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Council to consider changes to charter Amendments would give city administrator control of Annapolis operations


The face of Annapolis government could be changed drastically under a set of proposed charter amendments that would place day-to-day government operations in the hands of a city administrator.

The proposed amendments also would give the administrator power over department heads, remove zoning decisions from the city council, abolish aldermanic committees and establish nonpartisan elections.

The council has scheduled a public hearing on the amendments at 7 p.m. today.

"These are going to be the most important charter amendments the city has considered in three decades," said Alderman Carl O. Snowden, who wrote a column on the amendments recently in the Annapolis Times, a local weekly. "It will literally change how local government will function for the next century."

Council members will vote on the bills Dec. 9, said city attorney Paul G. Goetzke, who urged residents to attend and speak out at the hearing tonight.

"Public input is essential because, ultimately, the form of government in Annapolis is determined by the public, and that point is made at the very beginning of our charter," Goetzke said.

He said the amendments would make government operations "significantly more efficient."

The proposed amendments stem from a report by the Annapolis Governmental Structure and Charter Revision Commission, which presented a 20-page report in September. The nine-member commission's report led to proposals that would:

Transfer approval of conditional uses from the council to the city Board of Appeals.

Turn over the council's authority to approve subdivisions to the Planning Commission.

Define the roles of city administrator and mayor, who would have the power to hire and fire the administrator.

Prohibit aldermen from interfering in the administration of the city. Violators would face discipline from the entire council.

Eliminate the two-term limit for mayor.

Abolish aldermanic committees and require that all business be conducted by the whole council.

Provide for nonpartisan elections of mayor and aldermen.

Give city voters the right to recall elected city officials.

The proposal to take zoning decisions out of the council's hands is expected to sail through because eight of the nine members are sponsoring the measure, city officials say.

Amendments that might have a tougher time passing are the ones to abolish aldermanic committees, create nonpartisan elections and prohibit aldermen from interfering in the administration of the city, officials said.

The commission recommended prohibiting aldermen from interfering with administrative matters because of "complaints that aldermen, as individuals and collectively, often attempt to micromanage the activities of various city departments," according to the report.

Whether to keep Annapolis' current weak-mayor system -- which allows the mayor a vote on the council but no veto power -- or delegate day-to-day duties to a manager, who would have more power than an administrator, and turn the mayor's job into a largely ceremonial one has been raised several times in the past decade.

But the commission recommended against the city manager form of government, giving the mayor veto power or changing the mayor's role on the city council.

"There was a strong push by citizens groups to change Annapolis to the city manager form of government," said Snowden, a Ward 5 Democrat who is expected to run for mayor next year. "These charter changes will probably end any discussion of having a city manager."

Pub Date: 12/02/96

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