Annapolis fee-for-services measure protested; City would be hurt, event organizers assert


Representatives of several nonprofit groups showed up at an Annapolis city council public hearing last night to rail against a controversial bill that would charge event organizers for city services.

Protesters argued that the bill would make it more difficult to stage events and would hurt the city economically rather than help it.

Directors and board members of First Night Annapolis, Cultural Arts Foundation of Anne Arundel County, Annapolis and Anne Arundel Chamber of Commerce and former Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins -- in a rare appearance at a city council meeting -- were among the more than dozen people who took turns at the podium.

Each asked the council to reconsider voting on the bill that Alderman Herb McMillan introduced last month.

McMillan crafted the legislation to charge event organizers for facilities and services so that the city would not have to pick up the tab for police and trash removal for the hundreds of events that take place in Annapolis every year.

Beth A. Koehler, a member of the board of First Night Annapolis, asked for criteria that would determine which events would be exempt from the fees. Without such criteria, Koehler said, it would be impossible to cast an educated vote on the bill.

The debate turned at times into verbal sparring between aldermen and event organizers.

Koehler and First Night Annapolis Executive Director Janice Gary were questioned by seven of the eight aldermen for almost 20 minutes concerning how their organization is run and where it spends its money.

To end it, McMillan said, "It's going to be a long night if [we're questioning] every group that receives something from the city for nothing. I don't have a problem with First Night Annapolis. What I have a problem with is that we don't have a process" to decide which groups have to pay for services and which don't.

Hopkins said he was concerned that the bill would make it difficult for organizers of events that bring tourist dollars to Annapolis.

"We have people who come here for Midnight Madness and First Night Annapolis and say, 'I've got to come back. This place is heaven on Earth,' " Hopkins said. "The best way to sell the city is to bring people here spending money."

Cynthia McBride, a board member of the Annapolis and Anne Arundel Chamber of Commerce, urged the council not to vote on the bill until an impact study finds out how much revenue events bring to the city.

Pub Date: 1/26/99

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