The Annapolis city council endorsed last night the concept of a conference center for Annapolis after a raucous debate that put the mayor, a supporter of the project, on the defensive.
"I know what the hell I'm doing, and I say that with respect," Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins roared at the council.
The aldermen debated for more than two hours a resolution endorsing the vigorous pursuit of county and state funding for the proposed center at West Street and Taylor Avenue. The measure passed 5-4.
Some aldermen, including Wayne Turner, R-Ward 6, Samuel Gilmer, D-Ward 3, and Louise Hammond, D-Ward 1, fiercely denounced the resolution, saying the city cannot seek public funding without holding a public hearing first.
Supporters of the center, including Ellen O. Moyer, D-Ward 8, and Carl O. Snowden, D-Ward 5, countered that residents have had ample opportunity to speak and will have more chances.
The conference center debate heated up when a panel appointed by the mayor began delivering a report on potential uses for the proposed site. Mr. Hopkins thought the council should sit quietly and ask no questions. But the aldermen would not oblige him.
"I know what you told us where you would like us to go," Mr. Turner told the mayor. "But I believe this report is incomplete. This shouldn't be a sideshow where they just come up and show us the good side of this."
Mr. Hopkins again told the aldermen to stop asking questions. This time, Alderman Dean Johnson, a Ward 2 Independent, protested. "If the O.J. Simpson case can take as much time . . . this item, which is infinitely more complex because it involves more people, should have the same attention to details," he said.
Aldermen fired a few more shots at Mr. Hopkins, who then interrupted all of them and launched into a tirade about his own successes as mayor and the trouble politicians have getting people to trust them.
"I sometimes get really discouraged knowing all the effort and time put in. Somehow I feel there are some people who don't trust you, don't believe in you," he said, his face reddening. He began to defend himself against criticisms that had not even been made at the meeting.
"I have been a good mayor," he continued. "I will not be a part of anything that will be underhanded. My number is in the book and people come to my house all the time. I get down on my knees every night. I go to church every day and meditate. . . . I want you to know I've helped, I've helped, I've helped, I've helped. I have helped everyone."