Action Annapolis Questionnaire
Shaneka Henson (D) | Ward 6
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 believe that Annapolis must have safe streets, affordable housing, strong schools, adequately protected natural resources and accessible recreational outlets. If given the opportunity to serve, I will bring the advocacy skills that I employ everyday as an attorney, to the City Council chambers and beyond to fight for the needs, resources and goals of the residents of Ward 6. My campaign is predicated on a belief that “The Time is Now!” for a fresh perspective.
2. Do you support strengthening the role of the City Manager? Why or why not?
No. I support moving towards a more streamlined government that repurposes and more efficiently uses the $228,000-$278,000 of tax payer money allotted for the duplicative positions of Mayor and City Manager. Annapolis City Code § 3.08.020 I discuss the overlap in their duties in greater detail in Question 24.
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 a tourist town, that must be livable and enjoyable for its residents. As a city we must have intelligently planned development. We don’t currently have a coordinated strategy for attracting and sustaining businesses. I would place an emphasis on attracting underrepresented industries to the City. We have many historic and natural attractions but not a diverse array or entertainment, family leisure, sports or recreational outlets. Also, we are the state’s capital. Of the 20 principal state departments only 2 are headquartered in Annapolis, and both of those are in Ward 1.i I will advocate for bringing state agencies and state jobs to the City. I believe in an active, not a passive, approach to City planning.
4. How would you focus specifically on businesses owned by African Americans, Hispanics and other minorities?
The City’s formerly titled Small and Minority Business Coordinator position was a great start. However, this City will have to “put its money where its mouth is,” if it wants African American and Hispanic business development to be a true priority. I am not opposed to offering tax credits, and searching out creative funding sources to help promote minority business development.
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 believe there are a variety of factors that have contributed to the decline of the Market House. The street design and layout does not promote natural foot traffic, the building’s exterior and interior designs don’t prompt curiosity. Downtown Annapolis is hailed for its embracing of the past and the future, yet the history of the Market House is overlooked, therefore it misses the historical audience. Ultimately, Market House is unsuccessful because of lack of innovative planning. I would encourage a totally revitalized study of the Market House, its potential and best use.
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?
Careers, Careers, Careers, Careers. Our public housing residents have jobs, they need career opportunities. The connections between poverty and crime are a well settled area of social science. If we want to address the disproportion rates of crime, we must address the disparities in income.
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?
I like to stress that at this time, the f ederal budget hasn’t been finalized. Should the federal administration’s attempt to undermine our nation’s public housing be endorsed by congress, at a state and local level, we will have to have an all hands on deck approach. Just as the state legislature passed legislation to ensure funding for Planned Parenthood, we must encourage them to invest state resources into public housing. We may also have encourage the business community to invest in public housing. However, I am not an advocate for public-private partnerships. Public housing should remain public. Notwithstanding, I am well convinced that state, county and municipal governments can work to together to incentivize private investment in public housing without leveraging ownership.
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 have proven to be beneficial for the developers but not the residents. Re-entry into privately held “public” housing has often been difficult and at times prohibitive for former residents. The factors that have made Rental Assistance Development (RAD) partnerships not viable for residents are complex and cannot be meaningfully address while respecting the word count limits of this format. Ultimately, a healthy public housing system is only gained by an unadulterated motive to invest in its people. The private sector business model does not lend itself to the compass needed to guide public housing.
9. What is your position on privatizing of any of the city’s assets, e.g., recreational facilities, Market House, services?
There are instances where privatizing certain city assets can result in significant cost savings which frees the City’s budget to address those areas that aren’t appropriate for privatization. However, why I am not opposed to the private management of certain City resources, it is not my preference to sell City owned assets and land.
10. What will be your approach to reduce and prevent crime?
My approach to reduce and prevent crime is largely tied to my agenda of economic empowerment for low income Annapolitans. I truly believe that crime is tied to a lack of opportunity. I intend to forge opportunities for the City’s disaffected.
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?
My proposal is to re-evaluate adding City resources through temporary funding sources. This question highlights the obvious flaw in human resource planning by grant funding.
Budget and Taxes
12. How will you propose financing general budget needs?
I am in favor of a pay-as-you-go system for funding routine expenditures and measured borrowing for extraordinary project and capital improvements.
13. What is your position on the current mayor’s proposed tax cut of $330,000?
In a climate where federal contribution is uncertain, I am not in favor of the $330,000 tax cut. We should seize this opportunity for rainy day funds.
14. Please rank the following for budget priorities, from highest to lowest priority: Arts, Community Parks and Recreation, Education, Infrastructure, Transparency, Transportation
1. Infrastructure - to include revitalizing public housing.
2. Education - for Ward 6 the priority is advocating for a better Tyler Heights!
3. Community Parks & Recreation - including affordability and accessibility.
4. Transportation - that allows for increased pedestrian and public transit, that fairly studies and
effectively reduces traffic.
5. Transparency - and better communication with city residents about city initiatives.
6. Arts - must be hailed and supported.
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 think Ordinance 0-1-17 was a great start towards ending and preventing discrimination in Annapolis. The ordinance is limited to persons of foreign birth. We currently have a “banning” policy on our public housing properties that in many instances acts to criminalize fathers from seeing their children and adults from visiting their aging parents. It gives officers the right to stop and question anyone in public housing regarding their identity and residency. Public housing is the last place you can be “deported” from in Annapolis and that must be examined.
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?
The three most pressing environmental issues facing the City of Annapolis are smart growth, water quality and forest conservation. The residents of Ward 6 have expressed their desire for a healthy environment in requesting greater access to water and additional public parks and open spaces. These can only be accomplished if we advocate for smart growth, protect our water quality and preserve our tree canopy. Moreover, Ward 6 abuts the Spa Creek. We are fortunate to have the advocacy of the Spa Creek Conservancy, they have been an absolute champion for the Annapolis ecosystem.
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 supported this legislation, our tree canopy is vital to our ecological health.
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’s Watershed Improvement Plan was the result of a collaborative effort between the City and advocacy groups including the Annapolis Watershed Network, the Spa Creek Conservancy, the Back Creek Conservancy, the Severn River Association and the South River Federation. I think government works best when we partners with subject matter experts and stakeholders. I would seek to partner with those same groups to compile data and perform a comparative analysis to measure the Plans effectiveness and address any additions, deletions or corrections the plan may need, based on data.
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 absolutely would consider it.
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 proposed development of the Eastport Landings highlighted a need to clean up not only our development process but the legislation itself. We want to attract the interest of developers such as the Solstice Partners that have been amendable to public concerns and have made an effort to have their plan design comport with the existing character of Eastport. The conflict surrounding the project exposed deficiencies in our permit process, such as approval of plans being offered in informal ways, such as verbally, by email or inaction, and a lack of oversight in verifying the accuracy of plans/studies submitted to the City. Had a concerned group of citizens and the advocacy of the well-organized Eastport Civic Association not availed themselves of the public hearing process, perhaps these areas for improvement would have remained unseen.
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?
Robust before & after school care programs are a necessity, that should be prioritized as any other. The Annapolis Cluster of schools is a part of the Anne Arundel County Public School system. The citizens of Annapolis are tax paying residents of the county. The Anne Arundel County Department of Recreation & Parks, Childcare Division has a before and after school child care network. As is the case with Tyler Heights Elementary, the Annapolis Cluster of schools needs strong advocacy from local elected officials.
22. How do you think art in public places should be regulated and financed?
Annapolis is fortunate to have many vested partners in our art in public places initiative. I believe partnering with those groups is the best method for regulating and financing art in public places.
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 would welcome the opportunity to hear more from our advisory board members regarding their concerns and consult with the City Department of Law regarding the Statement of Compliance and Financial Disclosure.
24. Do you support the current Mayor-Council form of government or a Council - Manager form, and why?
I support a Mayor-Council form of government. I believe the City residents must have the right to select their leader. In a Council-Manager structure the City Manager is hired and/or appointed by the Council. I do not support abridging the citizens right to choose. Annapolis currently has a hybrid of both forms of government that’s resulted in a wasteful use of City funds. As I noted in Questions two, the city spends $228,000-$278,000 each year on the salaries of Mayor and City Manager. Per the City’s website, the City Manager is tasked with “administering day-to-day operations of the municipal government, hiring, and supervising authority of department directors, directing operations of the city government, supervising the preparation of the city budget.”ii The Mayor of the City of Annapolis “is responsible for managing all city departments and carrying out the policies adopted by the City Council.”iii There is great deal of overlap. The City Manager role is largely duplicative of the role of Mayor and is not the best use of city salary resources.
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?
Addressing the lack of women and minorities department heads and City Boards and Commissions appointees has a simple fix, hire and appoint them. There are many talented, qualified minorities and woman in the City of Annapolis ready and willing to serve this City.
• iAging 301 West Preston St. Ste. 1007 Baltimore, MD 21201
• Agriculture 50 Harry S. Truman Pkwy Annapolis, MD 21401 (not city)
• Budget & Management 45 Calvert Street Annapolis, MD 21401 Ward 1
• Commerce 401E. Pratt St. Baltimore, MD 21202
• Disabilities 2717 E. Redwood St., Ste. 1300 Baltimore, MD 21202
• Education 200 W. Baltimore St. Baltimore, MD 21201
• Environment 1800 Washington Blvd. Baltimore, MD 21230
• General Services 301 West Preston St. Baltimore, MD 21201
• Health & Mental Hygiene 201 West Preston Street Baltimore, MD 21201
• Housing & Community Development 7800 Harkins Rd. Lanham, MD 20706
• Human Resources 311 W. Saratoga Street Baltimore, MD 21201
• Information Technology 100 Community Place Crownsville, MD 21032
• Juvenile Services 120 West Fayette Street Baltimore, MD 21201
• Labor, Licensing, & Regulation 500 North Calvert St. Baltimore, MD 21202
• Natural Resources 580 Taylor Avenue Annapolis, MD 21401 (not city)
• Planning 301 W. Preston Street, Ste. 1101 Baltimore, MD 21201
• Public Safety & Correctional Services 300 East Joppa Rd., Ste. 1000 Towson, MD 21286
• State Police 1201 Reisterstown Rd. Pikesville, MD 21208
• Transportation 7201 Corporate Drive Hanover, MD 21076
• Veterans Affairs 16 Francis Street Annapolis, MD 21401 -Ward 1