For Policy not Poses

The Market House Charette — Remember the Watermen!

The City’s Market House charette (or charrette if you prefer) was pretty good for what it was, oysterman-at-city-dock3and turn-out was very good, but intense citizen involvement will continue to be important. There are several cautions to bear in mind. Once a government agency has one of these citizen-input exercises, the law doesn’t require the agency to follow the citizen recommendations. It can use it as cover to do whatever it wants to do.

All too typically the City has already decided the capacity of its new air conditioning system without knowing who the new tenants will be, in effect deciding that the tenants will have to fit the system (isn’t that what went wrong last time?). The City’s position is that it’s the biggest system they can fit into the space available, leaving them with maximum flexibility for tenants.  Another thing that concerns me is that settlements or court decisions with the remaining trial plaintiffs might so constrain the future of the Market House that this is all an academic exercise.  UPDATE:  The Arundel Muckraker reports that the City has settled with all tenants as of this morning, June 8th, for about another $285,000.

Additionally, the process started with some City-specified goals. Obviously, starting with goals begs some questions.  On the other hand, I think the facilitator was right, too, that in order to get anywhere in one of these exercises you have to start somewhere.  My own view, without wanting to close off discussion that might produce a better idea, is that the buy-local and eat-your-view movement is the way to go right now, so I was pleasantly surprised that the givens we started with were fairly vague but consistent with that movement. There is a group of citizens, residents and business-owners, working together on a buy-local plan that looks most promising to me.

However, there was a little confusion about what “local” means, whether the focus is on produced locally or owned locally, and I think that produced locally is the way to attract buyers and owned locally is the way to encourage engagement. But I do not want us to be playing games with “local” the way the chains do (at one of the supermarket chains, local means within a certain number of miles of one of their distribution centers, not the market itself).

GilbertFarmers were represented there, but I didn’t see or hear any sign of watermen. Since seafood certainly is one of the things that makes Annapolis special, I called the president of the Anne Arundel County Watermen’s Association and asked whether there were any local watermen left who might be interested in selling their daily catch there. His response: “Absolutely. I grew up in Annapolis and that’s where we used to sell it.”

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