Action Annapolis Questionnaire
Ward 6 | Candidates DaJuan Gay (D) and Shaneka Henson (D)
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/Mayor)?
DaJuan Gay (D): I have worked for this moment for a long time, in the past I’ve taken opportunities like being a two term class president and working with a small budget and used it as a tool for budget and leadership practice. I’ve also had the opportunity to intern at the Maryland General Assembly for two consecutive sessions, this has given me the opportunity to learn about creating legislation, working with a budget and collaborating with colleagues to do what’s best for the constituents we served. It is important to me to also bring a fresh perspective to the table my age (20) has been pin pointed as a possible negative, but it is my belief that being younger will help me relate to a number of issues like what businesses would be best to bring to town based on recent trends and interest of individuals across the state. I’ve been fortunate enough to grow and learn in the age of social media, this is a tool that our city can take advantage of and grow the interest of tourist and families. It is my goal to help revitalize the entire city not just West Street and Downtown, by exposing the entire city to new business ideas we have a better chance of increasing revenue sources. I am also extremely interested in preserving our cities forest area’s and water ways. There are tons of designs in technology that we must look into, these creative necessities for environmental advancement will allow our city to grow and be among the best. When it comes to environmental policies and concerns I am a sponge I love to learn about the various ways we can make our city better. I would also love to look at alternative ways to decrease crime by strengthening the relationship between the community and our police department as a whole, as well as providing alternative education courses like trade school and job application training and many more opportunities. By reducing recidivism rates and encouraging a second chance at success we will be putting our residents on the right track. These are basic summaries and outlines of what I plan on bringing to the city. Our city is extremely gifted with many talented individuals and its time that we work together to be the best we can possibly be.
Shaneka Henson (D): 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?
Gay: I do not support the strengthening of the city manager, I am a fan of the traditional form of local government. In this form of local government the council would act as the legislative branch and the mayor would be designated a chief of the executive branch. The mayor would have the traditional veto power and the council would have the ability to override with a 2/3 or ¾ majority. In my opinion this a more involved form of government each individual is able to speak on behalf of their constituents and themselves with the power of a vote.
Henson: 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?
Gay: Something that I think we can do as a city is bring in new and in trend businesses, for example we recently added restaurants Chipotle and Mission BBQ these modern eateries give a new look to downtown and if this continues to spread it will increase revenue. Also including interactive businesses like Mission Escape gives families the opportunity to stay in Annapolis and not leave for events. I’ve noticed a lack of teen friendly businesses, teens don’t just want to spend money at the mall they would like to stay in their city and have fun.
Henson: 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 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?
Gay: It is important that we first present the opportunity for minorities to own and run effective businesses within the city. By gathering the few minority business owners and creating a panel, to understand and hear their concerns we will be able to get to the core of problems they face and tackle them for benefit of city.
Henson: 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?
Gay: The Market House has a history of failed business ventures, by not rushing to replace the upcoming vacancy and advertising the vacancy to successful business owners both in and out of the city we have the potential to end a ridiculous trend in failed business and create economic opportunity for the city and joy for residents and tourist.
Henson: 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?
Gay: We must first address the chaos and corruption that members of HACA have caused as well as property managers for certain neighborhoods. When residents are fed stories of mismanagement of funds and illegal acts from individuals who were hired to care for their communities is creates bitter relationships. It is also important that we stop talking about establishing a better relationship between the police and communities and finally put words into action, if elected it will be a priority for me to strengthen that relationship by creating a panel of likeminded leaders from each neighborhood and have them and myself communicate concerns of safety to the chief of police and selected officers. This may be a simple step but it will eliminate the feeling of betrayal and concern that many residents have. I also believe that it is the cities responsibility to stop giving the residents of public housing the short end of the stick, we must create a system that will allow these induvial the chance to rebound and start to create a successful life in the city of Annapolis. This means creating fair housing in the city no more underfunding these areas. It is my fear that the city has intentionally, or maybe unintentionally destroyed any hopes of Ward 6 citizens improving their unfortunate housing situations. Residential developments have been sprawled across the city in the recent months, at first I thought this would be great for residents looking to take the next step and leave public housing. However, I realized these neighborhoods are being built for upper class families/ individuals. There seems to be the expectation that residents can go from public housing paying rent fixed to their income to $100,000 condos. The city has split into two living group’s upper class or poverty. If we decided to create fair housing these inclusionary properties will increase the employment within the city promoting healthy and positive living, while also decreasing the need of assistance within our community.
Henson: 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?
Gay: I think that before we look into ways to receive funds for the renovation and construction of new public housing facilities, we should learn how to budget the existing funds. Many residents have expressed to me their disappointment and concern with the mismanagement of funds in their communities. Failed projects are an often trend in the communities within Ward 6 for example the latest disappointment the central air condition. Citizens were told that they would be given the chance to have central air conditioning units added to their home. Halfway through the project a number of residents were told that they would not be given the central air units with extremely vague responses from the property managers. Events like this must stop, by throwing more funds to the fire we get nowhere. Once we identify the problems we are having and fix them we can look to our options for funding. I think it would be worth the time to analyze the exact cost of maintenance in these communities and look to make adjustments. We have to work with what we have at this point and get serious about carefully watching the budget and making less financial mistakes.
Henson: I like to stress that at this time, the federal 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?
Gay: It is my firm belief that if these properties are redeveloped by the right people we will see a boost in positive community improvement and citizens living in these terrifyingly outdate communities will start to gather around the general idea of making a better community and city. What I mean by having the right people involved is that, we cannot allow individuals to come into our community with the goal of wanting to recreate the area without general knowledge of the community and the residents that live here this can’t just be about profit. I’ve had the opportunity to see a community a public-private partnership and the pro’s far outweighed the cons. Within the community before redevelopment there was an overflow drug and gun trade, a poor quality of living and a dried fountain of resources. After redevelopment the community shifted the residents were granted necessary up to date resources like a working laundromat, a community center with the necessary resources for parents and students to increase their knowledge on a number of issues, a child care facility that helped increase employment due to parents have a trusted facility and last but certainty not a renewed property staff that shows a care for the community that they are in charge of. These properties are not falling apart at the fault of the residents they are falling apart because they haven’t been invested in or looked at since the 1970s this has to stop and public-private partnership’s following a detailed system will be a great option. It is important that if situations like this do occur members of our city council hopefully with me included will stay informed and attentive, as elected officials it is our job to decrease the misunderstandings of projects within our city. We should also look to focus on creating an extremely detailed contract before we even break ground. This contract should contain a thorough outline of the risk and benefits of the project for each party involved. If we are fortunate enough we will not run into problems during the projects construction. However, when working in construction we know that bumps will occur and this detailed contract will allow the public and all parties involved to understand where we go from there. Finally, we must determine the stream of revenue when looking at projects like this. If the odds are not in the favor of the city we should not actively attempt to push it through.
Henson: 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?
Gay: If we have the opportunity to sell big ticket items for profit I think it’s worth the research. First we need to have a detailed research assignment on these items and estimate there worth so that we are not lowballed. It is also worth the hassle to make sure that these businesses and individuals are working within our state county or even better our city we shouldn’t outsource our properties to companies and individuals that have no relation to our community. By having these items like the Market House and other facilities up for grabs we introduce competition to our city and others will soon see the worth of investing in Annapolis, MD. It is extremely important however that the investor we invite into our city do not rob our low income and middle class residents of the opportunity to frequent these business, we can’t allow businesses or properties to only be accessible to those with money especially in areas like Downtown Annapolis which is supposed to be a meeting place for our city residents and tourist. Outsourcing some of our community resources will also help lower the debt crisis that we face in this city.
Henson: 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?
Gay: It is extremely important to me to protect the safety of the residents of Ward 6, this task will not be easy and will not happen overnight but I am committed to the task. If elected my plans in regards to crime prevention are as followed. Reducing the recidivism rate is very important allowing our residents to not fall into the troubled trap. I plan to set up programs within the community that will assist our teens and our young adults in taking the right steps into being a productive member of society. Within these programs individuals will be able to learn about applying to jobs, trade school, community college or alternative education programs. By allowing these individuals a second chance we have the potential to shift the course of their life. Perhaps the most important step into creating safe communities is to engage the Annapolis City Police Department. If elected and while campaigning I would love to sit down with the newly appointed Chief of Police and talk police strategies when working with Ward 6 communities. I think it is important for the officers to create relationships with the residents in these communities hosting events and creating bonds with the children. It is my firm belief that if residents in the community have relationships with the officers on patrol it will lead to a successful day. Keeping the residents in the loop, it’s important to me to hold monthly town hall meetings and allow them to express concerns and opinion on criminal activities in the community
Henson: 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?
Gay: It will be difficult to determine where these funds will come from, the need for these employees are there but we have to think of the cost as a whole. These employees will need the proper training so that they are able to do the job to the best of their ability and we have to look at those cost. Also realizing that these women and men could possibly be working in our city for the next decade or two these cost have to be brought to the conversation. These cost will put a strain on our budget but we must protect our community and not hassle the tax payers at the same time. These jobs should go to the women and men of our community there’s a plethora of women and men in our community that desperately need these jobs, if we’re going to spend the money why not put the investment back into training members of your own community. I’ve had the opportunity to speak to a number of African American men in particular who have expressed their desire to work in law enforcement to change the perspective of others in their community. This would be a good time for us to provide a need in the city while helping our neighbors.
Henson: 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?
Gay: [Did not respond to this question.]
Henson: 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?
Gay: [Did not respond to this question.]
Henson: 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:
Community parks and recreation
Community parks and recreation (4)
Infrastructure- to include revitalizing public housing
Education-for Ward 6 the priority is advocating for a better Tyler Heights
Community Parks & Recreation-including affordability and accessibility
Transportation- that allows for increased pedestrian and public transit, that fairly studies and effectively reduces traffic
Transparency- and better communication with city residents about city initiatives.
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?
Gay: If I was in the position to vote on this bill I would have voted in favor of the ordinance. It is extremely important that we protect the rights of all citizens within our city and not allow the integrity of our city be tampered with due to senseless discrimination. By denying the equal protection residents become resistant towards authority figures and once that trust is diminished we could potentially find ourselves with a bigger problem.
Henson: 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?
Gay: To me growing up in public housing the opportunity to learn about environmental concerns and new policy and initiatives was not an option. We didn’t have the luxury of private beaches in our communities so there was no need for us to be educated on the effects our daily behaviors have on our bay. On a local level there wasn’t a lot of push to get these public housing communities involved in environmental change. It wasn’t until smaller non-profit organizations reached out and took us out of the community so that we could engage with environmental scientist and be exposed to the bay and forest area clean-ups. I see that gap occurring again in our communities and it’s important to me to provide that education to my Ward this will create a community of individuals prepared to fight for their environment. It’s important that we protect our waterways and forest areas and also look into alternative energy sources within our city. To protect our waterways and forest areas I think it’s time that we start utilizing modern technology, cities all around us have begun to use advanced technology to clean the water around them. For example Baltimore invested in the Trash Wheel Project, the river current provides power to turn a huge wheel that lifts trash from the water and then deposits it into a dumpster barge. When the current is low the wheel uses solar energy to keep itself in order. This project has been able to collect over one million pounds of trash since 2014, we should be able to use technology like this in the city of Annapolis. With the developers looking to build all across the city and constantly destroying our forest areas, it would worth adding to the “No Net Loss” ordinance the option of roof top forest areas. Roof gardens help absorb heat, reduce the carbon dioxide impact by taking up CO2 and giving off oxygen and so many more positives. I am also a huge supporter of a green Downtown Annapolis, reducing the amount of traffic that comes through and correcting the run off from Main Street and the other roads that flow directly into the bay. By creating an environmentally friendly DTA we set the standard high for the rest of the city. Adapting to the opportunities that we have thanks to technology and advanced research on these issues will save our city. These initiatives can be paid for through partnerships with local green companies as well as help from our county and state government. We all use the DTA area so we should all be obligated to pitch in.
Henson: 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?
Gay: I would have voted in favor of this ordinance, it is important that we preserve the little forest area that we have remaining in the city. By requiring the developers to replace the destroyed forest area we are taking a step in the right direction. However, I believe in strict punishments for developers that do not replace the forest area or for those who undermined the system.
Henson: 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?
Gay: [Did not respond to this question.]
Henson: 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?
Gay: Yes, the general idea of the Paris Agreement dealing with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation and adaption starting in the year 2020 is extremely important. This will give us the chance as city to create goals and confess to our faults in regular reports. We should make protecting the environment a top priority in our city and by aligning with mayors across the country and discovering ways to work with clean energy could create more jobs, a stronger economy and a better environment.
Henson: 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?
Gay: [Did not respond to this question.]
Henson: 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?
Gay: This would be great for our residents if the city is able to set aside funding for child care before and after school. A common problem with morning or late shift employment is that the parent can’t find a sitter this would be a great help. This could also create childcare jobs in our area for teens looking to increase the required number of hours to work in childcare or residents looking for part time work.
Henson: 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.
Gay: The individual who desires to display the artwork on public property should be required to show the design to the city council members and the mayor at least a month in advance. This gives the council the chance to view the image before it is displayed. All finances should come from the individual wishing to display the artwork unless it is a city project then members of the council should determine where the fund will come from.
Henson: 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?
Gay: [Did not respond to this question.]
Henson: 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?
Gay: Yes, I support the current Mayor-Council form of government as opposed the Council-Manager form of government. I am a fan of the traditional form of local government. In this form of local government the council would act as the legislative branch and the mayor would be designated a chief of the executive branch. The mayor would have the traditional veto power and the council would have the ability to override with a 2/3 or ¾ majority. In my opinion this a more involved form of government each individual is able to speak on behalf of their constituents and themselves with the power of a vote
Henson: 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.”The Mayor of the City of Annapolis “is responsible for managing all city departments and carrying out the policies adopted by the City Council.” 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?
Gay: I think it does the city a complete disservice by not having an extremely diverse group on city boards and commissions. We are grateful enough to have neighbors in our community from several walks of life and each individual’s perspective can be a huge help when making decisions that could potentially affect the lives of others. Not having women involved in decision making is like letting men decide on her reproductive rights it makes no sense. Women bring to the table the knowledge a man may not necessarily have and her voice is just as important as his. If I was in the position to appoint members to city boards and commissions I would take into consideration that a diverse group can be more effective.
Henson: 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.