Monday, February 23, 2009

Public Hearing 2/23/09: Live Blog

Here again, all is well.

Welcome to the bi-monthly live blog of the exiting municipal proceedings of the Annapolis City Government. As always, anybody correctly guessing the ending time of the meeting is entitled to a complimentary sandwich prepared by one of my minions from the catering conglomerate that bought the computer I am typing with right now.

The call of capitalism was extra loud and extra early today, but I had an emergency cup of coffee late in the afternoon and some frosted mini-wheats (no milk) while I was driving over here, so I should have enough energy to see this post through, provided we aren't here past 11 pm.


We are starting and all the Aldermen are here. No nonsense, and we are in to public testimony right away.


CA-01-09: Technical Correction Charter Amendment.

-nobody testified

O-02-09: Technical Amendments to City Election Code.

-nobody testified

O-43-08: Business Community Identification Sign in Non-Residential Zoning Districts.

-I don't know what a "business community identification sign" is.

-Apparently it's an unofficial title that a group of businesses may want to bestow upon themselves, such as the "Annapolis Design District" as suggested by the person testifying now. This would theoretically attract people to the area. The bill would allow these signs.

-The planning commission recommends against the ordinance for a lack of specificity and because we already have sign laws. Arnett doesn't like the bill because it changes the laws of the whole city to benefit one specific ward and in fact just a few specific businesses.

-I've reached my 7 minute maximum of paying attention to the City Sign Code so I will not be paying attention again until the next bill comes up.


Update: they are still talking about signs. I am making revisions to menus. You can contact the city clerk to find out what they were talking about.


Ok, we're back.

O-01-09: Notification of BPA by Retailers

-This bill was dead but now it's back in a different form.

-Pro-business lobbyists are lobbying against the bill because it would negatively affect sales and is a pain in the ass to comply with. The Mayor is arguing with these lobbyists because she likes to argue, and perhaps because of other reasons.

-Alderman Arnett just referenced the surgeon general.

(Update #2: the following Alderman have not said anything yet at all today: Israel, Cordle, Stankivic, Shropshire.)

-Chemist: "consensus about safety of BPA", plus FDA is currently assessing the situation so let them finish

-Canada: "the general public need not be worried (about BPA) does not pose a health risk"

-Arnett: what the rest of the world thinks doesn't matter because we have different consumption patterns than them

-Chemist: consumption patterns are close enough

-Blogger (passionately): report referenced by the city says that there isn't any data for what BPA would do to humans, and city doesn't have the resources or expertise to figure out what the data might be, plus there are a lot of things that are dangerous and we don't require signs for those, plus it's not the city's job to warn people about this.


O-07-09: Compensation of Mayor and Aldermen

-bill would increase mayoral pay by 70% and aldermanic pay by 50%

-aldermanic candidate: "strong opposition", "out of touch with current economic climate", "pure and simple economic irresponsibility"

-Cordle: "public service should not be penalized"

-It's somewhat stunning that many people are taking the position that $70,000 can't put food on the table. It might not buy you the life you want, but that's a decent living. That being said, I think these people need to make more money. If there isn't a city manager, the city administrator should be eliminated and the mayor should make $120,000 because that position would be doing everything. A major reason for supporting the city manager proposal is that by hiring a professional manager, you can make sure that your $120,000 buys someone qualified. But since the council killed that proposal, here we are.

-Most arguments about this are political, such as "they don't deserve this", or "this isn't the right time to be giving a raise of this amount". But the fact is, the pay won't be adjusted again for 4 years, and this recession will (knock on wood) be a distant memory at that point. The elected positions are underpaid now, even given the assumption that all elected positions will be underpaid in relation to the private market. And not only does the new compensation have to make up for the positions being underpaid, it has to cover a 4 year period, as it won't be raised each year.

-Arnett: "never a good time" for increases in elected official pay

-There seems to be some sensible discussion about having incremental increases (pre approved).

-There is a logical argument against the bill that we do not have a problem with recruiting, therefore we do not need to move along the demand curve (offer a bigger salary) to attract more people. The caveat would be that we are more likely to attract a qualified candidate if the offer is for more money.

-The mayor is quick to emphasize that the commission recommending a $120,000 mayoral salary was making a value recommendation, whereas the council clearly must make a political decision.

-Finlayson: "we need to stop thinking of paying our Mayor and Aldermen as something dirty or foul"


Alderman Sam just referred to his own quote in the newspaper, but this does not fulfill his quota of addressing the viewing public on television.


Alderman Paone just called out Alderman Sam for "BEGGING" the compensation committee to double his pay, then denying it in front of this television audience! Incredible! I mean Alderman Paone is really laying into him. Perhaps most impressive is how Alderman Paone worked in the viewing audience before Alderman Sam did!! "You are saying something 180 degrees different than what you said at that meeting"!! Tune in to the TV broadcast right now because my hands are tired and I can explain the drama that is going on.


Shout out to all my old homeboys in ward 5.

-Israel: we should be taking this up along with the budget process.


-The chairman of the compensation committee just said that she knows that there were people waiting to announce their candidacy for mayor because they were waiting to see how much it would pay.

We are about to start some voting.

R-60-08: Waiving $210,000 in permit fees for the Lighthouse Shelter. Amended to waiving only $123,000. PASSES 7-2 (Cordle, Stankivic)

O-08-09: Lease of City Property To Cricket Communications (allows a cell phone tower on the top of a water tank for 5 years for $42,000, it would appear): PASSES ON FIRST READER.

R-14-09: Requesting That The School Board Continue To Let Us Use Their Schools For Elections. PASSES ON FIRST READER, THEN RULES SUSPENDED AND PASSED FOR REAL. 9-0.

Meeting adjourns at 10:35.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Cordle To Make "Major Address"

Wasting no time after the defeat of the city manager proposal, Ward 5 Alderman Dave Cordle is set to make a big announcement at the Wednesday Republican Breakfast Club, which meets at the Eastport Yacht Club at exactly 7:30 every Wednesday morning.

The 'major address' will most certainly be Cordle's formal announcement of his candidacy for Mayor.

It has been theorized that Alderman Cordle would only run for Mayor if he had the prospect of the power that the office currently holds. With that power intact and a $50,000 mayoral pay raise on the table, it seems that Alderman Cordle is rushing to join the party, at least officially.

This is an interesting political move by the Alderman from the city's most glamorous ward. For about the past year, Alderman Cordle has been careful to support most of Ward 1's causes, correctly speculating that a successful Republican candidacy would need their support. With a
'no' vote on City Manager, Cordle has squarely abandoned this strategy, and it will be interesting to see the consequences that he might face.

If not the only Republican candidate, Corlde is still the most viable candidate for the primary election for his party.

Monday, February 9, 2009

City Council Meeting 2/9/09: Live Blog

Greetings and salutations. The pre-meeting festivities tonight began with the city elevator getting stuck while carrying the Mayor, the City Clerk, and myself, and continues now with a presentation of the history of this city hall building. Early hopes are for a quick meeting tonight, so anybody looking to win a pulled pork sandwich by guessing the correct time of the meeting's end should guess accordingly.


I have learned that the people giving the presentation about the building are actually part of the company that has been hired to fix the building. You may remember that parts of the council chambers actually fell from the ceiling some time ago. You may also remember the air conditioning fiasco.


Don't worry, we aren't starting on time. Just a heads up, we are scheduled to have a vote on the city manager tonight.


Ok, now we're starting. Everyone is here.


We are now in committee reports, the time of the meeting when I check my email.


Alderman Shropshire just "invited the public" to do something, which is not the same as addressing the viewing public on television, for those scoring at home.


No new emails. (I answered most of them on my Blackberry.)


The chair of the compensation committee reports that the "modest and incremental approach to compensation taken by the last committee has led to an erosion of the mayor's salary in constant dollars and may have contributed to salary inequities."


The compensation committee is still speaking. They are currently offering testimony on what I would consider the fringe of the purview of "compensation", just now suggesting that Aldermen should have access to meeting spaces, the right to purchase city health care, and the ability to hire interns.


The mayor suggests that the compensation committee recommendations reflect a 'value standard' of pay, as opposed to the political considerations of voting pay raises for elected officials, appropriately putting into perspective the dilemma attached to paying yourself with other people's money.


Scheduled for a vote tonight is a bill that would exempt the Lighthouse Shelter from paying permits on some new construction they are doing, in an amount north of $200,000 I think. There is a Lighthouse rep here appealing for its passage, probably because the idea was met with ample negativity during public hearing.



CA-04-08: City Manager (The Better One)

Ok, it looks like the Aldermen are going to speak their minds before the actual vote happens. Paone says that his generation hated Nixon, but never contemplated changing the national government. Sounds like a negative vote from him upcoming. He acknowledged himself as being the "swing" vote on this measure, and seems to be pre-justifying what he is apparently about to do. He is also suggesting a the lobbying effort from both sides on him, and his disappointment that both sides were so entrenched on their views before public hearings that such rhetoric as the Magna Carta or the Declaration of Independence would not have swayed their viewpoint. He is expressing his loneliness at being the only person listening to both sides, only to be accused of waffling! "I did what I'm paid to do".

Alderman Paone is laying groundwork to suggest that a change of such magnitude should obtain the consent of the people through referendum, and seems unwilling to cast his vote in favor without that direct approval of the citizenry, which we won't get without quite a concerted effort. Looks like this bill is going down.

For those of you who may be watching, or not, there is an embarrassment of parliamentary procedure going on right now. What happened was there was a vote to end debate and call the question (meaning proceed to the vote on the bill), which passed. So, the bill was now on the table. The mayor asked for votes, there were several "yes" votes, and zero "no" votes. After that, they all said "what are we voting for", ignoring the fact that they had just voted the bill into law. But, they deliberated a while, and effectively voted again.

Here is the roll call:
Moyer: NO
Israel: YES
Paone: NO
Hoyle: NO
Finlayson: NO
Cordle: N0
Stankivic: YES

CA 04-09 FAILS.

Now the other one, CA-06. This really wouldn't change that much. And it FAILS.

O-39-08: Later Closing Hours For Wine Bars In The MX Zone: PASSES 6-2 (Stankivic and Shropshire, Hoyle abstains.)

O-48-08: Temporary Parking Changes On Maryland Ave and Hanover St.: PASSES (I missed the roll call).

R-60-08: Wavier Of Fees For Lighhouse Shelter: POSTPONED.

R-62-08: Authorizing The Negotiation of a PILOT For Admiral Oaks: PASSES 6-3 (Paone, Stankivic, Shropshire).

R-04-09: Environmental Compliance Inspector: PASSES 8-1 (Stankvic)


O-04-09: Sandwich Board Signs
O-05-09: Invasive Plants
O-06-09: False Alarms
R-10-09: Fines For False Alarms
O-07-09: Compensation of Mayor And Aldermen
R-11-09: First Sundays 2009
R-12-09: March Madness Sidewalk Sale
R-13-09: Support of a Federal Carbon Tax and Dividend

Meeting ends at.......9:39 (ish).

Hefty Raises Proposed For Mayor And Aldermen

I haven't been following the newspapers or other blogs so I don't know if it has been already reported, but then again I don't care if you've already read about this because I feel like writing about it.

O-07-09, on first reader tonight proposes to increase the salary of the Mayor from $70,000 to $120,000, and the salary of the Aldermen from $12,600 to $18,500.

The 71.4% increase in the Mayor's salary and the 46.8% increase to the Aldermen would be large by any measure. However, the pay for Aldermen would still be woefully inadequate for the job they are asked to do. The Mayor's salary is up for debate. For a Mayor under the current power scheme, it's probably closer to appropriate than inappropriate. For a Mayor under a council-manager form of government, it's too much.

My guess is that the supporters of a strong mayor will try and pass this bill to assign more prestige to the office and try and keep things the way they are. My other guess is that the public will be furious to award the Mayor's office more money after the disappointments of the current office holder.