Council votes no on revenue authority Board of Aldermen repeals controversial charter amendment

'Back to good government'

Backers said measure would help city build big-ticket projects

November 10, 1998|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

Three years after the city charter was amended to give Annapolis leaders the power to set up a quasi-governmental revenue authority, city council members voted 8-0 last night to take away that controversial right.

The decision to repeal the amendment puts an end to years of debate over whether the city should have an independent revenue authority that can sell bonds and collect fees to finance big-ticket projects such as parking garages. Board members appointed by local government officials govern such agencies.

Last night, critics of the revenue authority applauded the decision and said previous council members -- most of whom were not re-elected -- should never have approved the 1995 charter amendment. The council acted at the time after the General Assembly rebuffed city requests to create such an authority.

"It's an important statement that we're going back to good government," said Gilbert Renaut, a former Ward One Association president who opposed the idea for years. "There was absolutely no reason for a revenue authority in this city. Setting it up in the city was going to be just some kind of a scam."

The issue has been a bitter one and was a major issue in last year's mayoral race.

Supporters praised a revenue authority for its ability to bring development to the city without the red tape that surrounds government-sponsored projects. Supporters also said the city would not be responsible for the authority's debt because the agency would be responsible for providing its revenue.

Critics argued that a small city government such as Annapolis' needs no extra layer of bureaucracy to handle big projects. They said a nonelected board would be able to make critical development decisions with little accountability. Worse, critics said, city taxpayers could be forced to bail out the agency if it stumbled into poor investments.

No authority was set up.

In 1996, a bill to create a transportation authority died after several attempts to advance it.

In October of last year, a proposed amendment that would have created an authority to handle parking and transportation issues was tabled indefinitely.

"I think most people agree now that revenue authorities just subvert the public process," said Alderman Joseph Sachs, a Ward 4 Republican and chairman of the city Finance Committee, which approved the repeal of the charter amendment.

"Once you create one, you turn over the ability to raise funds to a group of citizens with no citizen review process," Sachs said. "People here don't want to give up their say in how public money is spent, at least not here in a small city like Annapolis."

Pub Date: 11/10/98

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