. Since leadership has not come from this body (the council), we absolutely must change the level of discourse. We must end the divisiveness and the notion that character assassinations and attacks are part of the norm and the political process. We must end the ability of individuals and fictitious groups to put out materials without accountability, as they know the board of elections has no teeth and they (the groups) will never be held accountable. Our city holds a place in the country’s history—we can certainly do better than what we’ve seen in this election. I have filed requests with the state attorney general and US attorney asking for a complete investigation. As I’ve said, and many have said before me, the actions of this election are really unacceptable and degrading to our city and to our place in history. I am committed to providing the leadership and stamina to ensure that the antics of this election never occur again. Hate crimes have no place in our state or in our city, or anywhere. I am committed to ensuring as much as I can that the individuals responsible for the hateful and bigoted flyer are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. This isn’t about Scott Bowling, because I tell you, I hope each and every one of you has read that flyer. I want to think about the silence that has prevailed up to tonight, because I bet if the names on the flyer were replaced with the names of other candidates, we would be talking about this a lot differently.”

8:22

Guy on crutches: I am here to support Snowden and his appointment to HACA.

Robert Eades: “Find out who put out this garbage.” Robert loudly supports Carl Snowden while concurrently taking a shot at Trudy McFall. “The community loves a person who could bring some fairty (sic) to public housing”. “Just like people are rallying around Scott, as they should, you should rally around the poor people in your wards and communities”. True.

8:28

Trudy McFall: “This has been a really ugly election filled with smears and illegal activities. There were no consequences and people were emboldened to the point until we get to what happened to Scott.” The antics were “cranked up” including what happened in signed emails from Democrat party officials. Trudy is recounting this. “Nobody inside the Democrat party did anything to stop it, investigate it, or do anything. What has come home to roost is illegal, hateful acts in the name of elections in this city”.

Mayor: “I would call on you and anybody involved in the hate blogs to step up and help”.

Mcfall: “excuse me….”

Mayor: “no excuse me, you had your 3 minutes!! You have been a part of these hate filled smears and attacks against me for years”

(holy shit!!)

Mayor: “your smears over the past years hurt my family and my grandchildren”

McFall: “my criticisms were always issue based”

Mayor: “never”

8:33

Pastor: anti-flyer.

Apparently R-71-09 (which is not on the agenda) is the resolution that condemns hate crimes.

The mayor looks exhausted from her argument with Trudy. For the record, Trudy won on speaker points*.

(*Speaker points were invented by my 11th grade speech teacher to give a chance of winning a debate to people with inferior arguments. I once lost a debate on speaker points, and was confused for several years as to why a fuel that was 95% gasoline and only 5% ethanol was a solution go global warming, which was the debate topic. However, since everyone is now selling these 10% ethanol blends, maybe speaker points are given to…the winner.)

8:39

I have never met Tony Spencer, but I believe his title is “Director of Things Taxpayers Do Not Want To Pay For In Tough Economic Times and/or Things Duplicated In Other Departments”. He seems nice though.

8:41

Kungel, KUNGEL…I’ve finally learned Arthur’s last name. Anyway, let me ignore his comments and talk about something else. I have announcement: I have adopted Maryland Ave. as my official economic area/neighborhood in Annapolis. It’s great. There’s a dance studio owned and operated by a Georgetown East Elementary School teacher—she’s there whenever she’s not teaching our children. There’s a cigar shop, a coffee house, and an Irish bar—3 establishments that would sustain my own survival for quite some time. There are jewelers for when you propose to your fiancĂ©e, furniture stores for when you guys get married, art galleries for when you and your wife want to class up the home—and that Irish bar for when your wife drives you crazy. The road is bricks, which is historic. You can see the Naval Academy at one end and the State house at the other—a perfect endorsement of Annapolis’ charm. The antiques stores and the funny gift shop give a good reprieve to what you find downtown. I love it! Support Maryland Ave!

8:47

Arthur was given more than his allotted time. People seem to be amused. Arthur always has interesting points but they only deal with city matters in the most abstract of ways, to put it gently. “At least he doesn’t talk about what’s on the agenda”, a VIP seated next to me remarked.

8:48

Nick Berry (Annapolis Democrat Central Committee Chair): “Vital that elections be honest and transparent. Slime against Bowling has no place. ADCC strongly supports full investigation of this travesty.”

David Prosten (Sierra Club): I didn’t hear what he had to say because (1) I was talking to someone else and (2) the PA system is terrible.

8:52

The temperature has cooled down by probably like 10 degrees. I’m quite comfortable right now, except for my left posterior, which is uncomfortable due to my wallet--which is not thick with money--but rather credit cards, symbolizing debt.

Zastrow Simms: “Carl Snowden has fought the good fight for citizens of HACA”.

Lady involved in an EOE lawsuit: I commend you for fighting for your rights. The lady mentioned Annapolis blogs!! Shout out! “Classie did not know”.

Sharon Kennedy (Historic Preservation Commission): supports concept of energy park.

8:58

What is this energy park??? Why was this not a campaign issue?? I know the campaign issues. This must be a “new issue”. Yikes. I’ll have to investigate.

8:59

Ooohh, we’re now in a public hearing for a “memorandum of understanding” with the energy park people (R-63-09).

Tony Evans: classic case of thinking “I’m acting globally”. I believe Tony just said he’d been to windmill parks in Pennsylvania and China! His point (I think) is that we are behind the curve in energy generation and this is a chance to step forward. Move quickly. Note: Tony ended his testimony 1 second before the buzzer went off, showing a high level of talent and earning himself 200 speaker points.

Alan Hyatt: I didn’t get all of Alan’s testimony but I imagine it started with some type of legal jargon and ended with Alan being $3700 richer than he was when he came here today. I strive for that type of career.

Minor Carter: “I’m here to talk about electricity, but I must warn you, I’m not encumbered by a great deal of knowledge on this issue.” “We don’t need another lawsuit so don’t screw it up.”

Not an Annapolis resident: energy park is good.

9:20 (nearly 2 hours after the theoretical start of the legislative meeting)

No legislation has been voted on. Tony Evans has informed me that what is happening is that the group which submitted a failed bid to operate the energy park is trying to get the council to reconsider.

9:20:30

Bathroom break.

9:31

Still hearing publicly about the energy park.

9:45

Classie Hoyle: “I’m sitting here wondering why, with 2 companies that have compiled so much talent to work on this project, why we have to make a choice”. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that after she said that, 50% of the room rolled their eyes and 2 people actually got up and left.

The Mayor then tried to explain to her whey 2 competing private companies might not be willing or able to collaborate.

9:53

Its seems that the losing bidder, “Seven Seas”, was actually the company the city would have preferred, but they failed to provide proof of financial backing in a timely manner, so the next best company was contacted. When they promptly proved their financial ability, they were awarded the right to develop the project. At least that’s what I gather from how these people are arguing with each other.

9:59

The winning bidders seem competent too. These real estate and venture capital guys are really smart.

10:05

On the 19th, the 2 parties are presenting to the city council. Classie just said “Madam Mayor, I had not anticipated a long meeting on that day, with it being the 100th anniversary of the NAACP”. Wow.

10:08

Finlayson just said something for the first time in the meeting, and it was an appropriate and useful comment. On a side note, I saw the honorable Alderwoman at a polling location on election day. She was dancing and swaying sort of effortlessly, much as I imagine someone would at a rave while under the influence of some hallucinogenic drug. I’M SURE SHE WASN’T ON DRUGS, so don’t try and get me in trouble for saying that. I contrasted her emotional appearance with my actual emotions, and I realized it must be the feeling of a politician running unopposed.

10:12

Incredibly, the parties are now talking about collaborating, making the people who rolled their eyes at Hoyle seem like jackasses.

10:19

Paone just said that the “father of solar energy” is here right now. Sam said it too, but I believe Fred.

10:35

I believe Kenny Kirby is almost as tall as Paone. But not as menacing. And he doesn’t have a fan club.

VOTING!!

Sam wants to move R-70-09 and R-71-09 to the front of the agenda but they haven’t even been introduced and nobody knows what they say. But, the council will vote on them anyway.

Paone just said “I for one don’t have a copy of those bills” and everyone told him don’t worry about it, just vote.

Finlayson just asked the Mayor if they can merge the bills. The mayor said “I suppose” then asked the city attorney. After giving his trademark deer/headlights routine, he said the fastest way to do it would be to merge the bill. The answer, of course, is you can do whatever you want. Just make a motion to do it, then you can vote on whether to merge it or not. Problem is, Israel is an expert on elections procedures, and he’s lecturing everybody on the intent of all these boards and processes, and now everyone forgot what they wanted to do, which was to merge 2 “phantom” bills that only exist on the desks and in the minds of the Aldermen (except Paone). Isn’t city government fun?

10:41

City government is fun.

10:41:30

R-70 (Classie’s bill) is passed on first reader. Goes to public hearing.

R-71 (Sam’s bill) is also passed on first reader.

O-20-09: Newsracks in the Historic District. (NEWSRACKS! WHO CARES). Apparently nobody cares, and the ordinance was POSTPONED.

R-31-09 is the resolution accompanying O-20 and that was also POSTPONED.

O-49-09: Boat Shows (leasing the 2015 rights to the same people who have always done it). PASSES 8-1 (Stankivic)

O-26-09: Open Space Zoning District: PASSES 9-0.

O-28-09: Billing for Emergency Medical Services: PASSES 9-0 I think.

O-33-09: Establishing Standard for Use of Overtime: FAILS (it wasn’t even seconded).

O-36-09: Display Requirements for Sale of Fertilizer: PASSES 9-0.

O-44-09: Authorizing Police to Use Tasers: PASSES 9-0.

R-49-09: Fine Schedule for Violating O-44: PASSES 9-0.

O-46-09: Concentration Limit on Housebarges: PASSES 9-0.

O-48-09: Notice of Hearings and Permitting Procedures for Port Wardens: PASSES 9-0.

O-57-09: Lease of City Dock for 2010 Race Across America: PASSES 8-0 (Cordle just left.)

O-59-09: Stormwater Management Standards Conforming with State Law: POSTPONED

R-61-09: Support for Continued Funding of the Choice Program: PASSES 7-0. (Cordle is def. gone for the night and Stankivic abstained).

R-65-09: Annexation Procedure: POSTPONED.

PASSED ON FIRST READER ONLY AND REFERRED TO COMMITTEE:

0-65-09: R2-NC Zoning District Uses

R-66-09: Tolling Zoning Approval Expiration Dates

R-67-09: Street Rights of Way in Mary’s Mew Subdivision

R-68-09: Authorizing the Mayor to Negotiate Short Term Leases With Existing or Prospective Market House Tenants.

R-69-09: Naming the Gorman St. Building after Mayor Moyer.

11:25

Alderman Stankivic voted “no” on the first reader for the Moyer naming bill and now the Mayor is being a little short with Julie regarding procedure on the Carl Snowden appointment. A little late night fun. Paone and Stankivic want an opinion from either the Attorney General or the State Ethics Commission regarding a possible conflict of interest regarding Mr. Snowden. The Mayor wants them to accept a letter from the city attorney and her assurance that she’s “had a conversation with the attorney general”. Carl Snowden IS APPOINTED TO HACA. No roll call was taken.

Adjournment: 11:32 PM.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Carl Snowden Appointed To HACA

....With ample persuasion from the Mayor and despite objections from several Aldermen.

Live Blog Emergency!

Ughhh...there still isn't internet at city hall and everybody who has wireless internet has it password protected! So, my thoughts will be live but you won't see them until after the meeting ends. I will work on this for next time.

Shooting

Shooting (Sunday, November 8, 2009, 1:38 AM) – Officers went to the 1100 block of Madison Street for the report of shots fired. One victim was found with a gunshot wound to the right leg. He was transported to shock trauma. Neighbors reported hearing the sounds of an altercation before hearing several shots. The investigation is continuing.


View Larger Map

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Whoops

With this post I've got to take care of some procedural issues.

First, I will make a triumphant post-election return to council meeting live blogging on Monday, bringing you all the emotion and fallout from Tuesday.

And second, I have to apologize for a post that has not been made yet.  I know that sounds weird, but here's what happened.  I figured out a way to blog from my "smart" phone, where I can compose an email on the phone, send the email, and have the email's subject be the blog title and the email's body be the actual blog post.  To test my capabilities of posting something I am viewing, I took a picture of my television and followed the blogging procedure on my "smart" phone, forgetting that my "smart" phone is not working correctly and is not sending any emails out.  So, if the phone smartly fixes itself while I'm not near my computer, you will see a meaningless picture of my television (I'm watching soccer), which I will delete later.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Finlayson and Cordle Want to Name City Building After Mayor Moyer

R-69-09

The bill lists the following evidence as to why Moyer should have a building named after her:

-first woman Mayor
-40 years of service, from First Lady to Alderman to Mayor
-founding GreenScape, Annapolis Conservancy, and "the City's numerous Street End Parks"
-completion of a fifteen-year backlog of capital projects, finishing each project during her administration, including the facilities located at 145 Gorman St

Now, I'm not saying some of this stuff doesn't matter.  The first woman Mayor in 300 years has gotta be worth something.  However, if this honor is bestowed upon the Mayor, here are some other awards and honors that could be gifted:

-The Einstein Medal, given to any person who figures out what a Street End Park is, or the Al Gore Internet Award, bestowed upon anybody giving the Mayor credit for inventing parks.

-The Ellen O. Moyer Ceremonial HVAC Trophy, given to the vehicle taking up the maximum amount of parking spaces downtown without patronizing any businesses near those parking spaces, and/or destroying a previously established business without a plan to encourage future business success.

-The Moyer MHPSRDFPA (Market House Police Station Racial Discrimination Firemen Pension Award), a joint prize awarded in collaboration with the Bar Association to the lawyer with the most billable hours in defense of lawsuits where the city is named as a defendant.

-The Ellen Loves German Heritage Award, given to anybody who wears socks with sandals in public. 

-The Facebook award, given to the social networker that accumulates the highest amount of non-reciprocating, resource consuming friends in the style of the Sister City Program.

-The Obama Award, pioneered by Cohen, Fox, and Cordle, given to any politician that mounts a platform of "change" from the previous politician.

-The Citizen Bravery Award, given to any citizen that fulfills their civic duty by testifying at city council in the face of condescension and dismissal of one's opinion.

-The Nepotism and Favoritism Agreement, more of a technical document that is included in the welcome packet for all new city employees.

-The 'That's Not My Job' Medal, given to a Mayor or Police chief when they respond to citizen concerns of violence by saying "You should start a neighborhood watch".

-The Welcome to the 21st Century Award, given to any Mayor who writes their own emails, flies in airplanes, or writes their own blog posts with more frequency than 1 time per year.

The Worst Thing From The Election


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Aldermanic Endorsements

Ward 1
Dick Israel.  Running unopposed, so this is easy.  Regardless of policy views, you can count on his knowledge and positions to be well researched and have reasoning.  Any rumbles of discontent for Israel running after promising to (possibly) leave after one term for health reasons have deferred to the respect due this incumbent alderman.

Ward 2
Fred Paone.  Also unopposed, but it wouldn't matter.  A solid legislator and independent thinker, Fred often makes funny comments that are printed here and increase the popularity of this blog, and he remains the only person with an official fan club.  Also, he stands 9 feet tall, a menacing sight.

Ward 3
Scott Bowling.  This is a 5 star special endorsement, a candidate offering a rare combination of dedication to the issues and community service, logic, and willingness to accept a $12,600 salary while in the prime of one's bill-paying life.

Ward 4
Sheila Finlayson.  I don't want to say "no endorsement", but it's likely I would have endorsed any candidate the Republicans would have put forward.  Since they/we didn't, here we are.

Ward 5
Jim Conley.  I've met Silverman (Conley's opponent) and he seems to be nice, but I support the tax cap and Conley is basing his whole campaign on that, which makes him at least 60% likely to vote for an actual tax cap bill if he's elected.

Ward 6
Greg Stiverson.  Another 5 star special.  Every time Greg writes about an issue, it's the most insightful and accurate position statement on whatever it is he's talking about.  Greg is always 3 steps further than anyone else when considering appropriate solutions to city problems.

Ward 7.
Jennifer Monteith.  I've met Jennifer once and believe her to be a human resources professional.  As we all know, 85% of the city's budget is on salaries, and whereas salaries are determined by union contracts, and whereas human resources professionals know about union contracts, let it be resolved that she share some tricks of the trade and save the city some money.

Ward 8. 
Ross Arnett.  Brave move on my part to break party lines on this one, but Arnett has broken party lines while on the council.  Plus he's an economist, which I would have been had I not decided to flip burgers for fraternity members.  His experience and work on the council-manager and budget are enough to outweigh the fact that he has a full time job and has been criticized for being slow to respond to citizen concerns.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Soon-To-Be-Famous Cohen Postcard

It might be hard to see, so I'll summarize. It's a Cohen piece with Obama's picture that says "continue our progress by voting for the following candidates", then shows Cohen along with the African American Democrat candidates running on Tuesday. Noticeably absent are the Caucasian Democrat candidates, prompting obvious cries of racial politics, divisiveness, the same old story, and certainly NOT the politics of change and bringing people together.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

How Much Money Does The City Make From Parking

This isn't what I would call a "hot button issue" right now, but I had to look this information up today, and I want to write it down before I forget it. I actually called city finance director Tim Elliot to verify this information, and was immediately reprimanded the the Political Bloggers Alliance (Local 637) for breaking their "RAM" business model for blogging: Rumors, Attacks, & Misnomers.

So, for no particular reason other than you might like to know, here are some facts about parking costs and revenues in 2010.

-The parking garages are managed by Park America. The city will pay them $1.02 million and they will manage and staff the garages and 2 lots owned by the city.

-The garages and 2 lots will generate about $3.7 million in revenue (which the city gets).

-The garages and lots will produce a surplus (profit) of about $800,000, after accounting for depreciation, the money paid to Park America, debt service on the bonds issued to build the garages, and other expenses.

-If you want to know how much money each specific garage produces, you can look at the budget for the Central Services Department.

-The garages and lots are collectively known as "off street parking" and the budget details can be found in the "off street parking enterprise fund".

-The on-street parking is listed in the budget as "parking operations". Parking operations are listed in the budget for the transportation department but as of last year they are actually a part of the police department.

-Expenditure on parking operations is estimated to be $739,000. $680,000 of that is salaries and benefits for parking enforcement officers, and the rest is gas for their vehicles, and other things.

-Parking operations revenue is budgeted at $1.8 million: $900,000 each from parking meters and citations.

-Parking operations therefore results in a surplus (profit) of about $1.06 million.

-The city plans to collect $78,500 through the sale of residential parking permits.

So, to answer the question that is the title of this post:

$800,000: profit from off-street parking (garages and lots)
$1,061,000: profit from parking operations (meters and tickets)
$78,500: sales of residential parking permits
_______
$1,939,500 total 2010 profit associated with parking.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bowling vows to repeal 54% increase in Liquor Fees

For Immediate Release

Contact: Scott Bowling, 443-822-3170
Corey Stottlemeyer (301) 331-8028

Bowling vows to repeal 54% increase in Liquor Fees

(Annapolis, MD, October 19,2009) Today, Scott Bowling (Candidate for Alderman, Ward 3)
denounced Mayor Ellen Moyer, Finance Committee Chair Classie Hoyle, and the rest of the
Annapolis City Council for the 54-percent increase in liquor fees for restaurants, taverns,
package goods stores, and hotels and vows to introduce a budget amendment to repeal this
increase when elected on November 3rd• These fee increases on residents and businesses that are buried in the budget and passed by the Council under a cloud of secrecy must end.

According to The Capital editorial on Sunday, October 18,2009, Finance Committee Chair,
Alderwoman Classie Hoyle stated "the liquor license fees were in the budget, had anyone
bothered to look". The Capital goes on to say, "That's the problem: The council thinks it's the
taxpayer's responsibility, not its own, to know about fee increases. The Alderman would rather
tell us about awards and plastic bag bans."

"Once again, the Mayor and Council are going out of their way to hurt our local businesses in
Annapolis," said Bowling. "Worse yet, they are making these laws in a vacuum. They are not
talking to the businesses that are affected by the fee hikes."

These new fees come on top of a 30-percent increase from the previous year, placing liquor fees
in Annapolis significantly higher than Baltimore City and other Maryland municipalities.

"In these tough economic times, the Mayor and City Council should be working with businesses,
not taxing them," said Bowling. "Unfortunately, this is what we have come to expect from
Alderwoman Hoyle, Mayor Moyer, and their cohorts at City Hall."

"At best the Council was negligent in approving these fees without a more transparent process," said Bowling. "At worst, they were deceptive."

####

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Yes, This Blog Is Alive

I'm going to take a minute to address the following comment that I received on my most recent blog update:

Paul A. Richards said...

IS THIS BLOG ALIVE?

No postings for 3 weeks -- then a political ad. Is this a Fox blog?

Please explain.

October 17, 2009 7:14 PM

Short answer: yes the blog is alive, and no, it's not a "Fox Blog".

And now for the long answer*.

(*Note: blogs are known for long answers to short questions.)

I started this blog like 2 and a half years ago to combat boredom. Having recently underwent ankle surgery, I was looking for a way to entertain myself without ruining the surgical precision of Dr. Holt, so I decided to use my limited writing talent and limited knowledge of politics to produce a blog that was of interest to a limited number of people.

When I started the blog, my life was RELATIVELY stable. I enjoyed a modicum of free time, and the blog thrived!

These days, the life is not so stable. My basement keeps flooding, Mrs. Politics wants me to take her out to dinner all the time**, work is growing ever busier, and various other factors have conspired to minimize my free time. Since I have no intentions of using this blog as a career or a money maker, it gets last priority and I post if and when it suits me. Lately, it's been not that much.

(**Note to Mrs. Politics: just kidding! Sometimes I have to exaggerate to increase the popularity and ratings of this blog. And if this blog is popular, we are a popular couple! Work with me.)

I am working on the Fox campaign. That's not a secret. Because my time is limited and because my opinion is biased, you see Fox updates and promotions here. However, this blog is not a "puppet" of the campaign. There are differences between policies that I advocate here and what the next Mayor of Annapolis advocates on his campaign platform.

Don't worry! Election day is November 3rd. On my calendar, November 4th is scheduled as "Bars and Cigars". But starting November 5th, I will return to my "pre-campaign and pre-crazy-work" level of blogging, and all will be well once more.

Also I hope to live blog the next council meeting, so mark your calendar!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

"Fox For Mayor" Trivia Team Takes Second Place In Trivia Grandchampionship

Every Monday at the Sly Fox Pub there is a heated trivia competition. The questions are researched by an employee of Sly Fox, and up to 30 teams participate.

Mrs. Politics, ever the trivia savant, was on a trivia team aptly named "Fox For Mayor". Points were accumulated from week to week, and the top-performers were invited to participate in a playoff featuring a different format and more difficult questions.

The playoff took place this past Monday, with the "Fox For Mayor" team taking second place! Mrs. Politics, noting that posts on this blog don't always have to be about politics, asked that I post an announcement about the accomplishment.

I agreed to make such a post, and failure to do so until now has been a source of fodder from my better half for the past 6 days!

So here it is, hon. Congratulations!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Democratic Process Influenced By Failure of Journalism

This is a continuation of this post. I could have included all this info in the same post, but the more posts you make, the more hits you get on your blog. And the more hits you get on your blog, the more likely you are to win the lottery. Why do you think people write such drivel on blogs?

(Note to bloggers: just kidding. Just trying to entertain the masses.)

(Note 2.0 to bloggers: don't write drivel.)

So, everyone likes to make fun of the media, and for good reason---many media outlets are terrible. In Annapolis, we have the misfortune of having only one major newspaper, The Capital, which is particularly infamous for inaccuracy. This blog named itself to point out the shortcomings of the newspaper. The bumper sticker "End Capital Punishment, Cancel Your Subscription" serves the same purpose. On the rare occasions in my life when I have spoken with people important enough to have their names/stories told in The Capital, I've heard horror stories of quotes that began as "Mrs. Politics is a great girlfriend" and ended as "Mayor Moyer kicked me in the rear end".

The Capital totally missed this story. The Post and The Sun missed it too, but they have an excuse because they actually have other real stories to write about. The Capital should have uncovered this long ago. I would have uncovered it myself, buy my legal team advises me that the farther away I stay from the court system, the better.

Imagine how different the campaign would have been if Zina's legal history was reported a year ago when she entered the race. Sam Shropshire, a sitting alderman, is facing highly publicized legal troubles....and he received 9 votes. NINE. VOTES. Before this campaign, Zina Pierre had no name recognition in this town. If somebody that nobody knows was labeled as having such problems, would their campaign have even gotten off the ground? Probably not. Instead of (essentially) a 3-person race, would it have been Josh vs Trudy? Who knows what the outcome would have been?

As it is, the media missed the story, Zina was elected, and now has withdrawn. The Democrat central committee gets to pick the replacement. Cohen certainly has to be a front runner. Will McFall lobby for the nomination? I would. One can't help but think that if the media did its job, she might not have had this burden.

Pierre Withdraws From Race; Central Committee Can Choose Replacement

Whenever something confuses me in politics, I always look for the most cynical explanation possible. Such an approach is usually accurate in ascertaining the truth, and has served me well on several occasions where suspension of total disbelief was a good quality to have.

One day after Zina Pierre was officially certified as the Democrat nominee for the Mayoral election, details of legal problems surfaced. The Capital sent out an email confirming that, in the face of these revelations and citing personal reasons, Zina had decided to drop out of the race. I believe The Sun will run a story tomorrow.

To quote a poker promo from ESPN: this is beyond fairy-tale, it's inconceivable. So what now? You're going to like this. Section 4.20.150 (C) of the city code allows a candidate nominated for office to decline their nomination within 10 days of receiving that nomination. And wouldn't you know it: it's less than 10 days since Zina received the nomination. And wouldn't you also know, section 4.20.160 allows the central committee--in this case the Democrat Central Committee--to fill the vacancy with WHICHEVER CANDIDATE THEY PICK.

Here's the email from the chairman of the Democrat Central Committee:
Dear ADCC Members and Friends,

Zina has withdrawn her candidacy after the revelations of her legal
problems. We in no way urged her to do so and left it to her judgment. We feel
sad for her and all her supporters.This puts a great deal of importance on
the ADCC, that by city code is charged to name a successor by October 2. ADCC is
under no City Charter/Code restraints in our choice and we then must establish
the procedures for our choice.

We will have to meet shortly. Our meeting for September 23 is still on.
Let me know if these dates are available to the elected members: Sept. 24, 25,
26, 28, and 29. In the meantime, consult with Democrats in your wards, our
elected officials, and your own thoughts.

Still, Victory in ‘09!
Nick

The statement that "we in no way urged" Zina is of course believed by everyone to be fucking bullshit. I'm sorry to cuss but it's such an arrogant attitude that one is left with no other articulation of one's feelings.

The email chatter has been off the charts on this issue, so I'll pass that along to you. In addition to the email chatter, I've had several verbal conversations about what's happening. My promise to you, the blog reader, is that I will plagiarize equally the thoughts I heard from emails and those from phone conversations.

I enjoy email chatter, because it tends to offer the most cynical and far-fetched explanations of any given event. And as we learned at the beginning of this post, that makes it correct. Even the most amateur politico could follow the storyline. The "chosen candidate", Josh Cohen, gets in the race because he has the backing of the machine and thinks he can win with their money and influence. The "machine" is defined as Mike Busch, John Astle, Ellen Moyer, and the Democrat Central Committee. The machine got Sam Shropshire elected in this manner, and they're at it again.

I guarantee this info about Zina is not new. The machine likely dug it up when Zina jumped in the race, but sat on it in hopes that Josh would win straight up and they wouldn't have to use it. When Zina won, they sprung into action--and they worked quickly because they knew the code says Zina would have to resign within 10 days of winning the primary. I mean, think about it....Zina knows politics. She worked for Bill Clinton, and runs a lobbying firm. She had enough expertise to beat Cohen--despite his machine backing; and to beat Trudy McFall--who ran a perfect campaign for 2 years. You mean to tell me that one setback would be enough to convince her to drop out of the race for personal reasons?? Shenanigans!! I call shenanigans! The legal problems seem to deal with economic circumstances. So Zina is facing economic hardship...just like half of freeking Annapolis! A clever candidate could spin that in their favor...not bow out of the race.

You know what else is interesting?? People always talk about "ending the partisanship"...the bickering between Republicans and Democrats. But this wasn't the Republicans sticking it to the Democrats--this was Democrat skulduggery all the way!! "Incest Partisanship" is what I call it--don't be surprised if that term catches on. Heck, the Republican candidate hasn't done anything political in, like...8 years! It's not enough for the machine to retain power for their party; they have to retain power for their lineage.

Now, as far as I know, Josh has not yet been officially selected as the replacement for Zina. I know Josh on a quasi-personal level, and I will say that he's been pleasant on the few occasions we've ordered beers from the same bartender. He's commented on this blog before, and is more than welcome to offer an explanation. But this whole thing reeks of a sinister plan executed as designed.

Edit: After posting this, I spoke with someone who I consider to be reliable and knowledgeable, and that person swears the machine had no prior knowledge of these issues. It's hard to believe but I guess it's plausible. Could it possibly not be Cohen that is chosen by the central committee?

There is still much to consider. First, as the first commenter says, what a failure of journalism. If the Capital spent as much time researching their candidate profiles as they do the Home of The Week, we would have known about Zina's problems long ago.

...which brings me to another point--Zina deserves blame. The charges against her, if intentional, represent characteristics we don't want in a mayor. There were questions--including on this blog--about Zina's candidacy when she entered the race. And for every question answered, we have 3 new ones in its place.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Monday, September 14, 2009

City Council Meeting 9/14/09: Live Blog!

Many people tell me that the live blogs are their favorite feature on this blog. I am proud of that compliment, because turning the painfully boring into something useful and interesting is a key skill for anyone seeking a future career in economics. Some people have told me that they follow the live blog while watching the telecast of the meeting on television. Wow. In some jurisdictions that's known as 'double jeopardy', and is prohibited by law. I haven't heard of that much masochism since Mrs. Politics agreed to go on a first date with me more than 3 years ago*.
(Within 2 weeks of that first date, Mrs. Politics left for Spain--with a one way ticket and no plans to return. This is a true story.)

7:13

There is a work session going on right now, preceding the council meeting. Arthur, the historian whose last name I don't know, came up to me expressing anger. Trudy McFall, he says, always brags about how she goes to everything. "Is she here now?...no". Technically he is correct, but I pretended to ignore him just so he knows that he can't be a ghost writer of this blog.

7:15

Arthur just asked Tony Evans "what if there's inflation". I will now permanently ignore him.

7:15:30

Actually, deflation is a scary thing. I think it's scarier than inflation and I'll tell you why. With the case of inflation, the economy and the authorities can react. Employers can raise salaries to keep up with cost of living, banks can raise the interest rate on loans so that they make a real (meaning inflation-adjusted) profit, and central banks can raise their target interest rate to try and 'ease the expansionary pressure'. If you have deflation, it's harder to do the opposite. It's more painful and difficult to lower wages, even if the cost of living falls more than wages and your standard of living increases. Plus, interest rates don't rarely go below 0%. Banks would have to be SURE of deflation to actually pay you to take a loan. Conclusion: inflation and deflation are both scary. Inflation is the bigger concern now.

7:26

ALERT: SHROPSHIRE PLANS TO RE INTRODUCE CITY MANAGER BILL. So far nobody support him, including Doug Smith apparently.

7:29

An early start! Not a heavy crowd, but several luminaries. All elected officials are here. Alderman Israel sports a fresh haircut and receives a compliment from the Mayor. How nice. I have since learned that when receiving his new buzz cut, he requested "give me the Doug Smith". Funny.

7:32

A new 2 a.m. bill is on first reader, and there are people here who do not like this. The mayor knows this, and tries to deflect some ire by reminding people that there will be a public hearing for this bill, and that hearing is not taking place right now. As a result of her suggestion, nobody did anything different.

7:36

There are several council meeting hallmarks to look for when you are watching a meeting. The most famous is Alderman Shropshire addressing the crowd on television, but there's also Stankivic voting "no" on a first reader, committee chairmen cancelling their meetings, Alderman Paone growing another 6 inches, and the city attorney declining to comment on something. Tonight, I'm looking for something special--more than 2 Alderman asking to be added as co-sponsors to any bill submitted by Alderman Israel, an event that reflects the belief that Israel actually researched the legislation he submitted.

7:39

The public is now allowed to speak. First is candidate Cohen, opposing the 2 AM bill (on first reader). He pledges that, if Mayor, and if this bill passes, he will try to repeal the law when he becomes mayor.

THIS will tell you about 95% of what you need to know about the 2 AM "Bar Wars" back story.

7:42

A common theme is that even for things that might make sense, we should wait for the next council to consider it. I guess this makes sense for big issues, but city government shouldn't shut down just because there's a campaign going on.

(Note: There is a campaign going on. The primary is tomorrow.)

7:43

Arthur is telling the council the same thing he told me earlier. They seem equally appreciative of the information.

7:51

Minor Carter: Midnight bars knew what they were getting into when they opened.

7:54

Alderwoman Finlayson just made a surprisingly lucid argument, asking Minor "we make changes all the time to laws that were previously in place...are you telling me we shouldn't consider ever changing anything". I use the word "lucid" in the hopes that it means logical--I apologize for not knowing the meaning of the word, it's just that there's not that many chances to use the word 'logical' or any of its synonyms while at a city council meeting.

7:56

Tony Evans: The Market House is an example of why outgoing councils shouldn't decide on things. Tony calls Ward 1 a "tax colony" for the rest of the city, perpetuating the Ward 1 superiority syndrome that has plagued Annapolis for longer than this blog can document.

7:59

Ugh, more people are testifying against the 2 am bill, and my fingers are getting tired of typing. So, until something different happens, I am not going to type. Here is how it works. There is a certain population of Ward 1 who really does not want more 2 am licenses. They claim that the extra 2 hours of being opened cause exponential damage to their flower pots, and overall quality of life. Broadly, they are not all that interested in suggestions to enforce the laws (i.e. nuisance, vandalism) that already exist, or to recognize that parking reform could be a solution--since most people who urinate in flower pots do so on the way back to their illegally parked cars. They also tend to define fairness not necessarily as a level playing field for businesses, but as full disclosure of the unfairness at the time of inception of the business.

I tend to think of this as a squeaky wheel problem...the people who vigorously oppose this are also the people who come to meetings and are politically active. If you surveyed every citizen of Annapolis--not to mention the tourists on whom the city depends to create revenue--and more than 25% of those people opposed the 2 AM idea, I would do the unthinkable and let a Ward 1'er actually write a paragraph on this blog!

8:06

While various citizens debate with various Aldermen, let me take a moment to address a comment I received on my last post. The commenter suggests that blogging is so "passe", suggesting that I should "twitter" the proceedings of the meeting. I want to nip this idea in the but. For those of you that don't know, Twitter is a torture mechanism created by the Internet itself aimed at making obsolete the social networking site you just learned about, and making you feel inferior for not understanding what is a tool of only modest effectiveness.

The Internet has become self-aware, much like the robot in I Robot and the computer in War Games. First it created MySpace, which was replaced by Facebook due to the latter's ability to weed out creepy people. Sadly, Facebook actually requires people to mutually acknowledge that they are friends in real life before they can be friends on the web site. With Twitter, you can search for your favorite celebrity, non-celebrity, friend, victim, or other entity, then unilaterally sign up to "follow" that person, which allows you to receive 140-letter updates of what the person you are following is doing or thinking at any given time.

Twitter is useful in some circumstances, but one outlet for me to articulate my brain activity is more than adequate.

8:19

In my life, I have heard the words "Ward 1 Sector Study" just as many times as I have heard the words "would you like a lime in that", a correlation that highlights the measures a sane person must take to counteract the effect of political involvement.

8:28

Voting Time.

Shropshire moves to add CA-08-09, a new city manager charter amendment.

They are doing something regarding the new parking fees but it's not on the agenda and I can't hear what they're saying.

O-25-09: Requires the Public Works Department to establish and implement at 10-year water and sewer plan. PASSES 9-0.

O-32-09: Directs the order of voting for a roll call to be a "rotating sequence". FAILS 5-4 (I think...the PA system is too damn inaudible.) (voting no: Moyer, Israel, Cordle, Stankivic, Arnett).

Bills Passed on First Reader:

O-27-09: 2 AM licenses.
O-50-09: Lease of dock space for a sailboat race.
O-52-09: Rules for foreclosure properties.
R-56-09: Fines to accompany the foreclosure ordinance.
R-54-09: To declare September 2009 as "Family Day"! (Not a joke). Rules suspended. "Family Day" adopted on final reader.

There are some appointments and budget revisions that you may want to look at, perhaps particularly Carl Snowden to the HACA board.

September 28th meeting moved to October 5 because of Yom Kippur.

910: adjournment.