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Annapolis mayor 'walks the plank'

Former Annapolis Police Chief Joseph Johnson and children wielding plastic pirate swords made sure Annapolis Mayor Josh Cohen fulfilled a promise Saturday morning.

The police-and-pirate crew rounded up the mayor and marched to a faux pirate ship, where he walked the plank and took a dip in the Annapolis harbor — all to fulfill a self-imposed punishment after he failed to reopen the downtown Market House last fall.

Nudged by an adult on the tourist pirate ship, the mayor, wearing a full business suit and tie, walked out on the small wooden plank, thrust his arms in the air and stepped off, splashing into the murky water below. He then donned a black cap with the lettering "IT'S OPEN" and smiled as he swam back to shore.

"It was great!" Cohen proclaimed as he posed for pictures with supporters and Market House vendors.

Asked how he was feeling, he responded: "Wet."

The walk-the-plank stunt followed a reopening ceremony for the Market House, a downtown city-owned market that has caused headaches for Annapolis officials for the last decade.

Ever since Tropical Storm Isabel blew through and flooded the building in 2003, the city-owned Market House has operated in fits and starts as the city struggled to repair the building and attract a stable lineup of vendors.

Between renovations and lawsuits from former tenants, the city has spent more than $1 million on the Market House since 2003. City officials hope that the Market House is now open for good.

Cohen had pledged to get the Market House reopened in the fall of 2012, and promised to "walk the plank" if he missed the deadline.

The first tenant to open was Amsterdam Falafelshop in June. In the past week, the rest of the tenants got their stalls up and running: Firenzes Gelateria, Hard Bean Cafe, Carl's Corned Beef and Delicatessen, Annapolis Organic Market, Good Life Smoothie Bar and Yellowfin Seafood and Oyster Bar.

As the mayor greeted supporters and encouraged people to try out the new vendors, two boats circled the harbor bearing signs for Bevin Buchheister, Cohen's opponent in the Democratic primary election. Three Republicans also are running for mayor in the primary, which will be held Sept. 17.

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