Although his proposed curfew appears headed for defeat, Annapolis Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins plans to push the bill to a final vote before the City Council tonight.
"I was reluctant from the beginning to propose a curfew," Hopkins said, "but I heard from many people who wanted a curfew, so I agreed to propose it. I don't introduce things on the council to win votes. I do them to bring attention to a problem. If they don't pass, I don't see it as a defeat."
Last week, the council's rules committee rejected the curfew, 3-0, after a public hearing attended by about 60 people. The three aldermen who voted against the bill were Carl O. Snowden, D-Ward 5, Ruth C. Gray, R-Ward 4, and Theresa DeGraff, R-Ward 7. In interviews on Friday, three more aldermen said they oppose the bill, all but assuring its defeat.
"I'm not supportive of curfews, except in times of emergency, and we don't have that kind of emergency," said Alderman Ellen O. Moyer, D-Ward 8. "If this is relative to a longtime policy to move kids out of the downtown, it's the wrong way to do it. We should be doing it in a partnership way, not an adversarial way."
Alderman Dean Johnson, I-Ward 2, said he opposes the bill but added that he might support it if police could penalize minors who break curfew. As the bill is written, police would send notices to parents whose children violate the curfew. "If you want to clear the streets, you need to give the officer the power to enforce the curfew," he said.
Johnson also said he thought the problems were caused by children loitering, which he said could be eliminated by declaring areas drug-free zones and confronting loiterers.
Alderman Wayne C. Turner, R-Ward 6,said, "I applaud the mayor on his decision to try and do something to help the downtown, but as there is no emergency, I cannot support it at this time."
Two aldermen said they may support the bill: John R. Hammond, R-Ward 1, who represents the downtown, and Samuel Gilmer, D-Ward 3.
Gilmer said someone may introduce amendments to make the bill more palatable to opponents, but he wouldn't say who. Gilmer said he received several calls last week from people who support the curfew and said some residents will speak in favor of it at tonight's meeting. "I think there's going to be more said than has been said,"Gilmer said.
The Maryland Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union sent the city a six-page letter opposing the curfew, calling it unconstitutional and ineffective. Snowden, the rules committee chairman, has asked City Attorney Jonathan Hodgson for an opinion on the bill's constitutionality. Hodgson will give the council his opinion tonight.
"The mayor's curfew is unnecessary, unwanted and unconstitutional, and should be resoundingly rejected by the council," Snowdensaid.
While Hopkins' proposal has received much media attention, Annapolis would not be the only jurisdiction in the state with a curfew if the bill passed. About 25 jurisdictions in Maryland have curfews, among them Baltimore and Prince George's County, said Jim Peck, the Maryland Municipal League's associate director for research.
Downtown tavern owners asked Hopkins to propose the curfew last fall. Hopkins said he didn't like curfews but agreed to sponsor it to fight violence in drug-infested neighborhoods and curb rowdiness downtown.
Hopkins' bill would require anyone younger than 17 years old to leave public places and establishments between midnight and 5 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights and 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. on other nights.
Parents of minors who break the curfew or business owners who let minors into their establishments after curfew could be fined $5 to $300. They could be jailed for 10 to 15 days if they fail
In an effort to win over critics, the Hopkins administration dropped plans to ban people younger than 16 from public places during school hours and offered a trial run for the curfew, with an Aug. 31 expirationdate.
Tonight's meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers in City Hall on Duke of Gloucester Street.