I miss holding the in-person town hall events for Ward 7. After Alderman Arnett held a virtual one for Ward 8, it has encouraged me to give that a try for this Ward. I have a tentative date of March 9th from 6 to 7:30pm. I’m going to try to get the Mayor to join us for this first one, and after I give a few updates we can just dedicate the rest of the meeting to open questions & answers. I may also invite Planning & Zoning to present on the Comprehensive plan, but rather than pack all of that in a single meeting I may just schedule a second town hall for April or May that is dedicated to that topic. I’ll send out more details on the 9th when I have them.
This Monday’s Council meeting is dedicated to public hearings on a number of pieces of legislation, which I’ll detail below. Of particular note is R-3-21, the resolution accepting the report and recommendations from the Charter-required Council Compensation Commission. They are formed every 4 years to make recommendations on if and how the Mayor or Council’s compensation should be adjusted. I certainly have my own opinion on that but it’s all a moot point since I see zero chance that we would give ourselves a raise during a fiscal year where we may very well be furloughing and laying off City employees. Regardless, even if this Resolution passes at our next meeting, it only accepts the recommendations and doesn’t act on them. To actually enact the pay changes we would have to introduce a separate ordinance to do that no later than 4 months prior to the next election. Again, virtually zero chance of that.
When you get to the end of this email you’ll see a more detailed update on the budget as well as an update on the proposed Lidl development that is slated to be built on the old C&C Liquors site across from the Giant.
Stay healthy and stay safe,
Next Special Council meeting – 2/19/21 (agenda)
This Council meeting is starting at 7pm and will be televised on local cable, Facebook, and the City website (www.annapolis.gov). Due to COVID-19, our meetings are now being held virtually. http://www.youtube.com/CityofAnnapolis http://www.facebook.com/CityofAnnapolis
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-2-21 - City Council Meetings - Agenda - For the purpose of clarifying the content of City Council meeting agendas for regular and special monthly meetings; and generally relating to monthly City Council meeting agendas. This is legislation Alderman Arnett and I are introducing. What it does is go back (mostly) to our previous meeting format. If you recall, we changed the meeting formats so that our second meeting of every month was dedicated to ceremonial and public hearings with NO legislative actions, and the first meeting was dedicated entirely to legislative action with no public hearings. This was intended to help prevent the late meetings we were experiencing where we wouldn’t get to legislative action until late in the night. However, it has also proven to be rather confusing for the rest of the Council, the public, and staff. So we are looking to go back to having public hearings and legislative action at both of the monthly meetings, but still keeping ceremonial items only at the second meeting of the month, though this may be changed as well. If you have thoughts on this legislation, please let us know. I will likely be adding this back onto the agenda for a second reader vote in an effort to get back to our previous format without any further delay.
- O-3-21 - Port Wardens - Authority - For the purpose of requiring the Port Wardens to consider the public's access to the harbor line from points of access at the waterline as part of its license and permit approval processes. A situation has arisen in Eastport where an applicant is proposing to build a pier that would in fact block off existing public water access for small craft. The issue this made apparent is that the Port Wardens does not consider public water access as a part of their decisions. This would remedy that.
- O-5-21- Tucker Street Launching Facility - For the purpose of providing procedures for use of the Tucker Street launching facility; providing certain definitions; establishing acceptable proofs of residency for issuance of certain permits; and providing penalties for violations.
- O-6-21 - Agency Regulations - For the purpose of establishing a procedure for the adoption of regulations by a City of Annapolis department, board, or commission; requiring public notice; providing an appeal process; and generally relating to City of Annapolis regulations. When we pass new policy/laws, they often are implemented by staff creating corresponding regulations, which often contain more detail than the underlying policies. This is how many governments function. The problem is, the City doesn’t have much of a regulatory review process setup, which means it lacks transparency with the public. This ordinance would create a process for public and Council review of regulation. I will likely sign onto this as a co-sponsor once it gets cleaned up in Committee, pending any concerns raised by you.
- R-3-21 - Council Compensation Commission Recommendations - For the purpose of receiving the Recommendations of the Council Compensation Commission; and scheduling a Public Hearing on the Recommendations of the Council Compensation Commission. What this Resolution does is accept the findings/recommendations from the Council Compensation Commission, which is required to be formed every 4 years by the Charter. This Resolution accepts the recommendations and work from the Committee, it would NOT implement the pay increases. In order to implement increases, the Council would need to introduce an Ordinance doing that. There is zero chance of that happening, considering that we may very well be furloughing and laying off employees this year due to the pandemic impacts. The report recommends that the Mayor’s salary stays the same and that the Council receives a modest increase over the next few years.
Legislation being introduced on First Reader
No legislation is being introduced at this meeting.
Legislation on second reader (i.e. final vote)
- O-2-21 - City Council Meetings - Agenda - For the purpose of clarifying the content of City Council meeting agendas for regular and special monthly meetings; and generally relating to monthly City Council meeting agendas. As discussed earlier, I am tentatively planning on adding this agenda on the agenda for a final vote, pending any comments from the public. If there are comments that need to be addressed in Committee I’m fine with delaying this. My intention is to just get back to our normal meeting formats as soon as we can.
I’ve been informed that the proposed Lidl, set to be built on the old C&C Liquors site (across from the Giant), has finally gained approval from the County. The next step is that they will need to get approval from the City Council to connect to our utilities. I imagine I will be approached about this when the applicant is ready to proceed.
The last estimate I saw was around a $9 million budget shortfall, though I heard that may have increased. This is largely due to our staff costs. I’ve been comparing old budgets from Fiscal Year 2000 and FY 2010 to see if I can figure out exactly why and where our costs increased. So far I’ve discovered that while the Department of Public Works and other Departments actually lost employees since that time, and the Police remained roughly the same, Fire had around a 40% increase in staff. Correspondingly, the Fire Department costs quadrupled, Police tripled, and most of the others double. I suspect a part of that enormous increase is due to the Fire and Police being on a separate pension system (City-run) than the rest of the employees, who are in the State system, but I’m trying to get this verified. The reason all this is important is because we have a structural imbalance where our expenditures are higher than our revenue, and the projections of our staff expenses is growing at an unsustainable rate, and this is separate but compounded by the pandemic’s impact. Part of it is pensions, and part of it I think is due to staff salaries, which can get rather high on the top end. Clearly we need to revisit who gets cost of living increases and how that impacts our structural imbalance.