'No' to a city manager

The Baltimore Sun

After months of debate over whether Annapolis should change its form of government by hiring a city manager to take over some of the mayor's duties, the Annapolis city council voted down Monday two versions of a "city manager" amendment that many Annapolitans argued would allow the city to be more professionally run.

One version of the amendment - sponsored by Aldermen Ross H. Arnett III, Richard E. Israel, Samuel Shropshire and Julie Stankivic - would have changed the city's current form of government substantially by giving a city manager many of the mayor's current roles, such as hiring and firing directors. It would also have removed many of the mayor's executive powers, and the city manager would have been appointed by the city council.

The other version - sponsored by Aldermen David H. Cordle Sr., Sheila M. Finlayson and Classie Gillis Hoyle - would have created a city manager, appointed by the mayor, who supervises departmental directors and takes care of day-to-day operations.

Ward 2 Alderman Frederick M. Paone, the only alderman who did not sponsor either bill, said during Monday's council meeting that the voters should decide the issue via referendum, the same way the city decided to go from a commission to charter form of government in the 1960s.

"This represents a major change in our government ... as such, it is not to be taken lightly," Paone said. "I think it ought to be done by referendum. I feel very strongly that way."

Before voting, Paone told the council that he believed he was the only alderman who listened to both sides of the debate during the public comment period, because he and Mayor Ellen O. Moyer were the only two people on the council who weren't associated with one of the bills.

"I did what I'm paid to do," he said. "I attempted to take a dispassionate look at both sides of the issue."

Annapolitans for a Better Community, a citizen group of about 120, is working on a petition to get the issue on the ballot in the form of referendum.

Since the council rejected the amendments, the public must petition for the referendum for it to appear on a ballot. The petition was under legal review last week, and Bill Kardash, a 19-year Annapolitan who is heading up the petition effort, expected it to be distributed this week.

Although the petition must include 20 percent of registered voters' names, which is almost 5,000 people, Kardash said he expects "that we're going to go beyond that number."

"We really feel that in trying to run a government where you have an elected official who may or may not have management skills, that it really does make good sense to have a skilled professional to run the city," he said.

Although the council made a decision on the city manager issue, now it must face another challenge - figuring out whether to pass legislation that would allow a $50,000 raise for the next mayor, as recommended by the Council Compensation Commission.

The commission is suggesting a $120,000 salary for the next mayor's four-year term. Moyer is serving her second and final term, and the new mayor will take office in December after an election is held.

Aldermen should be paid $18,500, plus $1,500 a year for education and training, and $1,000 reimbursable allowance for "basic expenditures necessary to carry out professional duties and services to constituents," the commission recommended.

Although several people have spoken against the mayoral raise, noting a poor economy, the commission defended its recommendations at Monday's meeting.

"We see this position as one of stature and one of competitiveness - one of talent," said J. Elizabeth Garraway, commission chair. Garraway and the five other members voted unanimously for the changes.

"We are sensitive to those who can not, do not, have the compensation they need to survive," Garraway told the council. "These conditions, however, do not mitigate the need for effective leadership.

"We really endeavor to serve the public interest with the change."

In making its recommendations, the commission considered cost-of-living adjustments, compensation for those in similar positions in other cities and in the private sector, and the mayor's responsibilities.

"Moreover, the commission holds that the '... modest and incremental' approach employed by the last commission in recommending a salary for the mayor, has eroded the mayor's salary in constant dollars, and, perhaps inadvertently, contributed to past and current salary inequities that need to be rectified," the commission wrote in a briefing to the council.

Despite such arguments, some, including Ward 7 Alderman Sam Shropshire, say a $50,000 raise for the mayor is excessive.

"In better times we can certainly reconsider an increase in salary for the mayor," Shropshire wrote in a statement. "But at this point in history, when businesses are closing and our people are suffering, this is nothing but wrong."

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