Talk of possible session stirs capital

Annapolis avoids `disruptive' weekend

September 09, 2004|By Molly Knight and Jamie Stiehm | Molly Knight and Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

Around the capital city early yesterday, word began circulating that 188 state lawmakers might descend on Annapolis as early as this weekend for a special session of the General Assembly.

On an otherwise quiet, drizzly, end-of-summer day, Annapolis reacted to the news like a host preparing for unexpected guests at a moment's notice.

City officials expressed their surprise that the lawmakers might converge on a Saturday when Annapolis would be brimming with events, including a Navy home football game and commemoration of Sept. 11, 2001 at the City Dock.

"Other than Hurricane Ivan, I can't think of anything more disruptive this weekend than an impromptu visit of the Maryland State Assembly," said Jan Hardesty, the city's public information officer.

"Don't get me wrong; we love our legislators. ... But they could pick their timing a little better," Hardesty said.

By day's end, however, the plan to convene legislators to set a referendum on a slot machines measure had apparently collapsed.

No legislators. No special session in September.

For transportation officials, the spur-of-the-moment session raised concerns about parking and traffic on a weekend when the city would be teeming with Navy football fans.

Navy football

"A game weekend is not a good time for them to come to town," said Danielle Matland, the city's transportation director, adding that stadium traffic will cause more jams than the city's numerous road construction projects.

"Many of the statehouse employees park at the stadium, so where will they park? I'm not sure they really thought this out," Matland said.

Merchants, tavern keepers and restaurateurs near the State House were waiting yesterday afternoon, sanguine about the prospect of lawmakers bringing in business outside the usual yearly cycle to the historic city by the Chesapeake Bay.

Just in case state lawmakers were called in for a special slots session, certain precautions were taken to make the public space pristine. A concrete footpath, a popular short cut from the State House to Main Street next to a vacant lot, was being power-washed.

At York Flowers on Statehouse Circle, manager Keith Gustafson, yesterday sensed an upswing of orders at his shop. He said that yesterday brought a stream of orders that seemed unusually lavish for this time of year. "There's a lot of people, a buzz in the air," he said.

More crab cakes?

At the Treaty of Paris restaurant, a standby for legislators and lobbyists, headwaiter Frank Cheplowitz was predicting up to 20 or 30 extra crab cake entrees might be needed to satisfy the appetites of one-day guests who might be around to dine Saturday.

Across Main Street, at Alpaca International, co-owner Pete Cotgreave said lawmakers were welcome, as long as they did not exercise special perks. "They should not have privileged parking," he said. "This is summer."

He added, "It might be a bit annoying for traffic."

Wes Burg, a tavern keeper at Reynolds Tavern, was undaunted by the prospect of extra visitors, despite the street construction disarray outside his door. "We'll be ready to handle the crowds," he said yesterday afternoon.

Those who remained most unflappable were State House employees and security staff, who yesterday afternoon insisted they were prepared.

"Well, we're doing what we normally do to get ready for a session, and we're ready," Karl Aro, head of legislative services, said calmly.

Now he has four more months to prepare.

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