Council re-convenes, City elections update

Hello again! It has been a while! I took a nice long break during the August recess of the Council, took some much-needed family time, but now it’s time to get back into the Council work. We have 4 meetings left in this term until our “sine die”. I have a number of pieces of legislation on the docket that I’ll be hoping to bring to a positive conclusion:

  • Police Enhancement And Community Engagement (PEACE) ordinance, which would transition more towards community policing, enacts common sense reforms, adopts recommendations from the AA County gun violence task force, and much more;
  • Forest Conservation tweak – closing two loopholes; and
  • Requiring permits when removing trees over 23” anywhere in City.

I’ll include a few election updates below, but I do want to note that you will NOT be receiving a primary election ballot since there are no contested primary races in our Ward. You WILL receive a general election ballot. I also want to say a big THANK YOU, and say that I look forward to representing you for another 4-years. I hope to organize a town hall in October at an outdoor venue.

Stay healthy and stay safe,

Rob

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ward 7 environmental emergency - legislative update

I’d like to fill you in on an environmental emergency out at ironically named Parkside Preserve (aka Reserve at Quiet Waters), which instead of preserving our newest park instead has polluted it. I’ll provide details below in the updates section. But if it outrages you that developers polluted public lands, sensitive non-tidal wetlands that form the headwaters of Quiet Waters Park, and broke the law to do so, then please read on.

Also, this is our last Council meeting before our August break, and it’s our last meeting for us to introduce Ordinances before the end of our terms (unless we suspend the rules); hence, we have quite a bit of legislation on the agenda.

In case you didn’t notice from the last meeting, we postponed the Short Term Rental legislation vote until this Monday, we voted down the medical cannabis legislation after it was weakened with some poison amendments, and we passed the legislation that allows the proposed Lidl grocery store to connect to our sewer and water.

Also, at the start of our Monday meeting, at 6pm, we will be having a closed door meeting speaking about the Hillman parking garage replacement project. Our regular meeting starts at 7pm.

Lastly, I’m introducing two pieces of legislation to address some loopholes in the City regarding tree/forest protection that we uncovered recently. More information on these below.

Stay healthy and stay safe,

Rob

 

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cannabis dispensaries, short term rentals vote

I hope you had a pleasant 4th of July. It’s so nice to see our City start to look like normal again, and I’m very excited that our outdoor concerts are resuming at the Maritime Museum and Quiet Waters Park. But down to business…

We have a few upcoming votes I wanted to draw to your attention. The first is on legislation that would allow medical cannabis dispensaries to be located in certain areas in the City, and the second is a final vote on legislation that would require non-owner occupied short term rentals to get special exceptions (e.g. have to go before a board for final approval). I’ll give you my thoughts on these below.

Also, we will be voting on the two pieces of legislation that would allow the proposed Lidl (redevelopment at the old C&C liquors site) to connect to our utilities.

Details on that and more below.

Stay healthy and stay safe,

Rob

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Lidl update, Council meeting details

Campaign kick-off a success

For those who were able to make it out to the campaign kick-off this past Thursday, thank you! It was a very successful event and it was indeed a pleasure to see everyone again. If you were unable to make it, I'll look forward to catching you at the next fundraiser or town hall meeting. 

Lidl grocery store & C&C liquors site

As you’ll see below, I’m introducing two pieces of legislation that will allow the proposed Lidl grocery store, to be located at the old C&C liquors site in the County, to connect to our City utilities. Now that they have committed to honoring our comprehensive plan and working with the adjacent lot to make a parking lot connection (for the proposed Bay Village Drive connection), I no longer have any reservations about this project.

Previous meeting

At our previous meeting we voted in favor of CA-1-21, which created an Office of Community Services, located under the City Manager's Office.

Read on for a full break-down of our upcoming Council meeting, as well as for details on the latest draft of the Annapolis Comprehensive Plan.

Stay healthy and stay safe,

Rob

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Public hearings, July 4th details, re-election kick-off party

There is quite a bit of legislation up for a public hearing at Monday’s City Council meeting. This includes an adjustment to our chicken permitting and the short term rental legislation proposed by Alderwoman Tierney. Also, we have some legislation being introduced that would institute non-partisan elections in Annapolis. I’m open to the idea, if done right, but this legislation would not do it right and it’s also not something that should be introduced this close to an actual election, before our Charter Review Commission even releases their recommendations. Read on for more on my thinking on this.

Towards the end of this email I have a number of community updates for you, including a City-wide youth town hall and details on our fourth of July celebrations.

Party on the beach! Re-election campaign kick-off

I have been honored to have had the opportunity to serve you for the past 4 years, and I hope you will give me an opportunity to do so for another 4 years. I am holding a re-election kick-off party on Bembe Beach, overlooking the Severn River, at the Annapolis Sailing school on June 24th, complete with food from Main & Market and bossa nova from local musician Jonathan Stone. I hope we can reconnect and catch up at this event (from 6 to 9pm). You can get tickets at https://www.robsavidge.com/campaign_kick_off_21

Stay healthy and stay safe,

Rob

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Budget vote tomorrow, re-election kick-off

Voting on proposed City budget tomorrow

We do have a Council meeting tomorrow, starting at 10am. The entire day/meeting will be dedicated to discussing amendments to the budget, with a final vote on the budget later in the day. In general, I think this budget is very responsible, in that we are not utilizing all of our bailout money this year (half is being saved for next year), most of the department cuts from last year remain in place, and there is a very slight decrease in the total number of employees. That said, my biggest concern about our budget is the same as last year: we still have a structural deficit that is being driven primarily to staff costs, in particular pensions and salaries. As I’ve mentioned before, our expenditures grew by 12% and our revenue only grew 2% (9% after the bailout). Some of this is from the staff pay increases that were negotiated 3-4 years ago when we made the mistake of shifting to 4-year union contracts, rather than single year. We unfortunately listened to the previous City Manager who recommended this shift, and low and behold it was a complete failure as it prevented us from being able to negotiate a new contract when we had the pandemic crisis. The other large component of expenses are pensions, and in particular the fire/police pensions, which are separate from the rest of the city employees. We eventually need to shift the Fire and Police to the State pension system. Related to this, previous Mayors underfunded the pensions so we are paying catch-up now.  The typical City employee is on the State pension system and the City contributes roughly 7% of employee salaries to these pensions, but for fire/police we gave them pensions run by the City and the City contributes roughly 34% of salaries, if my memory serves. All that said, the good news is that our current City Manager has made addressing this deficit his number 1 goal for the next fiscal year.

I do have one budget amendment which would freeze all conversions of contractual staff to civil servant (fully benefitted) staff. My original thought was that a pandemic recovery year is not necessarily the best time to make such conversions while we also have a structural deficit we haven’t yet resolved. However, after I discovered that we actually have slightly (3) less positions than last year, and that at least two of the conversions are grant funded, I’m reconsidering this amendment.

Sidewalks in Ward 7

I am working to get three new sections of sidewalk in Ward 7. I’ve asked the City Manager to start the project initiation process to gather the necessary information to add a sidewalk on Bembe Beach Road from BayWoods down to the Annapolis Sailing School, improving./adding the sidewalk on Edgewood Road in front of or across from the Ellen Moyer park, and adding sidewalk on the west side of Bay Ridge Ave in front of the Shell gas station all the way down to Forest Hills Ave. Once the studies are completed in 4-6 months, the deliverable will be three separate capital project sheets, one for each area, that can be added to the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) either later this year or for the next fiscal year.

Party on the beach! Re-election campaign kick-off

I have been honored to have had the opportunity to serve you for the past 4 years, and I hope you will give me an opportunity to do so for another 4 years. I am holding a re-election kick-off party on Bembe Beach, overlooking the Severn River, at the Annapolis Sailing school on June 24th, complete with food from Main & Market and bossa nova from local musician Jonathan Stone. I hope we can reconnect and catch up at this event (from 6 to 9pm). You can get tickets at https://www.robsavidge.com/campaign_kick_off_21

Stay healthy and stay safe,

Rob

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Campaign kick-off: beach, food, music

This past year has been….something else, and we all deserve a party! Join us for beautiful views from Bembe Beach, breezy Brazilian bossa nova from Jonathan Stone, and light fare from Main & Market, as we launch my campaign for re-election and re-connect after what has been a very long year. I would be honored to continue serving as your Alderman for Ward 7, but I will need your support to do so. We have a short 3 months until the primary election and 5 until the general election, and we have much to do to get to the finish line. We will have various campaign materials on hand for people to take home with them as well as sign-ups for door-knocking, phone banking, and house (back yard?) parties. I'm looking forward to catching up with everyone!

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Pool open, police reform updates

I hope you find some time to enjoy this beautiful spring weather this weekend. The brand new Truxtun Park pool is opening this weekend, and it looks like it’s going to be beautiful weather for swimming. I have information on the facility and prices at the end of this email. Also, read on for details on Monday’s City Council meeting and other City items.

PEACE ordinance update

The Police Enhancement And Community Engagement legislation I introduced (O-12-21) is still working its way through our process. We are now discussing possible amendments to respond to public comments we’ve received, address the concerns form the police and law office, and bring it into compliance (or exceedance) of the State police reform legislation. For a full list of what this legislation accomplishes, you can find that here or on my website. This legislation has certainly been a challenge trying to get passed. We heard from the Police Chief and the Police Union two weeks back and that meeting ended up essentially collapsing. The Department led with some factual information about their operations, which was helpful, but then they let the Police Union speak. While we wanted to hear from the union during the public comment period (I don't believe they submitted any testimony), they unfortunately gave testimony during a work session that was incredibly misleading and contained outright lies about our legislation. They claimed the legislation would defund the police with certain cuts, when our legislation contains no cuts whatsoever. They also insisted that our legislation is driving down morale and making it hard to fill police positions. What they fail to mention is that we've been unable to fill all of our officer positions for the past decade, well before this legislation was introduced. Perhaps morale is an issue because the Union is spreading misinformation to their membership about this legislation? I was further disappointed in the Police Chief essentially saying "if it aint broke, don't fix it", as if we haven't had our own issues with our Police Department lately and as if we are somehow insulated from national tragedies (the Capital shooting proves otherwise). Regardless, the sponsors and I are moving forward to do what we can to build peace and trust between the police and the community.

Stay healthy and stay safe, 

Rob

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Police reform final testimony, close boat ramp to county?

I have a number of City Council updates for you this week.

Last chance to testify on Police Reform PEACE ordinance

First of all, Monday is your last opportunity to offer public testimony (at least at a Council meeting) on the police reform and community policing legislation titled PEACE, O-12-12. You can offer testimony at www.annapolis.gov/testimony.

City Budget

Next up is the Fiscal Year 2022 budget. We are still moving forward with our review of this in Committee, but we are starting to wrap things up. To offer a bit of a summary, prior to receiving the Biden COVID bailout money, the City was facing a $6 million deficit, with expenditures growing 12% and revenue only growing 2%. With the bailout, our revenue jumped up to 9%. We are balancing the deficit with other funds, as we typically do, but a number of us are looking to take some larger steps in the future years to really close the gap on this deficit for good. The deficit is really driven by staff costs, and in particular the pay raises granted to the unions from the 4-year contracts (what a mistake that was to go to 4 years, which unfortunately was pushed by the previous City Manager), and also the pension costs of Fire and Police, who are on a different (City) retirement system than all of the other employees (who are on the State system). To Mayor Buckley’s credit, he has made it a point to honor the pensions and ensure they are 100% funded, while previous administrations often reduced pension contributions in an attempt to free up more money. The larger steps I alluded to are exploring giving up our Fire Department to the County (as other municipalities have done) and looking at siphoning off certain special operations of our Police Department also to the County (also as other jurisdictions have done, such as Bowie). This could include a K-9 program, bomb squad, or other operations where we could easily establish MOUs with the surrounding/overlapping jurisdictions. We at least need to explore this, as both our Police and Fire have grown from what used to be 14% each of our budget, to now being 24% each of our total expenditures. This is not sustainable for us and we need to figure out a solution. We also need to identify funds from those big two departments that we can siphon off to fund other efforts such as community services, which still contribute to the public safety goal.

Clarification/correction

On a related note, I want to offer a clarification to my comments about the last administration. I had said that the fire staff increased from 98 to 139 employees during the last administration. That was not entirely correct. While the last administration (Pantelides) added around 14 fire employees under the auspices of the federal SAFR grant (which was designed to decline year after year until the City was left footing the entire bill ourselves), much of the increase happened during the Moyer administration when the Council decided to go from 3 shifts to 4 shifts for the firefighters. Increasing the shifts (as they have apparently done in other nearby jurisdictions) required hiring more fire fighters. The next administration, Cohen, had laid off a number of firefighters, which were then hired back under Pantelides.

Tucker street boat ramp – reconsideration to ban County?

Also of note is that O-5-21, legislation governing the Tucker Street boat ramp, will be coming up for a motion to reconsider. The Ward 2 Alderperson is planning to make this request, and I am contemplating voting in favor of the reconsideration, though I likely won’t change my original vote as I do NOT want to ban the County residents. I’m considering supporting the motion as I feel we need to have more discussion about this for the public’s sake. The intention of the legislation was/is to create a permit process for the use of the boat ramp (not the beach), with the goal of reducing usage of the boat ramp, which frankly doesn’t’ have the infrastructure to support a very heavy use. The original intention with the legislation was to limit the usage of the ramp by restricting its use only to City residents, banning the County residents. After receiving concerns from our County neighbors, I introduced an amendment that allowed County resident to use the ramp, but still banned anyone from outside of the County from using it. Such users should really be directed to the Truxtun ramp anyway, as that has the infrastructure to support such use. All that said, the residents near the boat ramp still were not satisfied with that compromise and still want us to ban our County neighbors from using this ramp. What they seem to fail to realize is that both the permit requirement and the restriction to City & County residents will serve to reduce usage. I’m likely to stick with the compromise or perhaps even go further to re-open this ramp to anyone, as long as they get a permit. If you have any thoughts on this, please let me know.

Stay healthy and stay safe,

Rob

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Public hearings Monday on police reform & FY22 budget

I have a few updates for you this week. First of all, read on for a few vaccination opportunities currently available in Annapolis. Also, at this Monday’s Council meeting there is the first public hearing on my police reform/community policing legislation (called PEACE). I’ll include a link below if you would like to submit any testimony (or you can always send it directly to me, but the benefit of using the link is it goes to everyone on the Council). Lastly, there also is a public hearing on the City budget. I’m still delving into the budget myself, and we have a special evening work session on the budget on Tuesday, to accommodate those of us to have day jobs. Once I have a chance to analyze it more fully, I’ll send out more information, but I do provide some information below on what’s in the budget.

Stay healthy and stay safe,

Rob

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