Sylvanus B. Jones, an Annapolis resident who began looking into the city's finances after receiving a water bill that he claimed had increased dramatically, announced yesterday his candidacy for mayor.
Standing in the sunshine outside City Hall, Mr. Jones declared that Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins "has run out of gas."
The candidate, a political neophyte who has lived in the city for 18 years, vowed to bring better financial management to the city. The 63-year-old financial analyst is the first candidate to challenge Mayor Hopkins in the Democratic primary.
Three years ago, Mr. Jones said, he was shocked to receive a water bill that had ballooned by 150 percent. First, he complained to the mayor. Then he asked the City Council to repeal the increase.
Frustrated when no action was taken even after he collected several hundred signatures on a petition, Mr. Jones began studying the city budget.
He claims that he discovered a number of areas for improvement that would allow him to offer each resident a $300 property tax break.
He also promised to repeal the water tax increase if elected.
Information provided by the city's Department of Utilities shows that the last water rate change, which went into effect in July 1990, increased the charge for up to 5,000 gallons by only 19 percent, from $6.50 to $7.75.
Mr. Jones' platform includes programs to expand recycling, offer more educational opportunities for preschool children and building a recreational complex at Truxton Park.
Yesterday, he focused on the city's economic health.
He said the city has lost some $10.5 million by failing to obtain a fair tax differential from the county and another $9 million in interest from cigarette taxes not being passed on by the county.
City officials questioned some of his remarks, including the statement that Annapolis is $50 million in debt. The city has a couple of outstanding general obligation bonds, but its entire debt service was only about $24 million last year, said John Nolan, deputy finance director.
"The city finances are in excellent shape," said City Administrator Michael Mallinoff. "We have a surplus, and we've done a very good job."
The first black to run for mayor in Annapolis, Mr. Jones said his goal would be "to make sure that everyone's treated equally."
He's the fourth candidate to declare in the race for the city's highest post. Former mayor Dennis Callahan is running as an Independent, and Larry Vincent, a Main Street clothier, is a Republican candidate.
Mr. Vincent said yesterday that he believes the tax differential issue will be popular with many residents. "There's a large body of opinion that we pay too much county taxes because we provide mostly our own services," he said.
Annapolis residents pay $1.13 less per $100 of assessed value than county residents because the city provides many public services, such as fire and police protection and trash collection. Mr. Jones said he believes city residents should pay even less.
Political observers say Mr. Jones faces an uphill battle against Mayor Hopkins, who served on the City Council for 24 years and is seeking re-election. But Mr. Jones appeared undaunted.
He said he's found "ineptness in a lot of key areas" and could do a better job than Mr. Hopkins.