For Policy not Poses

Frequently asked questions and answers

1. What is your plan for public housing?

Public housing is a very complicated issue but a very important one for the mayor to address. The money for public housing comes from the federal government, but the city appoints the public housing board of directors. They in turn elect their own chair, and they are responsible for appointing a public housing director, who manages the entire operation. Accordingly the city does not have any direct control. I believe it was a mistake to build separate public housing neighborhoods, because it just increases civic and economic polarization between the haves and the have-nots. I think a mayor merely by paying attention to public housing residents, walking the neighborhoods and talking to people, could do a lot to mitigate that problem. My first goal would be to make public housing residents feel and be part of the same city as everyone else, and in the beginning I would do a lot of personal listening to the residents. My long-term goal would be to provide through education, mentoring, and anything else that works the help the residents need to move into residential quarters they can call their own.

2. What is the best strategy for fighting crime in Annapolis?

I have consistently supported the proposition that community policing, with foot patrolmen walking neighborhoods they know and areas where crime seems most common, is the best way to keep crime down. Keeping a crime from happening is vastly superior to arriving after the criminals have fled. I support the current police chief’s moves in that direction

3. What is your stance on a City Manager?

I favor it. What I will do when mayor is to appoint a qualified city manager to the existing “city administrator” position and by executive order give him or her the authority and responsibilities of a manager. Having an elected official responsible for pothole triage just ensures that we’ll never have a comprehensive maintenance program. The usual way it goes now is that only the squeakiest (or best-connected) wheel gets fixed, and everything else is left for the next mayor, preferably to make the next mayor to look bad.

4. Do you support a city tax cap proposal?

If the cap were indexed to some reasonable inflationary standard I would probably support it, but the one that’s proposed is not.  Normally, I would think a cap was imprudent, but given the huge increases City residents have been subjected to the past eight years, and given the current state of the economy, I appreciate the public wish for one. However, an arbitrary cap below expected inflationary levels only reduces and weakens the government’s purchasing power year after year, which is what has been happening to the county.

5. The city borrowed close to $6 million just to ‘balance’ the 2010 operating budget, this means they had to borrow this money just for the daily operation of this city. At the same time no city department head makes less than $100,000 a year (not including benefits). We have so many departments that produce nothing, are totally ineffective. We have 16 sister cities and pay for delegates from these cities to visit Annapolis or send delegates to their cities. Our union employees received DOUBLE DIGIT raises two years ago, since then they have received 4.56% raises every year, including this year when we BORROWED money to ‘balance’ the budget. What will you do about this if you are elected Mayor?

Except in some sort of emergency, borrowing money to fund operations or to balance a budget is completely inappropriate and leaves a larger problem for the next mayor and city council and ultimately the citizens of Annapolis. The Capital reported that tax receipts to the city had gone up 126% in the last eight years, a truly remarkable increase. One of the first things I will do as mayor is charge the new city manager and the finance director to conduct an audit to determine exactly where those increases were allocated, then promptly work to reduce excess spending. As mayor, I will commit to being a responsible leader who is accountable to the people.

6. Do you support lowering the city’s Homestead Property tax cap? It’s currently 10% where as the county’s cap is 2%.

Yes. The Homestead Credit is a cap on annual assessments of owner-occupied principal residences, and under state law the taxable assessment increase cannot exceed 10%, but local governments can lower it. The county has lowered it to 2%, but the city enjoys the full 10%. Ideally, I believe it should be indexed to inflation, but the last time the issue came up I supported a 4% limit as a compromise, since 4% would cover ordinary inflation, which lately has been somewhere between 2% and 4%.

7. How do you feel about expanding the number of 2 am liquor licenses?

The last time this battle was fought, I was president of the Ward One Residents Association and led the forces against any more 2 am licenses. It’s a compromise that was agreed to before my involvement. I still favor that position. There are still people living downtown, which is a good thing, and we should not burden them any more than we have.

8. What are your ideas for continued development of inner West Street? What rules would you put in place to ensure that developers are required to support the infrastructure needs of any further development downtown?

Ideally, I would like to see all new commercial development locally owned and operated and built in human scale, and I will do everything in my power to encourage just that. Big-box chain retail with huge impervious parking lots is the worst threat both to the environment and to the existing local businesses. Infrastructure is more complicated, and the new city manager and I will first talk to the department heads to get the benefit of their views, then I will ask the city manager for a comprehensive plan. The basic premise under which I will operate is that all development should pay its own way, and I will do my best to put an end to development subsidies. This issue is of great concern to me and which is one of the reasons that my campaign has pledged not to take any campaign contributions from developers. I believe that the City should belong to its residents and development should be limited.

9. Do you have any ideas to deal with nuisance crimes (pan handling, public drinking, noise etc.)?

It is pretty well accepted now that a government that puts up with nuisance crimes ends up with more worse crimes. For that reason I am generally in favor of zero tolerance and more aggressive enforcement. As above, I think community policing, with as many officers on foot patrol as possible, is the primary way to discourage such behavior, and I think the new police chief is going in the same direction to the extent he can do so within his budget and staffing constraints.

10. Biographical information (age, occupation, education, where you are originally from, family).

I am 62, a mostly retired lawyer, born in Phoenix, Arizona, where my father was training to be an RAF Spitfire pilot, and my mother had moved because of her father’s health. I grew up in downtown Baltimore. Amicably divorced, three adult children, one granddaughter.

11. How long you have lived in Annapolis and what community do you live in, or what street?

I have lived here since 1975, and I was a student at St. John’s from 1964-68. The community is “Spa View Heights,” not part of the original Murray Hill plat, but usually referred to by people who do not know that as part of Murray Hill.

12. A summary of what you feel are the most important problems facing Annapolis today and how you would go about solving those problems.

It depends on how you slice it, because they are all interrelated — everything depends on improved and integrated City management. Economic development and sustainability, which right now are high on most people’s lists, are related to education, transit, and parking (among other things), Over-development is a severe threat to the environment and economic development. Ethnic and economic polarization are a threat to our community spirit and civic pride. Here’s the way I see it, or one slice anyway.

My first priority will be to hire a qualified city manager and do an audit of expenditures to see where the additional tax revenues collected in the past ten years have gone and the full extent of the expansion and contracting out we have been reading about. More generally, my priorities would be outreach, transparency, and policy.

Outreach means not relying on hearing testimony, but walking all the streets, both figuratively and literally, asking all our residents and business-owners what they think, and meeting regularly with other leaders we need to get along with, such as the county executive, our delegation to the general assembly, and the governor.

Transparency is making decisions in the open, seeking advice from people who are affected and people who know the most about the issue, and explaining honestly why we favor a particular decision or approach, before it becomes finalized, being honest about increased tax revenues due to increased assessments, instead of pretending we’ve lowered taxes.

Policy is what you should end up after you’ve explained honestly and listened sincerely. Instead of reacting on an ad hoc basis, the City should have and follow policies that are predictable, intelligent, and fair.

Clearly, Annapolis is a special place to live and a gem on the Chesapeake Bay, thus everything that the Mayor of Annapolis does should have a focus on cleaning up the environment and making this place great for our residents, businesses, and visitors.

13. Details about other times you have run for office.

I ran for mayor as an independent (required by federal Hatch Act) in 2005, attempting to unseat an incumbent with full party support who outspent me about ten to one. Then as now I turned down any contributions from developers and anyone else who might give me even the appearance of a conflict of interest as mayor (contributions I turned down would have doubled my budget). Lost by about 700 votes.

14. Organizations you are a part of (this includes churches, civic groups, clubs, commissions, committees etc.).

I am currently a member of Ward One and Murray Hill Residents Associations, but have severed all other such ties.

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