Action Annapolis Questionnaire
Julie Mussog (R) | Ward 8
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?
I have lived, worked and raised my family in Annapolis for 13 years. I have held leadership positions in many local non-profits. I also have a strong background in finance and management with over 20 years of private and public sector experience in finance, management and business development. I am currently the CEO of Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation and just prior to that I was the Anne Arundel County Controller. I am a problem solver and have worked on many pieces of legislation that have improved the way our county works at both the state and county level. All of this legislation has involved bi-partisan support as I believe good governance is not a partisan issue.
It has always been my belief that we cannot simply put a band-aid over problems, but must deal with their root causes. We live in a diverse and vibrant community where we must all respect and help each other if we want neighborhoods to improve.
2. Do you support strengthening the role of the City Manager? Why or why not?
I support strengthening the role of City Manager. An experienced and non-political manager can be a great asset and manage the day-to-day operations of the city efficiently.
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 already the #1 tourist destination in the state. It also has high income and education demographics that are attractive to new and expanding businesses. Unfortunately, it also has the reputation for being a difficult place to do business. We need to have more clarity and consistency in the planning and permitting process. Once businesses feel more comfortable with the process they will feel more comfortable making an investment in our city.
4. How would you focus specifically on businesses owned by African Americans, Hispanics and other minorities?
I believe in equal economic opportunity for all of our citizens, but realize some socio-economic groups do not have the same awareness level of the business support services we offer. To that end it is important to have a small, women and minority business outreach focus.
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 city should not be in the market house management business. We need to find a qualified private sector partner run the market house in accordance to the parameters that the city council (with adequate public input) sets out in an RFP. Once those parameters are set and the RFP is issued we need to make sure the procurement process is followed and only qualified responses considered. There are plenty of successful examples of market houses out there and there is no reason ours should not be successful and vibrant as well.
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?
I think that the changes to the HACA board have been very positive and that we have a group of individuals with the experience to effect positive change. There is no doubt that HACA is in a very challenging financial position with the changes in how federal funds are allocated that leaves them with little resources to adequately upkeep the properties. On the city side, policing efforts need to be ever vigilant with increased community policing and foot patrols. Hopefully a focus on community policing could help continue to build relationships between residents and police. The community also needs to take a leadership role in working with the police to help make their community safer. This cannot be a one-sided effort. After school, job training and community programs are also a critical component.
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?
It will have to come from public private partnerships.
8. Some of the housing has been redeveloped through public-private partnerships. Is this a good model, and why or why not?
So far it appears to be a good model. There are two completed projects so far and the housing stock was upgraded significantly, crime stats have improved and the properties are providing tax revenue.
9. What is your position on privatizing of any of the city’s assets, e.g., recreational facilities, Market House, services?
I think you mean services not the actual assets. I think that the decision to outsource any city services need to be carefully evaluated and cost savings should not be the only factor. We should also consider if we can increased and better service.
10. What will be your approach to reduce and prevent crime?
There are many facets to crime prevention and reduction such as ensuring adequate funding for police, job training, drug treatment, drug education and outreach programs, ensuring adequate after school programs for kids and proper mental and physical health care. It will require effort from the city, its residents, the state, local non-profits, and churches. A few sentences couldn’t do justice to the complexity of this issue.
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?
I believe that budget passed with a SAFER grant for additional fire personnel. The police positions were funded through the general fund.
Budget and Taxes
12. How will you propose financing general budget needs?
Through the budget process which allocates the taxes and fees that the city collects. We need to make sure that we start meeting ARC for our pension obligations and create a funding plan to address other long-term liabilities such as OPEB and storm water management. We also need to determine the appropriate target level for a rainy day fund. Public safety and infrastructure needs to need be addressed as well. Then the funding for other department priorities. The city’s total property tax rate is 32% higher than the county’s. Eliminating unnecessary spending is critical.
13. What is your position on the current mayor’s proposed tax cut of $330,000?
Given that it was voted down it is a moot point, but as I pointed out above our tax rate is 32% higher than the county and I challenge anyone to point to a service that we are getting to justify this higher rate.
14. Please rank the following for budget priorities, from highest to lowest priority: Arts, Community Parks and Recreation, Education, Infrastructure, Transparency, Transportation
As I expressed in Question 12, I feel the city’s long-term obligations, public safety and infrastructure need to be addressed first. The process should always be transparent. Education is funded through county taxes and the allocation of the spending of those dollars is primarily determined by the BOE.
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?
I would have voted for it, even though it did nothing to help our foreign-born residents. It did no good, but it also did no harm. I do feel the time spent on this effort could have been better spent addressing the budget, the convoluted P&Z code, or any number of other important issues.
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?
We need to make sure the current code is being enforced and that an adequate storm water management plan is adopted. The current stormwater fee is adequate to bond the proposed $5 million in capital projects under council consideration right now. We also need to focus on projects that reduce/eliminate runoff into our creeks to reduce the need for expensive dredging.
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. Forests and trees provide clean air, clean water, and flood control, among many other benefits.
The city has a tree canopy goal of 50% by 2036 and sitting at 45% currently the no net loss requirement will ensure we meet this goal.
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 needs to address this issue. For many years the fee has been collected but with no clear long term plan. The council is currently considering a bill to address the long-term storm water management/watershed protection restoration. I believe that the current fee is adequate to cover these costs to implement the program. The city should also look for opportunities to leverage grant funds available to non profit groups by partnering on projects. Stormwater remediation is a critical component of any new development in the city and proper application and enforcement of this code is critical.
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 believe the city already voted for this and the goals are laudable.
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?
The code needs to be re-written—it has been amended on an ad-hoc basis for decades and a comprehensive review is necessary. There is no reason that the interpretation should lead to so many different conclusions. The business community needs to know that all projects will receive fair, consistent and timely evaluation.
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?
These programs are usually more than self-sustaining when viewed as a whole. The last-minute cancellation of the Eastport Elementary program last year was completely unacceptable. If the city rec program is having trouble finding qualified providers perhaps this is an area to explore partnering with the county on.
22. How do you think art in public places should be regulated and financed? . Title 6 of the city code addresses this and 3% of the hotel tax goes to fund the local arts council.
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?
My understanding is there was only one person who took issue and the city and other attorneys reviewed the complaint and found no cause. If there were more complaints and resignations I would appreciate a list so that I could learn more about the issue.
24. Do you support the current Mayor-Council form of government or a Council - Manager form, and why?
Any change to our form of government should be decided by the voters.
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?
No. My understanding is that all boards and commissions must file an annual report detailing the work they have done. I believe if the mayor has an interest or feels it is necessary he/she will attend their hearings, otherwise a review of the summary report is probably enough. No need for a requirement.
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?
Women and minorities should always be encouraged to apply and this is where an effective SMWE coordinator/program can help identify good candidates and those best qualified for each position, where appropriate.