Baltimore County

Annapolis mayoral candidates make final pitch to voters

The five candidates for Annapolis mayor made a final appeal to voters during a forum in Easport Thursday night, five days before Tuesday's primary election.

During a quick-moving, hour-long forum moderated by Vic Pascoe of the Eastport Civic Association, the candidates covered topics as varied as City Dock redevelopment, the free Circulator bus, crime, greenhouse gas emissions and water quality.

Democratic candidates Bevin Buchheister and incumbent Mayor Josh Cohen took a few swipes at one another.

In her opening statement, Buchheister said the current administration operates with "secrecy and contempt for public opnions" -- a criticism she repeated later on in the night.

Cohen, in his closing statement, said Buchheister "brings a lot to the table" but took issue with some of her statements about the city's finances and criticized her lack of support for the free Circulator bus.

On the Republican side, Bob O'Shea made a veiled remark about Mike Pantelides' age, saying that he has significant life experience that would help him if elected mayor. "Life experience comes from turning 54 years old," he said. Pantelides just turned 30.

Pantelides said he'd bring a "fresh start" to governing the city, and noted that taxes and fees have gone up, but services have not improved. He specifically mentioned the switch of trash collection from twice-weekly to once per week, and water fees that have shot up in recent years.

Frank Bradley, the third Republican candidate, focused on wasteful spending of tax dollars. He said he'd be a man of few words, but would take action on issues.

Bradley was the most blunt of all five candidates. When answering a question about crime, for example, he noted that many crimes in Annapolis are crimes of opportunity, such as thefts from unlocked cars. If people continue to leave valuables in unlocked cars, he said, "I don't know how to beat it into people's heads that they're going to get robbed."

The biggest applause and cheers of the night were spread out among candidates. Pantelides recalled a recent eight-hour City Dock zoning hearing that left many citizens waiting a long time to speak. He said under his administration, developers and city staff wouldn't speak first at hearings, "Your voice will be heard first," which earned cheers.

Pantelides also was cheered when he pointed out that the city's stormwater fees -- which have been in place for years -- have increased from $22 to $40, yet the city is just now embarking on it's first stream restoration project.

Buchheister got her biggest applause when discussing the future of downtown's City Dock. "We need to take our time and get City Dock right," she said.

In many of his answers, Cohen sought to clarify his positions on controversial issues. He noted that while he has offered some support for a large proposed development on Forest Drive called Crystal Spring, he still has concerns about how it would affect traffic, schools and the environment.

Cohen also defended his efforts to pass a new plan for City Dock, a rezoning proposal for part of the waterfront and his financial decisions. "The past four years have not been easy for us," he said, adding, "The city has made tremendous progress."

Candidates were kept to strict time limits and some questions were posed as "yes" or "no" questions -- with the standing room-only audience at Eastport Elementary School chiding candidates who didn't follow the rules.

The primary election in Annapolis is scheduled for Tuesday.

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