Agency for transportation proposed New panel would use private money for projects on parking, congestion

January 03, 1996|By Ellen Gamerman | Ellen Gamerman,SUN STAFF

Traffic is such a problem in Annapolis that at least one alderman doesn't think the city government can handle it alone and wants a quasi-governmental agency to take on the issue.

Alderman Carl O. Snowden has drafted a measure to create an independent revenue authority with control over spending on big-ticket transportation projects. The panel would use private money to ease congestion, create more parking and establish traffic patterns.

"Transportation is a very comprehensive problem," said Mr. Snowden, who plans to introduce the bill at Monday's city council meeting. "The city's bureaucracy doesn't necessarily loan itself to running major capital improvement programs."

Mr. Snowden's bill is the first outline for a revenue authority since the council approved a charter amendment authorizing the establishment of a revenue authority in a 5-3 vote last May. The council will hold public hearings on the matter and is likely to vote before April.

Alderman Louise Hammond, an opponent of the proposal, contends the nonelected panel would have too much control over city development.

"We're handing over the power to someone who is not accountable," she said. Furthermore, she said the city already has the power to do anything a revenue authority would do.

Last spring, several of Ms. Hammond's Historic District constituents tried unsuccessfully to block the establishment of a revenue authority with a referendum drive against the charter change. They argued that the authority would pass on hidden costs to the city and block public oversight.

Revenue authorities sell bonds and collect fees to finance projects such as parking garages. They are governed by board members who are appointed by local government officials.

Under Mr. Snowden's bill, a five-member authority would hire a staff, including a chief executive officer, to develop projects and raise money for their construction. The city council could override authority decisions or fire staff members with a majority vote.

Mr. Snowden's bill orders the authority to oversee spending primarily on transportation projects, but its potential sweep is much greater. The bill would give the authority power to build retail, office and other buildings if they were placed next to parking lots and garages.

Originally, some residents had accused Mr. Snowden of trying to create a revenue authority to pay for a conference center in Annapolis without getting public approval. But when the city council passed the bill that legalized the authority, it specified that the panel could not use its powers to create a conference center.

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