It was a short but meaningful meeting — the new City Council, headed by Mayor Gavin Buckley, met for the first and last time this year and listened to presentations from the city’s various emergency personnel.
The mood early on was light. Congratulations and photo opportunities pre-empted the first meeting of the new legislative term, though no legislative items were up for vote Monday night. The meeting marked the first for the mayor and Aldermen Elly Tierney, Marc Rodriguez, Shaneka Henson and Rob Savidge. The audience of gathered residents broke out into applause at least four times.
The new mayor started things off with a joke. “This is what I’ve been looking forward to,” he said before banging the chairman’s gavel and calling the meeting to order.
Things kicked off with a “day in the life of an alderperson” guide reading from Alderwoman Rhonda Pindell-Charles, D-Ward 3. She oriented her new colleagues on how to do everything from handle constituent concerns to answer emails to keep snacks around in case a proper meal just isn’t a possibility. “I always keep a banana handy,” she said.
The meeting continued with a presentation from the Annapolis Boat Shows, which presented a $464,088.68 check to the council for use of City Dock and Ego Alley during the boat show weekend this past October.
President and General Manager of Annapolis Boat Shows Paul Jacobs updated the council on the organization’s activities this year, including $251,000 raised toward hurricane relief. Jacobs highlighted the Annapolis Boat Show’s recent decision to lease space at 110 Compromise Street, the site of the long-vacant former Fawcett Boat Supplies.
The council also heard presentations from the Annapolis Police Department, the Annapolis Fire Department, the Office of Emergency Management and the harbormaster.
Police chief Scott Baker highlighted progress within and challenges to department growth. The department is currently engaging in a community outreach Candy Cane Challenge. Officers have 8,000 candy canes to give out during the holiday season by making contact with city residents. The candy cane program is an example of the community policing model Baker has sought to implement since his appointment earlier this year. Buckley has not announced whether Baker, or any other department heads, will stay on the job through his administration.
Baker discussed crime statistics through the year thus far. Part one crimes are down three percent, from 1,101 offenses in 2016 to 1,072 offenses in 2017. Part one crimes are considered by law enforcement to be a measure of the most significant crimes. They include homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft. City, county and state governments report these to the FBI annually.
All part one crimes have decreased except theft, which is on the rise due to the opioid crisis, Baker said. Theft has risen 27 percent from 380 offenses in 2016 to 481 offenses this year. People desperate for money for drugs break into cars and homes, he said, inflating theft statistics. Simple assault and trespassing/disorderly conduct numbers have also risen.
Baker also noted the police department’s outdated record-keeping system. The system will cost $100,000 to get to working condition and $800,000 to fully update, Baker said.
“One bad crash and we’re in for a world of hurt,” he said.
Fire chief David Stokes also addressed the council. He, like Baker, highlighted the department’s diversity, available services and cost of operating the department. He expressed concern for active shooter or terrorism situations as well as the rising costs of staffing and increasing calls, which put a strain on limited resources, he said.
Leadership from the Office of Emergency Management, harbormaster and planning and zoning department also gave presentations on their departmental functions and concerns.
The council approved committee appointments for the coming legislative year. They are:
ECONOMIC MATTERS COMMITTEE
Chair: Marc Rodriguez Member: Sheila Finlayson, Rob Savidge
ENVIRONMENTAL MATTERS COMMITTEE
Chair: Rob Savidge Member: Elly Tierney, Ross Arnett
Chair: Ross Arnett Member: Marc Rodriguez, Sheila Finlayson
HOUSING AND HUMAN WELFARE COMMITTEE
Chair: Shaneka Henson Member: Elly Tierney, Fred Paone
PUBLIC SAFETY COMMITTEE
Chair: Rhonda Pindell Charles Member: Fred Paone, Shaneka Henson
RULES AND CITY GOVERNMENT COMMITTEE
Chair: Sheila Finlayson Member: Rob Savidge, Ross Arnett
Chair: Elly Tierney Member: Rhonda Pindell Charles, Marc Rodriguez
Chair: Fred Paone Member: Rhonda Pindell Charles, Shaneka Henson