Action Annapolis Questionnaire
James Appel (R) | Ward 5
Vision and Priorities
1. Please share your campaign vision and priorities. What strengths will you bring to the job, and what past experience has prepared you for the role of Alderman?
1. I would like to see traffic issues reduced which will allow more people to move through our City which will in turn increase revenue.
2. I would like to bring efficiency to City Government. Entitlements for City employees should be converted into incentives. Reward those that improve the City’s bottom line.
3. Public safety is a big concern. I applaud the Mayor for his appointment of Major Baker and increasing the police force with more officers. That needs to continue. And as mentioned earlier, building the bonds between the police and communities will make Annapolis a safer place to live.
4. Taxes – City taxes are high. While I do not see an immediate reduction in taxes, as we increase revenue we will be able to lower the tax rate, which will hold out of pocket costs to our citizens more constant. We need to use our current resources more wisely, which I know I can do if elected to the City Council.
I bring small private sector business experience along with State and Federal agency experience and that will afford me to being a wealth of knowledge to the council. I have saved millions of dollars to each program I have run and can do the same for the City.
2. Do you support strengthening the role of the City Manager? Why or why not?
Yes, a strong business oriented individual can take the politics out of the position and run the city like a business. They can also be held accountable.
3. Annapolis has vibrant economic opportunities. We also have a history of challenges in sustaining businesses in the City. What are your ideas in attracting and keeping businesses in Annapolis?
Annapolis is in a prime location, located centrally on the East coast. It has history, charm and a variety of attractions; such as the oldest continuously operated state house and the US Naval Academy. It is also the sailing capital of the world. We need to expand on each of these attributes.
4. How would you focus specifically on businesses owned by African Americans, Hispanics and other minorities?
I would advocate equal and fair opportunities for everyone regardless of ethnicity. Fair competition brings the best products and value to our citizens and tourists.
5. The Market House has a history of instability. What are your plans for a long-term solution to stabilize the Market House for the next generation and make it a hub for city activities?
The current process to receive submissions and award a 10-year lease with an option for an additional 10 years will bring stability to this Annapolis icon. The proposals need to be evaluated carefully and ensure a viable business model is presented. My business experience would help in that decision.
6. Residents of HACA (Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis) locations continue to experience a disproportionate amount of crime and inadequate living conditions. What four actions would you recommend to address HACA residents’ immediate safety, security, and quality of life needs?
Police involvement with the community. Too often the police are shunned from neighborhoods rather than welcomed. A cooperative relationship between the police and the public housing would greatly improve the quality of life in these neighborhoods. I would also review the amount of public housing that is offered, versus state and federal grants available, and ensure adequate conditions exist given the budget constraints. Quality not quantity would be the goal here.
7. With federal funding eliminated for renovation and new construction of public housing, where will money come from for redevelopment of our existing public housing?
Private – public partnerships. We need our business community to invest more in our community. The more businesses invest, the greater their revenue will be creating an upward spiral for the city.
8. Some of the housing has been redeveloped through public-private partnerships. Is this a good model, and why or why not?
Yes, it is working.
9. What is your position on privatizing of any of the city’s assets, e.g., recreational facilities, Market House, services?
I would review all options for services offered by the city. If the quality of service versus cost can be done more efficiently than the city, I would favor privatization. Each endeavor would need to be reviewed on a case by case basis.
10. What will be your approach to reduce and prevent crime?
I am not a policeman, nor do I have police experience. I would look to hire the best and let the experts do their job. I do not claim to be good at everything, and I know what I do not know.
11. The budget currently before the City Council anticipates hiring additional police and fire employees. The city would have to provide funding in subsequent budgets to support the additional employees. What is your proposal regarding the source of those funds?
This is where I am an expert and can bring solutions. It is not a simple answer, but my experience will allow me to increase efficiencies and better use tax dollars.
Budget and Taxes
12. How will you propose financing general budget needs?
Again, through efficiencies. While at NOAA I took a 30M program that was losing 1.5M annually and broke even (the mandate by law) in the very first year and ran it at that level for the nine years I was there.
13. What is your position on the current mayor’s proposed tax cut of $330,000?
I am in favor of tax cuts, as long as the budget can sustain them.
14. Please rank the following for budget priorities, from highest to lowest priority: Arts, Community Parks and Recreation, Education, Infrastructure, Transparency, Transportation
I do not agree with this list. I would list police, fire, infrastructure community and recreation and transportation as my top 5.
Equal Protection under the Law
15. In February 2017, the City Council passed Ordinance 0-1-17, Non-discrimination Foreign-Born Residents Equal Protection, acknowledging that all persons are due equal protection under the law. If you had been mayor/alderman at that time, how would you have voted on this ordinance, and why? If you are an incumbent, how did you vote and why?
This was a very poorly written bill and did not bring any additional protection to our citizens. It was a political statement against the newly elected President and I feel it was an unfortunate that the citizens of Annapolis were used as pawns.
16. What are your environmental initiatives? What will you do to address long term environmental sustainability needs and what is your plan to pay for these initiatives?
Enforcing the conservation act and increasing public awareness. Organizations like the South River Federation and Chesapeake Bay Federation have great, low, or no cost programs that make a tremendous impact on our environment. We need to continue to work with these organizations to improve the quality of our natural resources.
17. In March 2017, the City Council adopted the Forest Conservation Reforestation ordinance, known as “No Net Loss,” which requires developers to replace each acre of trees they cut down. If you had been mayor/alderman at that time, how would you have voted on this ordinance, and why?
I would have voted for it. We need to ensure the natural filters of the runoff remain intact.
18. Do you believe that additional storm water treatment initiatives /efforts are required? If so, what would you recommend and how would they be funded?
Yes, we do need to do more to control runoff. I would look to involve our citizens through awareness programs as well as businesses with incentives to clean up their surroundings.
19. Would you consider joining with the 246 Mayors in the US in supporting the commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement and work with them to support 21st Century a clean energy economy?
I agree we, as a society, need to continue to improve our impacts on the environment, but it needs to be done at the local levels. I would not favor using Annapolis City resources anywhere other than Annapolis.
20. The Eastport development project involves conflicts in the interpretation of the zoning code. How would you resolve this and future conflicts so that the developer and the community can rely on consistency in the approval process?
I would look to review the zoning codes to help reduce these conflicts but, as with any development project, the impact on short and long term liabilities for the city must be included in all decisions.
21. What is your position on requests being made by the Department of Recs and Parks for funding for the before and after-school program?
As with any program, all aspects of the program need to be reviewed and prioritized. Only then can educated decisions be made.
22. How do you think art in public places should be regulated and financed?
I feel the local business should provide a majority of the funding and it needs to be regulated through the historic district.
23. Members of city boards and commissions are required to provide a signed Statement of Compliance with the Provisions of Ethics Ordinance, affirming that they understand the provisions of the city code regarding public ethics and financial disclosure. Several members of the advisory boards and city commissions resigned because they took issue with the wording of the statement. Do you support any changes to make the statement non-controversial, and if so, what changes?
If members disagree with statements, those concerns should be brought to the council and reviewed.
24. Do you support the current Mayor-Council form of government or a Council - Manager form, and why?
The mayor – council form of government is appropriate for Annapolis. The Mayor serves as the chairman of the board and the council are the members. The City manager is the Executive Director and responsible for daily activates and must be held accountable.
25. Should boards and commissions have final say on the level of detail needed for their minutes, as long as that level met all legal and code requirements?
26. Would it be useful if the Mayor were to attend at least one board or commission hearing per month?
27. Should annual reports for each board and commission be posted on the city website?
28. How would you address the lack of women and minorities on City Boards and Commissions and as department heads? If so, how would you address it?
I feel quality of members is critical. We need to fill our boards and commissions with the highest qualified people. While diversifying the composition is important, it should not be the only criteria.