When the mayor of Morningside came to Annapolis on a business trip, he got a permit that opened the gates to the state capital's crowded streets.
Mayor Gerald Glaubitz, who presides over the hamlet of 1,200 people in southern Prince George's County, visited Annapolis' historic City Hall. He shook hands with Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins and leftwith a temporary permit that allowed him to park for free near the State House.
It was one of Hopkins' many gestures of small-town hospitality. But it's a courtesy he now regrets.
The mayor, who came under fire several months ago for paying off a bet with five residential parkingstickers, has allowed the number of temporary passes to soar, a CityCouncil subcommittee found. In a report released yesterday, the council's Finance Committee noted 97 temporary permits were issued in thelast fiscal year and called for abolishing the program.
"The mereexistence of these temporary permits places the mayor in an awkward position at times, as he receives requests for passes," wrote Alderman John Hammond, R-Ward 1, the committee chairman.
Several residents of the city's historic district, where parking spots are at a premium, asked the committee to investigate the parking program after Hopkins' giveaway was publicized in early February. Although the mayor apologized and tried to smooth over the issue, frustrated residents andpolitical opponents seized on it as a symptom of a flawed parking system.
The committee found that the mayor removed the five permits "from the middle of the clerk's inventory, thereby making discovery of the appropriated permits problematical." Hopkins said he distributed them to pay off a football wager with midshipmen at the Naval Academy.
Four steps were recommended to stop people from fraudulently obtaining permits, ranging from locking up the stickers to computerizing the system. Residents who commit parking fraud should be penalizedwith a fine and loss of parking privileges, the group said.
Committee member Alderwoman Ellen O. Moyer, D-Ward 8, said she had reservations about the report, but concurred with the final recommendation to centralize parking management, now scattered between four government offices.
Hopkins supported the recommendations to tighten the residential permit system, but he questioned whether all temporary passes should be eliminated. The eight aldermen currently receive temporary passes, as do city employees who drive around Annapolis on business and volunteers who serve on boards such as the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Hopkins acknowledged giving passes to the mayor of Morningside and the Maryland Volunteer Firefighters Association.
"I was doing something that had good intentions, but it was wrong," he said.
But the mayor said he also inherited temporary pass holders. The number of those permits has nearly doubled in the past two years, said Alderman Dean Johnson, I-Ward 2, the third committee member.