Thursday, October 27, 2005

Mayoral Candidates Face the Music

The candidates for Mayor of Annapolis were asked four questions about their vision for the future of Annapolis. Mayor Moyer and Mr. Renaut responded, Mr. Kelley did not. I thank each of them for their time. Here are their answers:

1. What are your opinions of the inner West Street development and the local festivals that business owners there have orchestrated?

ELLEN MOYER: The Inner West Street development is a great source of pride, from the adaptive reuse of the funky "West Village" homes to the completion of the Knighton Garage to the bricking of the first block of West Street and the Church Circle sidewalks.

Once again, the historic gateway to the City of Annapolis is a showplace where the arts and culture flourish.

The occasional (which is the operative word) festivals only enhance this hometown pride in the uptown commercial district. Having public events away from the City Dock, in a place which lends itself to promenades and gatherings, has stimulated business while creating fun and affordable community events.

West Street redevelopment which attracted more than ten times the City's outlay for infrastructure in private sector investment, is an excellent example of Smart Growth and I'm proud much of it has occurred during my administration.

GILBERT RENAUT: The Inner West Street business successes are exciting for the entire community. The businesses are employing people, and taking pride in their city. Much of the business is being generated by local residents and enjoyed by local residents, and that is especially impressive. Rams Head Tavern is probably owed the biggest thanks for jump-starting that part of the city a number of years ago. Those who have taken the risks and put in the work are to be congratulated and thanked for creating a wonderful atmosphere on a daily basis -- and for the enjoyable special events they've produced and attracted to promote the area.

However, we also want to do our best to incorporate the talents of the entire community as we move forward in business development anywhere in Annapolis. That means, for example, that we should work to make the Clay Street neighborhood a part of this West Street development. I will work to research additional economic development opportunities and grants if necessary to get additional minority-owned businesses along the West Street corridor, to make sure that all of our boats are rising with this new tide.

2. What would you like to see come of the Market House redevelopment?

MOYER: I'd like to see the legacy of the Market House as a community meeting place and purveyor of the "sale and purchase of goods and supplies" as the deed from long ago stated it should be.

I'm very sorry the Annapolis Seafood model did not work out. I think it contained all the provisions the residents and committees working on the Market House redevelopment said they wanted -- a local business supplying fresh local produce and seafood, with other vendors selling other grocery items, ready to eat items, and featuring the end gourmet specialties of Dean & Deluca.

But we need to look ahead to the lease we are working out with Site Realty. I am hopeful their Eastern Market model can be adapted to our Market House with some improvements on the aesthetics.

RENAUT: I'd like to see an open discussion among the city, the residents, and local merchants to determine the best and most efficient way to get the market open again as quickly as possible. It is sorely missed by residents and visitors alike.

I will meet with the Annapolis Business Association, the Chamber of Commerce, the visitor's bureau, local marinas, watermen's groups, the governor, the county executive, neighborhood associations, and anyone else to find common ground for merchants, visitors, boaters, and residents. The market house belongs to all of us. It is a unique and important centerpiece for the city, and getting it re-opened is among my first initiatives.

3. What would you do to see that many of the environmental initiatives that [the current Mayor] has put in place are continued and extended?

MOYER: To be very honest, one of the most compelling reasons for my running for re-election is to make sure the tremendous strides we have made, working with environmental interests and community associations to leverage the resources we as a city have put into programs is not discontinued.

Initiatives like GreenScape, the Nickel a Day for the Bay for stormwater retrofitting and rain garden construction, our creek conservancies, the projects at Back Creek Nature Park, the grand vision for Waterworks Park, Parks and Paths for People and many others could disappear with the next budget.

We have all invested too much time and effort to let that happen.

RENAUT: I am in favor of environmental initiatives, and would put any current programs under review for effectiveness, fairness, and the legitimacy of all alliances and contracts before making any decisions about them. In my opinion, the most serious environmental problems over which the city has any control are traffic and run-off, and that’s where I would concentrate my initial efforts.

4. What would you do, if anything, to increase affordable housing in the city?

MOYER: When I was elected, I appointed a committee to examine means to make affordable housing available in the city. The recommendations were fashioned into legislation by a task force I appointed and a landmark ordinance was passed.

I am proud that now 12% of new housing construction must contain affordable units. This also includes condo conversions, so the projects on West Street and the Spa Cove Apartments will be making these units available to Annapolis workforce before the end of the year.

RENAUT: This has long been an issue close to my heart, so yes, I will be working hard to address it.

There are at least three prongs to this sticky issue: affordable sale prices of homes, affordable rents, and affordable property taxes. Each one affects a different group of people, from young families buying their first homes, and single people renting an apartment, to senior citizens who want to stay in their family homes, but can no longer afford the taxes.

Providing affordable housing in our city is among the most complex of issues, in part because Annapolis is limited in its ability to grow. Due to the large number of government buildings, churches, schools, and protected historic buildings, there isn't much real estate left over for growth in our town. Many of the historic properties are not equipped with modern fire prevention tools, limiting again the opportunity for rental space in upper levels.

Where would I begin to unravel some of these issues? I would seek to maximize our available real estate assets. I would study the possible conversion of appropriate single-family properties to affordable multi-family units and finding safe and economical ways to encourage residential units in second stories of commercial buildings. I would put the best people I could find to work developing a smart-growth policy and community plan.

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