Moyer promises inclusiveness as 2nd term begins

In inaugural speech, mayor vows to seek wide involvement in city's planning process

December 07, 2005|By JAMIE STIEHM | JAMIE STIEHM,SUN REPORTER

Annapolis Mayor Ellen O. Moyer began her second term by pledging "the most inclusive, participatory and insightful planning process ever" in the development of a new 10-year master plan for the city.

Following a bruising re-election campaign in which her opponents criticized her style as heavy-handed, Moyer used her swearing-in Monday to reach out to the city council, which has five new members.

"Let's build bridges in the face of differences, not with complaints and criticism but through discovering our common ground and collective wisdom," said Moyer, 69.

She said her top priority would be leading a "communitywide great conversation" on "Annapolis Vision 2018," a comprehensive plan that will take effect in 2008 and serve as a guide for the city government.

"Let's discuss our differences honestly and openly," Moyer told an audience of several hundred at the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts. "Let's talk collectively about traffic and growth and environmental distress and violence and drugs and social degradation."

Moyer's swearing-in followed bitter clashes over the fate of the historic Market House with several council members who either stepped down or lost running another race. Last month, Moyer defeated former Alderman George O. Kelley Sr., a Republican, and independent candidate Gilbert T. Renaut.

Three council members are returning along with Moyer: Democrats Josh Cohen and Classie Gillis Hoyle, and Republican David H. Cordle Sr. The council's newcomers are Democrats Richard E. Israel, Wayne M. Taylor and Sam Shropshire; independent Julie M. Stankivic; and Republican Michael I. Christman.

Jan Hardesty, the mayor's spokeswoman, said Moyer's speech was "crafted as a conciliatory speech with a new attitude toward a new council. She is looking for the council to help her."

For nine months next year, Moyer said in her inaugural address, an intensive outreach campaign will ask all community and civic associations, tenant councils, faith congregations, interest groups and business organizations to take part in what she described as a "conversational journey." Each group will eventually have a specific task, which they will help choose.

"Each group will be asked to select one specific element ... to recommend action for change, considering what government change would be required, and its cost," the mayor said. City government staffers and "citizen volunteers," she said, will be assigned to facilitate each group as they seek suggestions and solutions for the city's problems.

One perennial Annapolis problem might prove elusive, she said: "None of us knows how to reduce traffic."

By evoking the city as a special place - not merely a small town but a scenic seafaring center where moments in American history happened, such as the 1784 ratification of the Treaty of Paris - Moyer was preaching to the faithful in a city that is fond of yesteryear. She also mentioned the business sector's recovery from the flood of Tropical Storm Isabel in 2003, and picking up the pieces from the fire that ravaged three buildings on Main Street last month.

The result of City Hall's effort to engage with residents and listen to a wide range of views, the mayor said, will be the blueprint for "Annapolis Vision 2018." When the plan takes effect, in 2008, the tricentennial celebration of the city's Colonial charter, handed down in 1708, will also take place.

Moyer's first term was filled with visible public works projects such as the addition of brick to downtown sidewalks and streets, as well as several major private residential and retail developments. She said small-group discussions could form the basis of changes in the city's new plan.

"There are those who contend talk is cheap. But talk is the most valuable currency we humans exchange. ... Nothing happens, except through conversation," she said in her speech. Ideas can create ripples like a pebble in a pond, she added.

Several residents and city council members interviewed afterward said they were willing to take Moyer at her word and give the idea a fair chance.

Hoyle, who represents Ward 3, said the ambitious scope came across favorably: "I'm surprised about her great expectations, and I hope she's able to pull that off," she said.

Leonard O. Blackshear, executive director for the Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Foundation, said, "It's exactly in line with what we're trying to do."

Christman, the new Republican alderman for Ward 2, said: "Listening and dialogue is critical to moving forward."

Taylor, the new Democratic council member from Ward 4, concurred with Moyer's goals: "People must have the opportunity to speak."

Moyer is the city's first female mayor, a fact noted by Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens when she came to the podium. Owens said she, too, was the first to break the gender barrier in her job.

"You and I have made history," she said to Moyer, who shared a laugh with Owens despite their recent differences over bringing a state horse park to the area - an idea championed by Moyer without Owens' support.

Moyer took her oath of office with a grown daughter, Loni Moyer, and two teenage granddaughters standing by her side.

U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, a Democrat who praised Moyer as a dear friend, had a piece of advice for the city's top official as the first snow of the season fell.

Said Sarbanes: "Reputations are made and broken on snowfalls."

jamie.stiehm@baltsun.com

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