Tax cap among issues in Ward 2

Democrat, Republican differ in both their style and views

Annapolis Elections


The two candidates vying to replace Democrat Sheila M. Tolliver as an Annapolis alderman will go before voters in one of the city's most economically and ethnically diverse wards Tuesday.

Neither candidate in Ward 2 has held elected office, but Democrat Debbie Rosen McKerrow and Republican Michael I. Christman differ considerably in their style and their views on the issues.

The ward that they hope to represent extends from the mansions of Admiral Heights to the public housing neighborhoods around Clay Street. Taylor Avenue - which could see a significant increase in traffic when the $300 million Park Place development opens - cuts through the middle of the ward.

McKerrow, 57, the president of an estate settlement company, has a strong interest in the minutiae of city policies. A longtime Annapolis resident, she says her knowledge of the issues comes from experience gained working with a clutch of community organizations. "In order to have a grasp of what is going on in Annapolis you have to be involved," she said. "I can talk to issues from experience. He can't. That is the difference between us."

Christman, 43, is a Naval Academy graduate who grew up in Annapolis and works for a software development company. Christman talks about policy in broad strokes and plays down his opponent's experience. "Participation is great," he said. "It is leadership and achievement that matter."

The candidates are vying in a heavily Democratic district, an obvious advantage for McKerrow. The district has 1,659 Democrats, 1,139 Republicans and 574 independents, according to county voter registration records.

Both candidates said they are concerned about the effect of increasing property taxes from skyrocketing real estate values. Both also would like to see a lower cap on the amount property tax assessments can increase a year.

Christman wants the cap to be 4 percent. He often invokes his family when discussing property taxes. "If my mom were still alive, I'm not sure she'd be able to afford to live in her house," Christman said.

McKerrow thinks 4 percent is too low but thinks the current city cap - the state-allowed maximum of 10 percent a year for tax purposes - is too high. "I think there should be a compromise," McKerrow said.

McKerrow also wants to examine other ways to ease the tax burden on Annapolitans being priced out of their neighborhoods. She talked about possibly expanding a little-used city program that allows elderly city residents on fixed incomes to defer increases in their property taxes. With some tweaking, the program could provide useful and targeted tax relief, she said.

Violent crime is another issue of importance to the ward. Six weeks ago, a 24-year-old man was shot to death in broad daylight in College Creek Terrace, just blocks from the city's downtown.

Since she started her campaign this summer, McKerrow said, she's attended many of the weekly Clay Street Public Safety Team meetings where residents and police talk about ways to decrease crime in the public housing neighborhoods there.

"That is a part of the community. I want them to know me. I want to understand their issues," she said.

Christman said he also has an interest in the Clay Street community, adding that he's met with Joseph "Zastro" Simms, a community activist who lost to McKerrow in the primary.

Both Christman and McKerrow point to illicit drug sales as a primary reason for the violence and would like to see more police patrolling the streets.

Development is another issue both candidates say they hear about when they go door to door. Christman wants a moratorium on annexation. "It might be a wise course of action that will let the city catch its breath," he said.

McKerrow, who sits on the city's Annexation Work Group, does not want to block new projects but she said she has been struck by the rush of new developments.

Still, she added, "development in and of itself is not a bad thing. We need to make sure we have the infrastructure in place to handle it."

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