February 1, 2023
Annapolis, US 30 F

Mayor Cohen’s Idea Team Reports

Wrong Idea

Last night, Annapolis Mayor Joshua J. Cohen’s “Idea Team” (transition team) addressed City Council with their reports. Each of the 8 teams was given 30 minutes to present the report to and field questions from the council.

While the meeting was long, the Mayor did an excellent job of keeping everyone on schedule. The Chairmen of each of the teams were certainly not afraid to let the council know how they felt about what was wrong and right about the City.

However, it appears that most of the teams misunderstood the mission. When Cohen appointed the teams back in November, he said,  “What matters is if the idea makes sense.  We are facing very challenging times, but I am confident that we can rise to meet those challenges if we pull together as one community.  I and the incoming council are looking to this Idea Team to provide workable, specific recommendations that will enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of our city government.”

To further that, in the full report’s cover letter to the Mayor, co-Chairpersons Zina Pierre and Greg Stiverson state  that “the Teams were asked to evaluate and make recommendations for their assigned subject areas, with a particular
emphasis on short-term recommendations that could have an impact on the current City budget cycle.”

The mission seems pretty clear, but it seems as if many of the teams heard, “If I were to give you the City’s checkbook with an unlimited balance, how would you spend the money?”

If you read through the Executive Summary, you will notices it is peppered with “money” words–establish, provide, create, redesign, design, fund, promote, expand, and increase.   It seems that only the Budget & Finance, Government Structure, and Public Safety teams kept true to the mission.

With the City facing a huge deficit both this year and next, a harsh winter with more storms predicted, and a closet full of unsold medallions, why are the teams wasting their time designing pedestrian bridges over Ego Alley and devising plans to make a contiguous walkway along the water from the Spa Creek Bridge to the City Dock?

The City is in a precarious position and some may say on the verge of a “dire” situation. Before we go about cleaning up our house, we need to make sure the roof, windows and door are in place.

While the volunteers involved in the transition team had good intentions, it really seems as if most of them missed the mark. It was the “Idea Team”, not the “Dream Team”; and it remains to be seen what the council and the administration will take away from these reports–if anything.

If you have some time, the 176 page document is interesting reading. Please don’t print it!

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3 Comments

  1. It may be some of the comments here that miss the mark by being dismissive while failing to see the functional purpose of some Idea Team recommendations.
    As the chair of the economic development team pointed out, with assessments falling and reluctance to increase taxes during this recession, economic development is the one potential source of revenue that is currently on the table to help our City’s budget woes. How to stimulate that? That team has some suggestions.
    But as the City Dock team chair pointed out, Annapolis now has to compete with aggressive commercial development on its outskirts, while dozens of downtown businesses have gone dark and shops here are empty. So that team recommended the City try to transform its prime waterfront real estate at City Dock which is currently used as a parking lot and convert it into the unique Annapolis amenity it could be. That would attract residents, shoppers, workers and tourists to downtown again — and not only add to the experience of Annapolitans, but stimulate surrounding commercial activity. We might actually have a chance then to compete with Parole Towne Center, Westfield Mall and Harbour Centre by offering what they cannot provide — rather than just watch our downtown commerce die. It’s not idle dreaming, but a clear-eyed look at economic realities and the assets Annapolis has to build upon.

  2. All of the ideas presented were good ones and it is obvious that the teams spent a lot of time and effort to compile their reports. But wasn’t the focus to be on the current budget year and to take a deep look into what the situation was?

    Most of what I heard last night was stuff you would expect to find in a 20 year comprehensive growth plan. Seriously, how long will it take (and at what cost) to acquire the easements to create a walkways from Spa Creek Bridge to City Dock?

    These reports (again for the most part) are the stuff dreams are made of. Unfortunately, right now we need to deal with some harsh realities.

  3. I think the mayor has some good material to work with from the specific recommendations–and I agree those are especially the ones the Safety, Structuring, and Transportation teams came up with. That’s exactly what I noticed too. Those were the most focused. Yeah, there was some stuff in the Executive Summary that sounded cool but far-off or just too nebulous, but Cohen and the council are smart enough to realize we can’t go spending on giant monorails across the harbor or something (I’m thinking of a Simpson’s mayor episode here…anyone remember that one?) He’s shown prudence so far in cutting the Sister City’s program, unnecessary positions within his own office, and working to control overtime spending. Off to a good start with specific ways to deal with the budget, it seems.

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