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.
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.
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,
Next Council meeting – 5/10/21 (agenda)
This Council meeting is starting at 7pm and will be televised on local cable, Facebook, and the City website (www.annapolis.gov). http://www.youtube.com/CityofAnnapolis http://www.facebook.com/CityofAnnapolis
This will be an in-person meeting, though we are not yet allowing in-person testimony
Anyone needing reasonable accommodation to be able to participate in a public meeting held by the City of Annapolis should contact Regina Watkins-Eldridge at 410.263.7942, by MD Relay (711), or by email at [email protected] at least five days prior to the meeting date to request assistance.
If you would like to submit or give public testimony, you can do so at http://www.annapolis.gov/testimony.
- O-12-21 - PEACE ordinance - Police Enhancement and Community Engagement – This is legislation I am introducing that is a police reform and community policing omnibus. This legislation takes a commonsense approach by pulling best practices from elsewhere. My goal is to bring peace to the community. Many of these “reforms” are already being practiced by our Police Department, but others are not. Regardless, myself and the sponsors want to enshrine these reforms, have them set in stone, so that a new Chief cannot change them without consulting the Council, and therefore the public. Having that transparency is essentially to improving the trust between the police and the public, which in turn is essential to having a successful police force and a community with reduced violence. This legislation accomplishes quite a bit. For a full list you can find that here or on my website.
- ID-110-21 – This is a public notice that the budget, as proposed by the administration, is not increasing the tax rate but the tax yield will be increasing.
- O-50-20 - Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit - For the purpose of updating certain occupancy periods of Moderately Priced Dwelling Units; eliminating variations on defined terms; providing supplemental regulatory authority to the Director of Planning and Zoning; and generally relating to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. This legislation makes a few corrections to our MPDU program that were apparently missed when we updated it back in 2019 to remove a few loopholes that allowed developers to avoid participating in this program.
- O-4-21 - Medical Cannabis Dispensaries - For the purpose of allowing medical cannabis dispensaries in certain zoning districts within the City of Annapolis; and adding a definition. This legislation won’t accomplish much given that the State currently limits the numbers of such facilities, which are maxed out in this area. But, if the State law changes and cannabis is legalized, this legislation would allow or dispensaries to be constructed in the same zones that currently allow pharmacies.
- O-14-21 – Resilience Authority of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County – This legislation would establish this authority of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County and sets its powers and authority. The purpose of this authority is to help both the City and County finance the large infrastructure projects that are necessary for us to complete in order to adapt to sea level rise resulting from climate change. I generally think this is a good idea but we need to dig into the details. My primary concern is accountability. This is an appointed body (i.e. unelected), that would have 9 members from the County and 3 from the City. I’ll probably look to add something, as long as the state law allows, that would give the 3 City members the ability to essentially veto any proposal that would impact the City. That way the County members can’t dictate something that would go against the three City member wishes. But we will get into this legislation in detail when it gets to Committee.
Legislation being introduced on First Reader
- O-13-21 - Urban Renewal Projects - Repeal - For the purpose of repealing the Annapolis City Code provisions relating to urban renewal projects; providing provisions for the exercise of state law powers relating to development or redevelopment of certain property, including comprehensive renovation or rehabilitation; requiring the Affordable Housing and Community Equity Development Commission to review certain development projects; providing certain definitions, providing for the application of this Ordinance; providing that existing obligations or contract rights may not be impaired by this Ordinance; and generally relating to the repeal of such provisions.
- O-15-21 - Elections - Independent Expenditure Report - For the purpose of requiring the filing of Independent Expenditure Reports; providing reporting procedures and requirements; adopting state provisions; providing certain definitions; providing penalties; and generally relating to Independent Expenditure Reports. This is legislation that was crafted by our Board of Supervisors of Elections and law office. I am introducing it on their behalf. It seeks compliance with State election laws governing Independent Expenditure Reports.
Legislation on second reader (i.e. final vote)
- O-47-20 - Local Zoning Map Amendment - For the purpose of rezoning parcel 1340, Grid 0008, Tax Map 052A, known as 21 Maryland Avenue, Annapolis, Maryland, to be zoned in its entirety as C1, "Conservation Residence" Zoning District. This legislation would simply correct a mistake with a certain property downtown that had the incorrect zoning applied. Pending any comments from you, I intend to vote in favor.
- O-11-21 - Compensation of the Aldermen, Alderwomen, and City Manager - For the purpose of adjusting the compensation and allowances to be paid to the Aldermen and Alderwomen for the term of office commencing on the first Monday in December, 2021; and for adjusting the compensation to be paid to the City Manager. This legislation would implement the pay changes recommended by the Council Compensation Commission. This would constitute a $1,000 increase in the second, third, and fourth year of the next Council’s terms, and allow the City Manager to get a cost-of-living increase with the rest of the staff. No change to the Mayor’s salary. Pending comments from you, I am inclined to vote in favor. Alderpersons really don’t make much given the amount of work we put into it, and this would give us a modest increase over the next 4 years, bringing us closer in line with what Alderpersons make in other communities. Since we aren’t proposing to lay off or cut the pay of our City employees, I don’t have concerns about this passing this year.
- R-16-21 – "Fowlkes Community Park" - For the purpose of designating certain City-owned property as a Pocket Park; naming the Pocket Park the "Fowlkes Community Park"; and generally relating to dedicating said Pocket Park. This simply renames an existing City park and adds a bench. Pending any comments from you, I’m inclined to vote in favor.
- R-17-21 – Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis - Choice Neighborhood Planning Grant - For the purpose of partnering with the Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis in the application for a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Choice Neighborhood Planning Grant; and approving a matching contribution of the application filing fee. This is a grant the City would partner with HACA on to pursue. It would aid in their planning and cost the City around $32,000. Pending any comments from you, I’m inclined to vote in favor.
Charter Revision Committee requests input
Every ten years, the Annapolis City Council appoints a City Charter Revision Commission in accordance with City Code and tasks its members with independently examining the City Charter. The Charter is a formal document and provides direction on election procedures, land-use policy, City administration processes, and even how the city budget is formulated and managed. The goal of the Commission is to identify improvements to the Charter and provide recommended changes to the City Council. The Commission is actively seeking comments from the community on possible revisions to the Charter. Members of the public can submit comments online in advance of Commission meetings (here) with an option to give live virtual testimony at the meeting. Written comments can also be sent to the Commission at [email protected].
Poem from City Poet Laureate
In Perpetual Spring
By Amy Gerstler
Gardens are also good places
to sulk. You pass beds of
spiky voodoo lilies
and trip over the roots
of a sweet gum tree,
in search of medieval plants whose leaves,
when they drop off
turn into birds
if they fall on land,
and colored carp if they plop into water.
Suddenly the archetypal
human desire for peace
with every other species
wells up in you. The lion and the lamb cuddling up.
The snake and the snail, kissing.
Even the prick of the thistle,
queen of the weeds, revives
your secret belief in perpetual spring,
your faith that for every hurt
there is a leaf to cure it.
Navy/Marine Corps Stadium Walk in Vax Clinic.
From the hours of 9am through 11am, the Navy/Marine Corps Stadium Mass Vax Clinic offers a walk up clinic. 200 doses are reserved for the walk up clinic. Currently there has not been enough community participation in this program to use the 200 doses dedicated to the walk up clinic. There is no pre-registration needed for the walk up clinic. You must present a photo ID. This is another good opportunity for folks to get a COVID-19 vaccination.