Annapolis hearing to focus on powers of mayor

April 30, 1995|By Ellen Gamerman | Ellen Gamerman,Sun Staff Writer

Should future mayors of Annapolis wield more power or be relegated to cutting ribbons and kissing babies?

These are among the questions residents will discuss tomorrow night at a public hearing on changes to the city's governing charter, which was created in 1708.

"The purpose of this is to get a general idea from the public of whether they feel satisfied with how things work now," said Roger "Pip" Moyer, who heads a five-member panel studying the issue.

Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins appointed the commission last month. It is studying whether the city should move to a strong-mayor or city-manager system.

Under the strong-mayor format, the mayor would not have a seat on the council, but could veto legislation and would have greater authority over city departments.

The city manager form of government delegates administrative duties to a manager and turns the mayor's job into a largely ceremonial one. The city manager, who is appointed to the post, oversees city finances and recommends policy.

The commission's recommendations would apply after the next mayoral election, in 1997. Currently, the mayor has a vote on the city council and no veto power, an arrangement referred to as a "weak-mayor" system. Some of the legislative business is handled by a city administrator, but the City Charter does not authorize a city manager position with more sweeping powers. Granting the mayor veto power or sanctioning the appointment of a city manager would require a charter change.

RTC Changes in city government are the focus of another study by the Greater Annapolis Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber interviewed mayors, former mayors and city managers across Maryland and polled more than 200 city employees to see what kind of change is warranted, said Penny Chandler, the chamber's executive director.

"The chamber doesn't have any political ties," Ms. Chandler said. "We are a nonpartisan group, and we can do an unbiased study."

The results of the six-month study will be released in mid-May, she said.

Not all aldermen want to change the structure of the city's government.

"We have to be really careful that we don't sacrifice public input in local government," said Alderman Ellen O. Moyer, a Ward 8 Democrat. "The form of government we have right now is right for the size of our population. It affords the most citizen participation."

Nevertheless, cities across Maryland are changing. The recent trend in the state's municipalities has been toward hiring a city manager, said James Peck, associate director for research at the Maryland Municipal League. More than 50 of the 156 cities and towns in the state employ a city manager, he said.

In Maryland, communities using city managers range in size from La Plata, population 1,600, to Rockville, population 40,000.

Maryland's largest city, Baltimore, has a strong-mayor form of government.

"More and more cities want a city manager to run the day-to-day operations," Mr. Peck said. "In some cases, this means the mayor presides over meetings. In other cases, it means the mayor is a figurehead."

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