Mayoral hopefuls trade barbs during debate

McMillan and Moyer spar over legislative records, abilities

October 24, 2001|By Amanda J. Crawford | Amanda J. Crawford,SUN STAFF

With two weeks before Annapolis voters choose the next mayor, the candidates went head-to-head last night in their first debate since the September primary.

About 100 people turned out for the debate at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, sponsored by the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce and Annapolis Jaycees.

Democratic Alderman Ellen O. Moyer and Republican Alderman Herbert H. McMillan traded barbs about their records and leadership styles, but the candidates' revealed few differences in their positions on issues.

Both said they support improved retirement benefits for the city's police and fire personnel, oppose widening Rowe Boulevard, want to work more collaboratively with state and county government and would hold off building additional parking garages until a larger transportation plan for the city is undertaken.

McMillan, a first-term council member from Ward 5 who defeated incumbent Mayor Dean L. Johnson in the primary, went on the offensive in his opening remarks, questioning Moyer's resignation from the council's finance committee seven years ago.

"She quit ... because she could not work with her committee," McMillan said. "How does this square with her promise to be collaborative?"

Moyer called McMillan's assertions "pretty doggone faulty" and later said she resigned from the finance committee because she could not devote the time needed to prepare the budget while working full time (she has since retired). Moyer, who has served on the council for 14 years as the representative of Ward 8, said she later sponsored legislation that shifted responsibility for the budget from the finance committee to the mayor.

Moyer questioned McMillan's ability to work with the finance committee on budget issues during his four years on the council, pointing to major last-minute amendments he introduced.

"My opponent chose to operate clandestinely and not within the process at all," Moyer said. "You voided the process this year and the year before. You subverted it and came in with your midnight proposals."

McMillan, in response to a question read by moderator Julia Hockenberry of WNAV-AM radio, brushed off criticism that his last-minute moves to change the budget and his support of disputed legislation had made him a "divisive force" in city government.

"I don't believe having a difference of opinion makes you divisive," he said. He said that he supported amendments to some of his own legislation after public comment, including a voter-identification bill he sponsored and a drug-free loitering zone bill that was later struck down in federal court.

Moyer criticized McMillan for calling some leaders in the black community "demagogues" during the long-standing dispute over a law concerning loitering.

"You don't heal by calling people names," she said.

McMillan said he called some people demagogues because they falsely accused him of racism.

In their closing remarks, the candidates echoed the sentiments that have become their hallmarks in the campaign.

"It is time for change," McMillan said. He spoke of his fiscal responsibility and budgetary know-how and said, "I am ready to serve; I am ready to lead."

Moyer spoke of her ability to work with people, her creativity and her enthusiasm.

"Government is about compassion and it is about caring," she said. "It is about you and I."

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