Action Annapolis Questionnaire
Ward 8 | Alderman Ross Arnett (D) and Challengers John "Bumper" Moyer (D) and Julie Mussog (R)
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?
Ross Arnett (D): My three priority areas are: public safety, the natural and built environment, and the fiscal health of the City. As Alderman for the last 10 years, I have had success in all three areas. I was instrumental in the recent move to community policing by the Police Department and was a member of the Mayor’s joint City/HACA effort to improve conditions in public housing. I was a sponsor and mover of the passage of the City’s Forest Conservation Act and our Watershed Improvement Plan, and I have been working on reforms to the City zoning code. I am known as the City budget hawk and have helped engineer many advancements in our city fiscal management policies. I believe my strengths that are applicable to the alderman job are: my background as a professional economist which has enabled me to develop a deep understanding of the City’s fiscal situation; my habit of doing thorough wonkish research on issues of concern to ward 8 and the City, my history of creative problem-solving, and my inclusive and regular communication and interaction with my constituents.
John “Bumper” Moyer (D): Through my campaign I hope to inspire a greater swath of the community to get involved and to bring forth a progressive out of the box approach to many of the issues facing us. Through strength of character, a commitment to humble service, and visionary thinking this can be achieved. Having been an entrepreneur and self-employed almost my entire life I have learned that a willingness to work harder than most and having your eyes on the future is paramount to survival There are no paid holidays, paid sick leave, accrued time off, matching 401 K plans, arbitration panels to solve problems, etc, etc. Thinking two moves ahead is necessary for continued success. Politicians should have the same mind set. The skills developed through a lifetime of entrepreneurial endeavors are exactly what a person should bring to the table when running for office.
Julie Mussog (R): 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?
Arnett: I do believe in strengthening the role of the City Manager. Elected officials do not usually come with good management skills, let alone the specific skills need to manage a public service, multiproduct municipal entity such as the City. At a minimum, I would make the City Manager the Chief Executive Officer empowered to make all day to day business decisions.
Moyer: [Did not respond to this question.]
Mussog: 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?
Arnett: First, I challenge the notion that businesses don’t thrive in Annapolis. While there is turnover downtown, spaces fill quickly and our vacancy rate is actually quite low. That said, we can and must do more to help business, especially with downtown parking. While it will be disruptive in the short-run, we need a new and bigger Hillman Garage, better wayfinding for parking and more satellite parking with circulator service to and from that parking.
Moyer: Concerning retail, we should be brutally honest in the discussion. Gone are the days were boutique stores can easily thrive. The best solution to this dilemma of the roughly 14 percent vacancy rate currently existing on Main Street is the one offered by mayoral candidate, Gavin Buckley; encourage the transformation of Annapolis into more of a gastronomical hot spot.
Mussog: 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?
Arnett: I supported the Hispanic liaison position for the City, and happily that person is a successful business woman in the community. I also supported, in this year’s budget, the retention and funding for the small, women and minority business position within the Department of Planning and Zoning. I have worked to strengthen the City’s relationship with the Annapolis Anne Arundel Chamber of Commerce.
Moyer: I would suggest that any zoning restrictions in communities that have a high density of people of color be loosened to allow for more creative use.
Mussog: 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?
Arnett: The historic nature of the Market House must be protected, but I do not support the City running the businesses there. Private entrepreneurs are in the best position to be responsive to the market demand for market services within a scope of operations clearly set forth by the City.
Moyer: The Market House has always been hamstrung by its inability to function as a competitive enterprise at night. A long-term solution would allow for alcohol to be served and operating hours extended. The increased economic activity in the evening could subsidize the many days in which business is slow.
Mussog: 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?
Arnett: We need to recognize that public housing is part of the Annapolis community, not a federal enclave; we must continue to improve the mix of housing professionals and residents on the HACA Board;
We need to advance the joint effort between the City and the Authority to improve security in and around the housing property via community policing, camera surveillance, and information sharing;
We need to support redevelopment of the properties to improve living conditions and foster neighborhood pride.
Moyer: SHOTSPOTTER technology, community policing, vigilance of the banned list, and effective representation on the Recreation Advisory Board are all items I would advocate for.
Mussog: 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?
Arnett: With the reductions in federal funding, public private partnerships are the only recourse for redevelopment. The City must help with incentives to encourage these efforts. A climate of cooperation and coordination between the City and Authority will encourage redevelopment.
Moyer: I would search for and encourage Public Private Partnerships.
Mussog: 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?
Arnett: The model was good, but the sharing relationship was flawed. For the two redevelopments, the developer got 51% of the control, essentially all of the control. The County has redeveloped a lot of its properties, but has retained a controlling share. This greatly reduced anxiety on the part of the residents, who fear losing housing to profit motivation.
Moyer: I believe it is a good model as long as there is effective oversight. With the absence of federal funding where else is the $$$ going to come from? And with a possible rent to own track included in any major overhaul ownership would bring responsibility, pride, and a greater sense of community.
Mussog: 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?
Arnett: There are actually two choices here: privatization or shifting to other governmental jurisdictions. I favor neither. There is no evidence that, for example, the County can run City services more efficiently, and in any event, this merely shifts the taxing or fees from the City to the County with no real advantage to residents and a real loss of control over service delivery. As for privatization, there is still a degree of loss of control – it’s hard to fire and replace a vendor, and whatever efficiencies the private sector has, they must first overcome their need to turn a profit. With recreation specifically, the City has made a huge investment in capital building projects, well beyond what the private sector could or would pay.
Moyer: In general I am not in favor of this policy. Selling off assets is normally a quick fix and short sighted. Through better management and a long term vision the city’s finances would be much better off. I would never have voted for the sale of the Golf Course or the old Rec Center.
Mussog: 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?
Arnett: Safety is the number one issue for constituents, without it the amenities the City has to offer can’t be enjoyed. So several enhancements need to be added to the reactive aspect of policing. We need to continue to increase the technology available for our officers, such as cameras, both body and stationary; we need staff to monitor real time camera output; and computer analytics to aid in detection and case solving. We are currently embarked on expanded community policing – a model that has been proven effective in many jurisdictions. On a more global level, improved education, jobs and counseling have proven to prevent crime. However, these require interaction and cooperation with higher levels of government, educational institutions and foundations.
Moyer: Implementation of SHOTSPOTTER technology, community policing, increased neighborhood watch programs, constant outreach and constant training of civilians by the APD on ways to minimize risk.
Mussog: 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?
Arnett: Current revenue potential does not cover the growth in public safety without new revenue sources, tax increases, or reductions of services provided elsewhere in the budget. This issue is not limited to public safety, as will be discussed below. Ultimately, elected officials will need to bring these choices to the voters we represent. My constituents seem to favor safety, clean water and removal of sewage above all other services. The views on increased taxes and fees vary from resignation to outright opposition. The latter leaves no choice but for reductions in services outside the big three services.
Moyer: It is a tough question as the city’s bond debt has exploded. If we don’t borrow more (and we shouldn’t), don’t raise taxes (currently I am against the idea) and can’t find grant money or help from the state, then to support the additional police officers and fireman expenditures other departments are going to have to be reduced.
Mussog: 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?
Arnett: I have long advocated for new revenue sources from the state, either a share of the sales taxes generated within the City or a fuller sharing of the personal income taxes collected from City residents. The City must rely on the good will of state level officials and that has yet to materialize. Failing new sources of revenue, to balance its budget, the City must either increase taxes and fees, or reduce spending. Reducing expenditures can come from new efficiencies in operations or from reductions in the level of services provided. Increases in productivity (efficiency) most often are due to switching from human capital to technologies such as robots or computers. Approximately 80% of City costs are in the form of personnel compensation, another 10% in personnel support services, light, heating and cooling, supplies, computers and their support, etc. So reduction in services means largely reductions in staff. Here things get sticky and 60% of the City staff are needed to provide public safety and public works. Public administration – finance, personnel, planning and inspections, are another 15%, leaving only transportation and parks and recreation, services that have strong support in the community. It takes five votes on the City Council to pass any of the changes suggested above, and five votes for such tough decisions usually only occur in a crisis.
Moyer: A use tax directed at tourism. Making sure the fees currently being charged for various services are where they should be, Auditing all departments to make sure they are operating at peak efficiency.
Mussog: 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?
Arnett: I oppose this tax rate rollback. The Mayor’s Budget proposed a mere $10,000 fund balance contribution, an infinitesimal percent of the total general fund revenue. Meanwhile, the City has been eating into its fund balances to hire new police officers and to pay for routine annual capital expenses, using one-time money to pay for ongoing expenses. Even in a perfect world if the budget comes true, the $330,000 will be needed to replenish fund balance.
Moyer: Not what I would be doing with the bond debt where it is and with the increase in police and fire department staff.
Mussog: 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:
§ Community parks and recreation
Arnett: First of all, transparency is not a budget item and education is not part of the City budget. Of the remainder, I would rank infrastructure, transportation, parks and recreation and art in that order, with the understanding that there are strong and quite different constituencies for each of these categories.
§ Community parks and recreation 1
§ Education 2
§ Infrastructure 3
§ Transparency 4
§ Transportation 5
§ Arts 6
Mussog: 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?
Arnett: I am on the City Council and did vote in favor of the Ordinance to reaffirm the City’s requirement to protect all residents. Our City Charter and Code has always required this equal protection, but a restatement of support seems necessary in this time of turmoil and uncertainty.
Moyer: I would have whole heartily voted for it. Because I believe in exactly what was previously written “ all persons are due equal protection under the law”.
Mussog: 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?
Arnett: I have expanded my stance on the environment to include the natural and the built environments. On the natural environment I was a sponsor of the Forest Conservation Act and No Net Loss (of trees) regulations for the City and a sponsor of the City’s Watershed Improvement Plan (WIP). I also pushed through increased funding for these programs.
On the built environment I am very concerned about the City’s processes for planning and permitting land use projects. The City is a very desirable target for new investment and we must have transparent planning that includes residents at the very start of project development. Further we must have a process to anticipate and prioritize development and most particularly redevelopment. The cost of these priorities is in new staff and contract support dollars. Relative to other City programs the investment is relatively small, less than $250,000 per annum, but my proposals for these dollars failed to make the final budget cuts this year, one of the reasons I voted against passage of the FY18 budget.
Moyer: I would lead the effort to retrofit all city owned properties that have impervious surfaces. Better control of storm water runoff is something that we can address and fix. I would also look to modern technologies to see if they are scalable or appropriate for Annapolis (see link)
As always, the availability of grant monies should be explored and through our county delegation, getting use tax increase legislation passed at the state level.
Mussog: 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?
Arnett: I was a sponsor of this legislation and voted in the majority for its passage. The City has a goal of 50% tree canopy by 2020. By my calculations we can never reach that goal without No-Net-Loss I believe that trees are an essential part of environmental health.
Moyer: If I could not have found 4 other Aldermen to vote for an even stronger measure I would have voted for it. An extensive tree canopy adds to our quality of life through erosion reduction, pollutant reduction, and community enhancement.
Mussog: 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?
Arnett: Again, I was a sponsor of the City’s Watershed Improvement Plan and I moved a budget amendment to increase the quarterly stormwater management fee (now called restoration fee). This year’s budget action is only a partial step towards sufficient funding for storm water management so more work needs to be accomplished.
Moyer: There are still too many impervious surfaces in Annapolis. Continual emphasis on retrofitting every publicly owned one would be on my agenda if elected. Grant money, grant money, grant money.
Mussog: 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?
Arnett: Thankfully the number of Mayors supporting the Agreement has grown to over 350, and yes, I support and urge this City’s Mayor to join his colleagues across the country.
Moyer: I am at times suspect in thinking that addressing global issues locally through legislation is a good use of time and resources. But, in this case if it would help put pressure on the Federal Government to show some common sense and to assume a leadership role in clean energy initiatives …I would absolutely join!
Mussog: 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?
Arnett: I am working with the Concerned Citizens Group in Ward 8 to achieve a clear and correct interpretation of the relevant Land Use Code (Title 21.24). I have made numerous presentations to Planning and Zoning and plan to continue that activity to resolution. Assuring adherence to the City Code is one of the duties of the Mayor and council members. These activities should be separate from, and neutral to, a position on the merits of the redevelopment project. Meanwhile, many constituents support some or all of the aspects of the redevelopment proposal and their interest will be heard once the project gets before the Planning Commission.
Moyer: I would rewrite the zoning code so that there are no ambiguities and that the community is involved right away in the process. And making all development adhere to the comprehensive zoning plan is a no brainer.
Mussog: 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?
Arnett: From the Council Finance Committee, I moved to add funds to support this program and those dollars made the final budget. But more needs to be done by asking the county Parks and Rec Department to roll back the new fees on parents and guardians.
Moyer: I am absolutely in favor of funding those requests.
Mussog: 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?
Arnett: Two separate but important questions. Art in public places is already regulated by the Arts In Public Places Commission (AIPPC), although the primary work of that group is to get art placed in public places. As to murals on historic buildings, the court has ruled that the City’s Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) has some powers in this area within the historic district. More work needs to be done to sort out first amendment rights and City regulatory powers and to make clear purview between AIPPC and HPC. In the recent tight budget times, funding for AIPPC has been low, even though there is evidence that art hs positive impacts on the quality of life and economic vitality of a city.
Moyer: There is a financing formula in the city code that 1/10 of 1% of the operating budget be dedicated to art in public places. It is not considered mandatory. I would change that to the more commonly used formula of funding the arts to 1% of the capital budget and make it law.
Mussog: 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?
Arnett: The City ethics rules are given to us from the state and are adjudicated by the City’s Ethics Commission. I find the rules and the Commission to be working as intended and see no compelling reason for change at this point.
Moyer: Volunteers provide free time, free talent, and free energy. Volunteerism is instrumental in the quality of our life in Annapolis. If any wording could be interpreted as to muzzle advisory positions that may be at odds with the administration…I would remove that language.
Mussog: 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?
Arnett: I find the current form of City governance to be a two-headed monster where it is often unclear who is in charge, the Mayor or the City Manager. I have long supported a move to a true Council – Manager form of government or to an Executive – Legislative form like the County. In our current hybrid system, the City Council has very limited powers, even at budget time. Some mayoral candidates are promising a more full partnership with the Council.
Moyer: I support the Mayor Council form….i am not a fan of non-elected persons (manager) having control of the decisions that affect us.
Mussog: 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?
Moyer: Yes …as long as the legal and code requirements insure transparency.
26. Would it be useful if the Mayor were to attend at least one board or commission hearing per month?
Moyer: Yes …probably. If the history of such events has been that the mayoral has not been properly informed by a summary and reasonable briefing from the board or committee chair than he/she should indeed attend.
27. Should annual reports for each board and commission be posted on the city website?
Moyer: Yes, I am all for transparency.
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?
Arnett: This is an obvious short-coming for the City at this point. For the department head selection, the Council should be involved much earlier in the selection process, rather than be handed a take-it-or-leave-it choice for approval, as is the current situation. Seventy-three individuals were evaluated for the replacement Chief of Police. The Council only got the finalist to accept or reject. Even if all of the Council were not involved, there is ample opportunity to have a diverse subcommittee of Council members involved at the beginning of the process.
Selection of Board and Commission members is more problematic as there are always more vacancies than volunteers. Still as some nominations do come from Council members, more care should be taken to attain more diversity. Board and Commission members are appointed by the Mayor.
Moyer: I would have the department heads represent the racial/gender make up of the city as long as they were qualified. Any panel convened to find the right person/people for these commissions or department heads should have the same demographic as the city as well.
Mussog: 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.