The bright green carpet that symbolized Dennis M. Callahan's administration is gone from the Annapolis mayor's office. In its place are the less flashy blue and gold colors of the U.S. Naval Academy.
Along with the new carpet -- which cost $1,038 -- Mayor Alfred A.
Hopkins has brought a change in style from the brash, media-savvy Callahan.
Where Callahan strove for control, Hopkins has let aldermen assume much of the power. Where Callahan thrived on confrontation, Hopkins has relied on a low-key, folksy approach and has tried to stay out of the press.
"He's set a tone of friendliness, and I think that kind of tone was needed," Alderman Ellen O. Moyer, D-Ward 8, said. "That kind of thing is a strength, a healing spirit that was needed at the time. His style and easygoing manner fits the public's mood and need."
One year ago this Tuesday, Hopkins stood on the stage at Maryland Hall, where he graduated from high school in 1943, and promised a government of "compassion, camaraderie and concern." One year later, most observers say he has succeeded in setting a more peaceful tone in City Hall and reaching out to people in the community, while keeping the machinery of city government running smoothly.
"I think Al's done a good job," said former Mayor Roger "Pip" Moyer, now deputy director of the Annapolis Housing Authority. "He's a good person and he's kept things moving. He's steady. He's not flashy. He's done an honest, solid job."
Hopkins sat in his office last week and read from a list of his accomplishments in the last year, rebutting the naysayers who said progress would grind to a halt under his administration.
He expanded the city's recycling program, he said, and started the city's first curbside recycling program in Admiral Heights. The city is preparing to build the Gotts Court parking garage, which has been planned for five years. His administration rebuilt State Circle, a $2.9 million project that ran into delays but eventually finished on time.
He expanded City Hall -- for free -- by acquiring from the federal government a vacant National Cemetery building on West Street. The city repaired two rusted fire engines and will soon buy a new ambulance. The city finished one planning study and zoning plan in Eastport and started another in historic Ward 1. He replaced Darden's VW and Foreign Car Service on West Street with a new park. The city won a $250,000 grant to dredge its creeks and fight erosion.
But his two biggest accomplishments, observers say, are the altered tone in City Hall and the negotiated retirement of former Police Chief John C.
Schmitt, who left in May amid charges of mismanagement and racism, which Schmitt denied. The administrations of Callahan and former Mayor Richard Hillman had both tried unsuccessfully to remove Schmitt.
The black community's dissatisfaction with Schmitt came to a head in April, when more than 150 residents packed the City Council chambers to demand Schmitt's resignation and protest the treatment of two black officers, Sgt. Robert E. Beans and Officer Chandler Powell. The two had been assigned to desk duty while state agencies investigated the operations of their unit, the now-defunct Delta Force Drug Squad.
Hopkins, who did not comment during the April protest, had been seeking Schmitt's retirement for months, sources said later. Beans was eventually cleared by a Police Department trial board, and charges against Powell were subsequently dropped.
"I think the Delta Force issue could have been addressed sooner, but given the fact the mayor and his staff were neophytes coming in, I think they handled it as best they could," said Alderman Carl O. Snowden, D-Ward 5, one of two black council members.
Harold Robbins, the city's new police chief, was chosen from 130 applicants in a national search. City Administrator Michael Mallinoff had a different top choice for the job at first, but changed his mind after Hopkins and the International Association of Chiefs of Police made Robbins their unanimous choice. In six weeks on the job, Robbins has impressed a broad spectrum of police officers, residents and community leaders with his professionalism and ability to communicate.
While Schmitt's retirement was a high point, black community leaders say Hopkins' record on race relations has been mixed.
"There are some areas he's done well in, and others he could do better in," said Leslie Stanton, a leader of the Black Political Forum. "There have been some ups and downs, but he's tried and he's been accessible. I think he's had some problems with some of his public statements."
Hopkins voted for two extensions of a 1984 court order calling for minority hiring and promotion in the Police Department. He sponsored legislation to increase the city's business with minority-owned firms. He's appointed blacks to city boards and commissions that previously had no minority members.
But he voted against a bill that will deny city liquor licenses to private clubs that discriminate (the bill passed by one vote). He made a public statement wondering if anti-discrimination quotas would lead to required marriages between people of different races. He apologized for the remark, saying he wasn't a good public speaker but meant well. He said he would hire a black deputy police chief, backed off on the commitment, then said he was in favor of the position.
"That upset some folks," Stanton said. "That was a very sensitive issue in terms of the Police Department and the black community."
Hopkins' style is popular with aldermen, who like the increased power they have. But it also has its drawbacks. Moyer said Hopkins doesn't always share his opinion on issues with the City Council, and he doesn't lobby for what he wants. His low-key approach has led to some communication problems between aldermen, the city administration and department heads.
"He's very sensitive about trying to impose his will on other people," she said. "Sometimes that's a strength and sometimes that's a weakness."
He also doesn't have a coalition of five votes, making it difficult sometimes for him to shepherd legislation through the council.
"He and Mike Mallinoff have to work to get five votes on the council," Moyer said. "It seems there's some fragmentation at the meetings sometimes.
It's not clear sometimes who's in control."
Hopkins said he is content to act as a swing vote and strive for consensus. "As mayor, I don't want to control, because that makes me a dictator," he said. "I want to build a consensus."
The future is likely to bring more of the same low-key, nuts-and-bolts approach to city government. With tough economic times looming, Hopkins' biggest challenge is to resolve the city's landfill problem.
The county has rejected the city's plans to expand its Defense Highway landfill. Without the landfill, the city says it will lose $2 million a year in revenue from commercial tipping fees.
The city's insistence on expanding its landfill has caused a rift between Annapolis officials and County Councilwoman Maureen Lamb. Lamb, who begins her third term tomorrow as the city's representative on the council, opposes the expansion in favor of more high-tech, environmentally safe disposal methods.
Hopkins said he hopes to resolve the issue soon with County Executive Robert R. Neall, who takes office today.