Annapolis residents overwhelmingly told city officials Monday night that the way to solve the city's ills is not through a curfew.
TheCity Council's rules committee responded by unanimously rejecting the curfew proposed by Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins. The vote came after a public hearing in City Hall attended by about 60 people.
The council will vote on the bill next Monday, but aldermen said the rules committee's vote all but assures the curfew's defeat.
Alderman Ruth C. Gray, R-Ward 4, a rules committee member, said the vote was a mandate for a less restrictive approach to solving drug-related violence and downtown rowdiness.
"Pretty much everyone thought it was a heavy-handed and inequitable way to deal with it," Gray said. "That's not an attack on Al; it just isn't the way to do it. I think we have to get creative, not just heavy-handed and singling out onegroup."
But Alderman Carl O. Snowden, D-Ward 5, rules committee chairman, said the vote signaled a defeat for Hopkins.
"Clearly themayor and his staff wanted to push this forward and get a quick voteon it before the council," Snowden said. "It's a textbook case of what to do to not get legislation passed. There was a lack of consultation with the community, there was not widespread business support, and the message as to why they were doing it was mixed."
Downtown tavern owners asked Hopkins to propose the curfew last fall. Hopkins said he didn't like curfews, but agreed to sponsor it to fight violencein drug-infested neighborhoods.
"I don't like curfews, and I don't think the mayor does either, but we like injured children even less," Drug Policy Director Eric Avery told the committee.
But a broadspectrum of residents and community leaders spoke against the bill, among them Annapolis Housing Authority Executive Director Harold Greene, who said his agency wasn't consulted about the plan.
High school students who spoke against the plan said they wanted the city to give young people more to do, such as drug-free activities and a teen center.
Gray and Snowden agreed the city must take more creative steps to solve its troubles, from more police and lighting and a park downtown to more community involvement.
"I think you're going to see a lot more community efforts, where you go forth and mobilize the community," Snowden said, citing a rally at the First Baptist Church last week calling for volunteers to tutor and spend time with city teens.
Annapolis had a record five murders last year, all believed to be drug-related. However, Snowden pointed out, none of the culpritsor victims were minors. There were three murders in 1989. The city has had one murder so far this year.
Hopkins' bill would require anyone younger than 17 to leave public places and establishments between midnight and 5 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights and 11 p.m. and 5a.m. on other nights.
Parents of minors who break the curfew or business owners who let owners into their establishments after curfew could be fined $5 to $300. They could be jailed for 10-15 days if they failed to pay.
In an effort to win over critics, the Hopkins administration dropped plans to ban people younger than 16 from loitering in public during school hours and made the plan a trial, with an Aug. 31 expiration date.
In other action Monday night, the rules committee sent a proposed drug-testing plan back to the city administration for more work.
The plan, proposed by Hopkins, calls for testing public transportation drivers, mechanics and supervisors for drug use. Police officers and firefighters already are required to take drug tests.
Under the legislation, employees testing positive would be sent to a rehabilitation program. Employees testing positive a second time would be fired.
The employees' union, AFSCME Local 3406, recently withdrew support for the plan after the city's insurance program refused to pay for inpatient drug rehabilitation for two employees recommended for treatment by the city's employee assistance program. City officials and Blue Cross/Blue Shield are negotiating to resolve the dispute.
The rules committee also sent the administration a list of technical changes recommended by a U.S. Department of Transportation official Snowden had contacted. Gray said she believes Hopkins' plan may be approved, but Snowden said he thinks the legislation is troubled.
The committee also rejected legislation proposed by Alderman Samuel Gilmer, D-Ward 3, that would make the acting mayor the alderman of the same party with the most seniority. Under Hopkins, Gilmer would be the acting mayor.