The city of Annapolis will be without a mayor for the next six weeks, as Ellen O. Moyer embarks on a European tour to visit sister cities in France and the British Isles. Moyer will begin her trip in Rochefort, France, then travel to Richmond, England; Dumfries, Scotland; Wexford, Ireland; Newport, Wales and Cowes, England. She departs today by ship for France and will return Aug. 15.
Although Moyer is paying for the vacation herself, she said the trip would be mostly for business.
"I consider it part of my job to do international outreach - we don't do that so much in this country," Moyer said, saying that Annapolis often plays host to delegates and city leaders from other countries. "It's my responsibility to return the visit and learn things from them."
Annapolis has partnered with 14 cities worldwide, including Dumfries, Wexford and Newport, to do governmental, economic and cultural exchanges. Annapolis has also sent general letters of interest to cities in China, Turkey and Morocco.
The city has budgeted $35,000 this year for its sister city program, run by City Administrator Bob Agee.
On this trip, Moyer will visit Lord Baltimore's home at Kiplin Hall near Richmond, which was built in the 1620s for George Calvert, who later became the founder of Maryland. Also at Kiplin Hall, she will visit the University of Maryland's international studies program, where she will do research for Annapolis' 300-year celebration. Three of the locations on the itinerary have sailing interest, bridging Annapolis to other sailing capitals of the world. Moyer will travel to Rochefort to pursue an economic partnership with the historic French sailing and naval town that has a major presence in the Annapolis boat show each fall. En route to Wexford, the mayor will stop in Kinsale, the sailing capital of Ireland, to learn about their programs, and she will end her trip in Cowes, the sailing capital of England, where the city is making another "initial inquiry" to become a sister city.
Because the City Council does not meet in August and it's traditionally vacation time for most of the council, Moyer said she thinks things are in order for her to leave.
While she is away, two fellow Democrats will stand in for her: Alderwomen Classie G. Hoyle, of Ward 3, and Sheila Finlayson, of Ward 4. Hoyle will be in charge for the remainder of the month and Finlayson, who has served on the City Council for four months, will take over in August.
Moyer will miss a July 23 public hearing, and Monday's council vote on her legislation to allow the Annapolis Triathlon Club to lease part of the City Dock on Sept. 8 and 9; she has lobbied heavily for the bill to bring in the city's first triathlon.
"I think it can go forward without me being there," Moyer said. "The revisions are in place, and it's definitely up to the council."
Alderman David H. Cordle Sr., however, said Moyer should be spending her time on issues at home instead of spreading goodwill abroad. The Republican from Ward 5 expressed concern over city violence, most recently a string of shootings. The police department is down 23 from its full contingent of 135 officers, putting a strain on the force and causing residents to complain of a lack of enforcement.
"There are some leadership issues when it comes to crime," Cordle said. "The timing [for the trip] is probably not the best, maybe for the extended period of time ... We need to make sure we have leadership to make the city safer."
Moyer responded that 2007 is still rated as a "low year" for crime: "The crime rate has gone up, but it's gone up from an all-time low."
During the trip, Moyer said she will be available by cell phone for emergencies, but is confident in the city leaders' abilities to carry on at home.
"The lights will stay on in City Hall," Agee said. firstname.lastname@example.org