Action Annapolis Questionnaire
Rob Savidge (D) | Ward 7
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?The priorities of my campaign are to continue protecting the quality of life of our residents by standing up against out of control development in our City, giving Ward 7 a voice by holding town hall meetings and communicating regularly, and to improve Ward 7 by addressing mobility and increasing public art. The strengths I bring are that I am a scientist who also has an organizing background. I have proven my commitment to standing up for the Ward over the 16 years I’ve lived here, and I have shown that I can work with others to get things done. My past experience as a scientist will help me prepare this town for Climate Change, and my experience with local government will help to navigate the local bureaucracy to make change. Over the years, I have often worked with Council members to help draft legislation and to help garner support for initiatives. I am quite familiar with how to work the system from both outside and in.
2. Do you support strengthening the role of the City Manager? Why or why not?
No, I do not. While I can support and understand the role the City Manager plays by professionally managing the City (as a government professional myself), I value accountability and grassroots democracy more. And putting too much power in the hands of an unelected government official is dangerous in that regard, since any change would require a majority on the Council. I’ve seen City Managers run wild with their own personal agendas, to the detriment of our laws, the City, and the Mayor.
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?
Businesses do need more support from the City. As someone who minored in Business Management, I understand the needs of that community. I think we should continue supporting green businesses with our Environmental Stewardship Program, which I helped develop. I also think we should explore assigning a staff person the duties of being an ombudsman to that community, to hear their voices and concerns. I feel there also needs to be more creative thinking and planning on what businesses come downtown. I don’t want to see downtown, and the locals, be overridden with chain stores. And utilizing the model from West Street, of businesses working together themselves, shows how such an effort can reinvigorate and re-invent portions of our City for the betterment of all. Finally, I think we should take steps to ensure the second floors of the buildings downtown can be occupied by residents, to help support our downtown economy and vitality.
4. How would you focus specifically on businesses owned by African Americans, Hispanics and other minorities?
I would continue to make sure that we have an ombudsman or liaison position that works with these communities. The City used to have a dedicated employee who worked on minority small businesses. Those are the types of businesses we want downtown and elsewhere, to give our City character and make it unique and local.
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?
I support the initiatives to make the planning around the Market House more transparent (although an election year is a bad time to do so). The residents who use and live downtown deserve a strong say in this. That said, as someone who has been here a while and worked downtown, I’d like to see the Market House be more of a traditional farmers/seafood market, that also creates more usable space for outdoor dining, a place for music and entertainment, and expanded greenspace and trees. The structure is located there to serve as an actual market, yet it’s only being utilized as a food court. We have enough restaurants downtown and need to try some other creative ideas.
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?
First of all, we need to ensure residents are safe. Fortunately, APD has signed an MOU with HACA to police their properties. However, we need to make sure APD has what they need to do the job. And we also need to talk to HACA about doing their fair share. Many large housing complexes have their own private security. I think HACA should do the same with their properties. Second, we need to make sure the residents have a voice. I would push HACA to hold town hall meetings for their residents and take other steps, such a newspaper or newsletter, to improve their communication with residents. Third, we need to make sure the City has adequate staff and training to inspect the HACA properties and that City Staff are able to take the appropriate enforcement methods to give residents the same safety we expect on private properties. Our excellent inspectors must be able to do their jobs. Fourth, I would continue fighting for a strong Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit program to prevent developers from gaining variances to that program, explore setting up a community housing land trust that will create affordable first-time homes, and expand our partnership with Habitat for Humanity. This will ensure that those who live in public housing have a way out to home ownership but can continue living in our City.
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?
We need to look at new development projects to get them to help fund our public housing. If someone wants to build a large development with expensive homes, they should pay a fee that goes towards supporting HACA. They need to help us support those most in need in our City. We also should explore more partnerships with non-profits, such as Habitat for Humanity, and explore setting up a Community Housing Trust. Furthermore, HACA should look at restructuring to see if there are any savings they can realize internally, and to re-emphasize their core mission to meet the needs of the residents.
8. Some of the housing has been redeveloped through public-private partnerships. Is this a good model, and why or why not?
I am not fond of this approach for housing. While it does lead to renovated properties of excellent quality, it seems that in practice it has resulted in the needs of the residents falling by the wayside for the sake of more profit for the private developers. This has resulted in reduced recreational areas. I’m not entirely dismissing public-private partnerships, but they must be more of a partnership with the community and residents.
9. What is your position on privatizing of any of the city’s assets, e.g., recreational facilities, Market House, services?
I generally oppose privatization. I feel governments should rarely sell public assets because they are much more difficult to impossible to ever get back. Furthermore, and perhaps more significantly, privatization leads to less accountability to the public. At least with public resources, the public can always have a say through the democratic process. But once areas are privatized, we lose that control over our community resources.
10. What will be your approach to reduce and prevent crime?
Crime reduction and prevention does not begin with the arrests or the actual policing. It needs to begin with the kids and the community members. To that end, we must partner with local and regional employers to provide jobs and training. This includes green jobs with our watershed organizations and other businesses working on our stormwater management program, as well as the maritime industry off of Edgewood Road. Kids need to have access to recreational opportunities, which means keeping our facilities public. The City needs to lead by example and make sure our employees and contractors are being paid a living wage. And we need to ensure the police are accountable to the public by setting up a Citizen Advisory Board to improve police-community relations. Lastly, we need to go in the direction of more community policing and get the police out of their cars as much as possible. I am glad that the new police chief is going in this 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?
We should not be relying on grant funds, which are not guaranteed in the future. We should only hire as many employees as we can afford out of our operating budget.
Budget and Taxes
12. How will you propose financing general budget needs?
Our general budget needs should be financed through our property tax revenue and any associated fees and utilities. The Capital Budget should be funded using bonds.
13. What is your position on the current mayor’s proposed tax cut of $330,000?
The Mayor should not be cutting taxes when we have record bond debt, and increasing pension debt, and numerous big-money projects we have to do in the imminent future. Such projects include the Hillman garage that is literally starting to fall down, adapting downtown to sea level rise and climate change, and paying for the $20 million worth of projects and program costs by 2025 associated with our stormwater program.
14. Please rank the following for budget priorities, from highest to lowest priority: Arts, Community Parks and Recreation, Education, Infrastructure, Transparency, Transportation
3.Community parks & recreation
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?
As a resident, I showed up and testified in support. As an Alderperson, I would have voted in favor. We need to make sure that our residents, that all members of our community, feel welcome. That is the kind of City I want to build for my son, and all our children. And that relationship must be built on trust between all residents and the police and public officials.
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 drafted the City’s Sustainable Annapolis Community Action Plan (sustainability plan and climate action plan) when I served as the Sustainability Coordinator for the City. If implemented fully, this could, and has, reduced costs for the City due to energy efficiency savings. And it would make us a clear leader in the State for environmental, economic, social, and climate sustainability. The first focus of my campaign is to address the threat overdevelopment poses to our environmental quality by pushing for down-zoning and a temporary moratorium on large-scale projects. Secondly, I’d like to focus on our stormwater issue. Our waterways need to be cleaned up so they are swimmable and fishable all year round. To accomplish this and meet our TMDL goals, we need to overhaul our stormwater fee, increase the amount of stormwater new development treats (or a fee they pay to allow City to treat more elsewhere), and retrofit older properties. Third, my campaign focuses on adapting to climate change. We need draft a strategic plan for how we will address this existential threat to our City.
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 assisted in drafting this ordinance, although it was weakened by the time the vote came around. I would have still voted in favor of it, but I would have fought harder against the amendments that kept in the reforestation credit that allows developers to avoid a small portion of the reforestation. As an organizer, I helped marshal the environmental community to support this ordinance and fight against any bad amendments.
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 need to enact an impact fee on new development to help us pay for our infrastructure costs. And our stormwater code needs to be fully utilized and updated to ensure that new development treats more than the minimum required. There should also be an associated fee developers can pay into beyond their current base 100% treatment requirement, so that the City can use that money to retrofit properties where it’s needed most. There are a number of grandfathered, older properties that have zero stormwater management. A restructured stormwater fee will ensure we raise more funds, ensure that it’s more equitable for residents, and ensure it incentivizes retrofitting and new capacity.
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 helped Alderman Littman draft the City’s resolution in support of the Paris Agreement. I drafted the City’s Climate Action Plan and started the ball rolling on our efforts to address climate change. The US Naval Academy predicts, at minimum, the most likely amount of sea level rise we will experience is 3 feet by 2100, with it potentially being more than 6 feet. We need to prepare for that, and we cannot allow backwards federal policies get in the way of that. We need to use it as an opportunity to reinvigorate and re-energize our response to climate change.
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?
Code that is not clear should be interpreted to be in favor of the comprehensive plan and the public, and not towards the developer, unless that specifically helps further the goals of the Comprehensive plan. Bottom line, we need to adhere to our laws, no matter how far “down the pipeline” a development or applicant may be. Our laws may need to be reworded in certain areas to be clearer, and they certainly need to be updated to ensure compliance with our comprehensive plan, which is the peoples’ document.
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?
I support increased funding for these programs, and support paying associated staff a living wage. A number of parents from our public housing communities rely on these services because they can’t afford daycare. We need to stand by those in our community who need the most support.
22. How do you think art in public places should be regulated and financed? . The Art in Public Places Commission needs to be funded so they can coordinate efforts in the City and coordinate events all across the City, but especially downtown. Arts funding should be a part of our Capital Budget, with the Commission’s funds coming out of our operating budget. Having vibrant and widespread art helps build pride in our communities, attracts tourists, and increases economic development.
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?
I do support changing this statement to be friendlier for our volunteer citizens, but also to serve the purpose of emphasizing the importance of ethics. Our volunteers should not be forced to sign a statement that is more aggressive than what the Council signs, and that intimidates them with a pledge that they completely understand our complicated code. Furthermore, we need to remove any provision that may lead to our volunteers being fined. They need to be protected by the City, not intimidated or bullied. I have seen developers, for example, bully board members with PIA request for their personal information and efforts to get them fired from their professional jobs. This is wrong, and the City needs to stand by their volunteers instead of allowing them to be attacked. Also, we need to overhaul our Ethics Code so that it protects whistle-blowers. As a whistle-blower, I can speak to this first-hand. (I blew the whistle on a case where the City as allowing developers to clear protected forest, telling staff to not communicate with its commissions, and to hide things from the public in violation of the Public Information Act)
24. Do you support the current Mayor-Council form of government or a Council - Manager form, and why?
I support our current system, which is somewhere in between the two. I like the democracy and accountability of a Mayor-Council form of government, and the professionalism and consistency a City Manager provides.
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 would encourage residents of my ward to apply for, and actively recruit interested and qualified women and minorities to serve on, our Boards and Commissions. I would reach out to the City’s Human Relations Commission or appropriate City liaison/ombudsman to survey the composition of the commissions and City leadership to see if there is an under-represented demographic. As an Alderperson, I would not have control over appointing Directors, but I would be proactively vocal to relay any concern I may have about needing adequate representation, and I would not be hesitant to vote against an appointment if I was concerned.