Hammond-Purcell race: Experience vs. change Ward 1 incumbent is preservationist; foe targets cumbersome regulations


A story in yesterday's Anne Arundel edition incorrectly described Alderman John R. Hammond's position on two bills. He voted in favor of amended legislation allowing the expansion of Maria's Italian Ristorante and the opening of a frozen yogurt shop on Randall Street.

The Sun regrets the errors.

The race for the City Council seat in Annapolis' Ward 1 pits a seasoned defender of historic preservation against a political neophyte who wants to build consensus.

Republican John R. Hammond, seeking his fifth term, often has clashed with businesses by supporting measures to restrict restaurant operating hours and control businesses' appearances. Democratic challenger Craig Purcell calls for better planning and an end to cumbersome regulations that discourage new business.

Although only one square mile, Ward 1 encapsulates many of the city's problems. Residents of the downtown district complain of traffic congestion and noise. Rising property taxes have forced many families from the area. And the changing character of the ward raises the question of whether Annapolis will be a city for tourists or a city for a diverse population.

"I don't think we should become another Williamsburg," said James Brianas, president-elect of the Ward One Residents Association.

Tom Davies, the current president of the association, noted that the ward's population has declined by 21 percent in the last 20 years. He said the remaining residents need to be protected from encroaching business. "The buildings have been well protected, but the residents are under increasing pressure."

Meanwhile, business associations are concerned that the ward has grown hostile to them.

"We're looking for a little more balanced treatment," said Mike Riordan, a member of the board of directors of the Annapolis Hospitality Association and owner of a downtown restaurant.

Mr. Hammond, 45, an insurance company marketing representative, denies being hostile to business. Nevertheless, he knows that residents, not businesses, vote.

He backed a moratorium on applications for restaurants to serve food and beverages after midnight, opposed neon signs in downtown businesses, fought the opening of a yogurt shop and opposed the expansion of a popular Italian restaurant. He also introduced legislation that would have forbidden men from appearing in Annapolis without their shirts.

In addition to fighting to preserve the city's historic image, Mr. Hammond has worked to improve the city's finances by curbing spending, beefing up the city's pension fund and working for fairer taxes.

As the senior member of the council and chairman of its finance committee, he wields considerable power. "I've got a lot of time and effort invested in the city. I want to make sure we don't slip back into the old ways," Mr. Hammond said.

Many residents like the way he has served them. Mike Parker, president of the Presidents Hill Community Association, said that Mr. Hammond has responded quickly to the community's needs and given good advice on solving problems.

But critics charge that he has stymied business and bullied his fellow aldermen. "John really has no problems calling the rest of his colleagues stupid, illogical and incapable of understanding," said Alderman Ellen Moyer, a Ward 8 Democrat who is supporting Mr. Purcell. "So I have no problem in saying that in relation to his colleagues, he is arrogant and adversarial. We have problems that need to be solved, and they are best solved when people talk to each other."

Mr. Purcell, 38, is portraying himself as a planner, businessman and consensus builder who will smooth over the differences between the residents and the business community. Like Mr. Hammond, he grew up in Annapolis and was active in civic associations. He is a partner in Schwarz and Purcell, a downtown architecture firm.

He supports the creation of a more diverse downtown district that would include hardware stores as well as T-shirt shops, affordable housing for middle-income families and upscale homes for retirees.

Mr. Purcell said he also wants to reach out to the city's black residents. He has campaigned alongside Kenneth Kirby, the Ward 6 Democratic candidate and Mr. Purcell's high school classmate.

He has been endorsed by the Black Officers' Association, an organization representing the city's black police officers, and by the Black Political Forum. He also has won the support of fellow Democrats, Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins, state Sen. Gerald Winegrad and state Del. John Astle.

"I can work together with people. I don't call them names," said Mr. Purcell, who considers himself an underdog in the race. "John Hammond divides and conquers."

Mr. Hammond contends that Mr. Purcell lacks experience and a clear agenda. "I've been on the firing line," Mr. Hammond said. "I have the practical experience that lets me reach decisions for the city."

fTC He concedes that he gets impatient with his fellow aldermen when they are ill-prepared and he acknowledges that he has made enemies over the years. But he says that is part of doing a good job. "I refuse to be all things to all people," he said.

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