Action Annapolis Questionnaire
Joe Budge (D) | Ward 1
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?
My experiences and involvement in business, non-profits, and government equip me to fit into the City Council and represent your interests there.
In four years on the Council I’ve demonstrated REAL LEADERSHIP WITH REAL RESULTS. I’ve formed alliances on the Council to revise and adopt the City Dock Plan, to re-develop both the old Fawcett’s building and the old Rec Center, and to re- build the Public Works complex on Spa Road. Together we defined clear rules for Special Events, Vendors, Food Trucks, and Forest Conservation. In the last three years I led the Council in reducing Waste Collection Fees 31%. When no one else would act, I introduced legislation to find a new tenant for the Market House. Throughout I’ve shepherded updates to Residential Parking Districts, obtained Parking Passes for Bloomsbury Square, re-established the free Parking Circulator and represented Ward One’s multiple interests to the City’s Parking Contractor. My record shows that I listen to you and am willing to do the hard work required to get
the results you need out of City government.
2. Do you support strengthening the role of the City Manager? Why or why not?
Yes. Having some departments report to the City Manager and others report to the Mayor makes little sense and causes internal conflict.
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?
Throughout the country, retail districts and malls are under assault from the online world. On top of that, Annapolis has a terrible reputation as a place to do business – our zoning and permitting processes are seen as incomprehensible and subject to change without notice. We must overhaul our codes and practices to support
existing stores and help our Economic Development team recruit new businesses.
4. How would you focus specifically on businesses owned by African Americans, Hispanics and other minorities?
During the FY18 Budget I led the Council in insisting we restore the Small, Minority, and Disadvantaged Business Development position that had been cut and in finding funding for the position. This liaison must be re-established as a critical link between minority businesses and promote them.
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?
Following my leadership the City Council has solicited bids for tenants who wish to operate the Market House as an amenity that will offer “fresh products and services from local and regional sources and promote the authentic character of the building as a market.” The Council will hold public hearings; interview bidders openly, and transparently select a tenant that can best carry the Market House forward. I hope everyone will tell the Council what you think of the proposals that will be presented – it’s your Market House.
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?
Last year the City Council unanimously supported increasing funding for Police. This year I joined six other Council members in funding ten additional police officers and calling for an emphasis on community policing to address our resident’s safety and security needs. Our new Chief of Police is committed to moving the force in that direction.
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?
The Housing Authority has few choices. Most likely they will need to sell some properties to public private partnerships in order to raise funds to redevelop other properties. As the properties are re-developed, the Authority and the City should work hand in hand to embed public housing in mixed-use developments rather than continuing to isolate our low-income communities.
8. Some of the housing has been redeveloped through public-private partnerships. Is this a good model, and why or why not?
Public private partnerships for public housing utilize Federal tax incentives and voucher programs to enable private developers to offer housing to low-income families. The experience in Annapolis is that the developers frequently sacrifice community amenities and recreation facilities in implementing their projects. Retroactively, the City needs to develop recreation programs for these sites. Proactively, the City needs to examine our zoning regulations to insure the success of future public private partnerships.
9. What is your position on privatizing of any of the city’s assets, e.g., recreational facilities, Market House, services?
I am opposed to selling the Market House or any other facilities that are within city limits. Historically the City has successfully privatized some of our services – we achieved a 50% cost savings in residential solid waste removal and about half of our road resurfacing and snow removal are through private contractors. Further examples should be examined case-by-case. For the record I oppose privatizing our recreational programs.
10. What will be your approach to reduce and prevent crime?
I joined six other Council members in funding ten additional police officers and calling for an emphasis on community policing to address our residents safety and security needs. Our new Chief of Police is committed to moving the force in that direction.
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?
The additional police officers were included as part of the Police operating budget. In future years a “level budget” would automatically include these officers. The additional firefighters are grant-funded for two years. When the grant expires the Council should find means to incorporate them into the operating budget.
Budget and Taxes
12. How will you propose financing general budget needs?
I support maintaining a constant property tax rate. Over time a constant rate insures the city’s budget remains in synch with the local economy.
13. What is your position on the current mayor’s proposed tax cut of $330,000?
I opposed the tax cut. It’s irresponsible to avoid our rising debt and $60 million of unfunded pension and benefit liabilities.
14. Please rank the following for budget priorities, from highest to lowest priority: Arts, Community Parks and Recreation, Education, Infrastructure, Transparency, Transportation
Infrastructure – water, sewer, roads and sidewalks – are part of the City’s core function. I regard Transportation, Parks & Recreation, and Educational programs as essential services for our lower income residents.
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?
My service is based on the core belief that we are a community who must look after each other and that we must treat all individuals with trust, respect, and dignity and ensure their voices be heard. I said that in 2013 - but our belief in each other is even more important today. I was proud to co-sponsor the City’s Equal Protection Act and continue working to ensure we uphold this standard.
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?
I have been a central member of the City’s Weather It Together planning team since it began in 2013, evaluating and developing strategies to address or mitigate sea level rise. In addition the City needs to encourage private adoption of sustainable energy by enabling local PACE financing and developing well-understood standards for implementing sustainable energy sources in the Historic District.
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 was a leading member of the Council team that developed the city’s 2016 Forest Conservation Act and a sponsor of the bill. I did not support the “No Net Loss” amendment, however, as almost all of the communications I received about it from constituents and the public were about traffic on Forest Drive, not about forests. While the City has a tree canopy goal, it has no plan for how to achieve that goal. A tree canopy plan is an important objective for the next term.
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?
The City has considerable work to do to meet it’s federally and state mandated stormwater limits. The City has developed a Watershed Improvement Plan (WIP) to meet these requirements. At my request the Administration has introduced the WIP to the Council for approval so that we can move forward with it. The WIP should be funded by grants and the Watershed Restoration Fee.
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?
Yes, I am a co-sponsor of R-22-17, the City Council Resolution to uphold the goals of the United Nations Paris Climate Agreement as they apply within the City. Annapolis already is taking actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through an audit and update of energy-using equipment in City buildings and constructing a solar energy park at our closed landfill.
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?Alderman Arnett and I have introduced legislation that will provide the public input into proposed developments much earlier in the process and that call for a detailed review of the Planned Development process. Looking at the bigger picture, I believe our zoning code is so convoluted and has enough ambiguities that the entire code should be overhauled.
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?
The City Department of Recreation and Parks requested a fee increase to offset new fees that were being imposed on the program by the County. I voted in favor of the fee increase in order to continue the before and after-school program.
22. How do you think art in public places should be regulated and financed?1. . The City should regulate art that is either publicly funded or placed on public property. It should have no role regulating the content of art on private property, although the placement of that art might be subject to zoning codes, historic codes, and building codes. I have voted in favor of increasing the budget for Art in Public Places by 50% in the last two years.
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?
State law distinguishes between the disclosure requirements for regulatory or quasi- judicial boards and the disclosure requirements for advisory boards. The Statement of Compliance mentioned in the question applies to advisory boards. I will support legislation rolling this statement back to its previous, non-controversial version.
24. Do you support the current Mayor-Council form of government or a Council - Manager form, and why?
In 2009 I was a strong proponent of the Council-Manager form of government. After discussing the topic with my colleagues on other City Councils throughout Maryland during the last four years, I’ve recognized there is no magic to any single form of government.
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?
Decisions by regulatory and quasi-judicial boards and commissions are subject to appeal. Their minutes should meet the requirements of the body or court that will hear the appeal and the surrounding body of law. Advisory boards should have the final say in their minutes.
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?
The City Council can only confirm or turn down appointments made by the mayor. The most important step is to elect a mayor who values women and minorities in positions of responsibility.