Confused council OKs $20 million budget


The Annapolis city council adopted a $20 million capital budget late Monday night, but it wasn't clear yesterday whether it approved the spending plan it meant to or whether its vote was legal.

Alderman Dean Johnson, a Ward 2 Independent, said yesterday that the council approved the original budget submitted by Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins instead of the one that the council's finance committee sent to the floor. And Louise Hammond, a Ward 1 Democrat, argued that it doesn't matter which budget the council approved because the vote came too late to be legal.

The council approved the budget 5-3 about 11:30 p.m., ignoring an ordinance that forbids such late-night votes.

"We continue to violate our own city code, and I want to know when we're going to start abiding by our own laws," Mrs. Hammond said. "I am sick and tired of abiding by that monkey business that goes on down there." The five-year capital improvement plan allocates $20 million for construction projects in the city in the fiscal year that starts July 1. Included is $250,000 for City Dock renovation and $2 million to revitalize the Clay Street area.

The finance committee made several changes in the mayor's budget, including speeding up money for renovations at the Stanton Center in the Clay Street neighborhood, but the bottom line remained the same.

Questions of whether the vote was legal and which budget the council adopted have been referred to City Attorney Paul G. Goetzke.

Mr. Johnson said the budget amended by the finance committee was not formally introduced onto the floor until after council members cast their votes.

"So did we approve the mayor's original budget or the finance committee version? Who knows? The council certainly doesn't know," he said.

Ms. Hammond said the council was not likely to recall the budget and hold a second vote.

Alderman Ellen O. Moyer, a Ward 8 Democrat, said the budget was approved legally and that any aldermen who suggested otherwise were doing so for political reasons.

"This is an attempt to try to bring discredit on the members who have the responsibility for working on these issues," Ms. Moyer said. "It's basically a trumped up story, and it happens every year."

Alderman Carl O. Snowden, the finance committee chairman, said he was "convinced the budget that was approved was the budget recommended by the finance committee."

Ms. Hammond, Mr. Johnson and Wayne C. Turner, a Ward 6 Republican, voted against the budget. Samuel Gilmer, a Ward 3 Democrat, abstained.

Arguments over the budget were not all procedural. Yesterday, residents of the Clay Street area were furious that Mr. Johnson, their alderman, had voted against the package, which included $2 million for the community.

The council approved speeding the delivery of $2 million to renovate the Stanton Center, a community outreach facility on Washington Street about half a block from Clay Street.

Neighborhood residents, who had worked with Mr. Johnson for more than a year on a revitalization plan for the neighborhood, viewed the alderman's vote as a betrayal.

"I was flabbergasted," community activist Bertina Nick said. "I even asked him, 'Dean, are you with us?' And he said 'Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.' And then he did that. The people in Clay Street are not going to forget how he voted."

Mr. Johnson said he opposed the entire budget after a procedural motion denied members time to debate the spending plan. He said he supports money for the Stanton Center but that he voted against the budget because he could not debate other expensive items.

"I was never permitted to speak," Mr. Johnson said. "That budget was rushed through and has all sorts of things in it the council doesn't seem to care about."

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