Government by Weather Vane

November 07, 1994

Al Hopkins, the mayor of Annapolis, ought to walk down to the A.L. Goodies shop on Main Street, buy a wind sock and stick it on the roof of City Hall. That way, citizens passing by could glance up, check which way the wind is blowing, and make a pretty good guess as to what Annapolis city leaders will do next.

The mayor and City Council have shown a remarkable ability lately to change their minds like the wind. This has been especially true with budget questions. The mayor spent months preparing a budget and the council spent six weeks scrutinizing and amending it. After much debate and controversy, they adopted a package that included personnel cuts, the elimination of most community grants and increases in parking meters and fines.

We didn't agree with all of their choices, but the council listened to the opponents, weighed the arguments and made its decisions.

The budget had hardly been adopted when Mayor Hopkins decided he didn't like the cut in his public information director's salary. He tried to go around the council and keep Thomas Roskelly's pay intact.

The council howled and threatened to take the mayor to court. Then they made up and agreed to a salary that was more than the budget provided but less than what the mayor wanted.

Next came a group from Mount Moriah A.M.E. Church begging the council to restore a $5,000 grant for a reading program. Although the council had adopted a budget that eliminated virtually all grants to community groups, the council changed its mind and agreed to give the money.

Now, after spending nearly $100,000 to install new parking meters and doubling parking fees and fines, the council is waffling again.

Some aldermen have asked whether the meters are necessary at all. And the mayor, who initially proposed the increases in the fines, now wants them changed.

The problem is not that any one of these actions is in itself bad. Perhaps Mr. Roskelly's salary is fair, the reading program is laudable and we had argued from the beginning against the increase in parking fees and fines. But these turnarounds point to the real problem in Annapolis, which is the absence of leadership in City Hall.

Neither the Annapolis council nor the mayor has been able to devise a plan and stick with it. They seem to make decisions depending on which way the wind blows.

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