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Who Wants to Run City Hall?

Sketches of Annapolis Primary candidates

Scarce as candidates are, Annapolis’ chambers won’t be empty come November. Thirteen Annapolitans have stepped up, enough to fill all eight council seats and offer Primary voters a choice in the mayoral race and in two of the eight wards.
    The nine in competition answered questions and stated their views in an 11th-hour forum sponsored by local chapters of the Sierra Club and League of Conservation Voters. Enough likely voters showed up that the Heritage Baptist Church parking lot looked like a revival was on the calendar.
    If the two-plus hours that followed weren’t quite that lively, they did revive faith that standing up to solve our shared problems is still a job people will fight for.
    You’ll meet candidates in the forum’s speaking order, determined, Crabtown style, by numbers printed on crab mallets each pulled from a sack.

~   ~   ~

1. Bevin Buchheister (D)
The Environmental Wonk
    Race: Mayor
    Habitat: Environmental and civic policy organizations: former Ward 1 Residents Association president; former House Environmental Matters Committee chief of staff; now Maryland director of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, which coordinates restoration policy across state lines.
    Dress: Pants suit.
    Distinction: The only woman in competition.
    At a Glance: “The capital of one of the most progressive states in Bay cleanup and home of the Chesapeake Bay Program should be a local leader in Bay cleanup. We’re not. We have no plan, and we won’t get there without a plan.”
    Bright Idea: “America has a $10 billion seafood deficit. If our Bay is clean, we can export Bay food.”

2. Joe Budge (D)
The Systems Analyst
    Race: Alderman, Ward 1
    Habitat: Civic halls: Member of the Advisory Committee on the city’s 2009 Comprehensive Master Plan; president of Ward 1 Residents Association; Ward 1 alderman on the City Council appointed last year to fill unexpired term.
    Dress: Open-collared dress shirt and jacket; no socks.
    Distinction: Turned civic activist after migrating from Severna Park; installed the Historic District’s first permeable driveway at his home.
    At a Glance: Recognizing the 800-pound gorilla in town: how to live up to — and pay for — state and federal mandates for cutting pollution under the Bay Diet. That’s preparation of dealing with Godzilla: Planning for how a city with 18 miles of shoreline will survive sea-level rise.
    Bright Idea: “A coherent scheme of transportation and parking downtown. The Circulator can be a tool, but without a coherent plan, it’s a tool we threw out there waiting for people to pick it up.”

3. Tom McCarthy (D)
The Closer
    Race: Alderman, Ward 1
    Habitat: Maryland Department of Natural Resource’s Program Open Space, where he brings in federal grants and negotiates land preservation contracts.
    Dress: Business suit, dress shirt, tie.
    Distinction: Offers Ward 1 the road not taken: “I have a lot of respect for Joe Budge, but I don’t think his vision is right for the city’s economic and environmental future.”
    At a Glance: “Big support” for the City Dock Master Plan. Its green space, he says, opens it up to pedestrians and “re-engages residents in downtown,” giving them a reason to return there at long last.
    Bright Idea: “We’re past the point where our watershed can repair itself. Every week it gets worse. The choice is not whether we can afford the high costs of repairing it; the EPA has imposed that responsibility. The challenge is convincing the electorate it has to happen.”

4. Kurt Riegel (D)
The Thinker
    Race: Alderman, Ward 2
    Habitat: University and federal government in successive careers as a professor of astrophysics (UCLA) then inventor and promulgator of smart energy ideas.
    Dress: Slacks and dress shirt; no socks.
    Distinction: “Migrated” from Arnold a decade ago; active in Annapolis Environmental Commission, West Annapolis Civic Association, Severn River Association, Severn River Commission; running to still “better connected to civic affairs” and involve citizens in decision making.
    At a Glance: Issue groups and developers have lobbyists aplenty. “The public is represented only by government; the city should always get the best deal it can for citizens.”
    Bright Idea: “Annapolis has a myopic focus on parking. Instead of a parking problem, we have a transportation system problem with major environmental effects. The major challenge is redesigning the system to reduce those impacts.”

5. Mike Pantelides (R)
The Local Boy
    Race: Mayor
    Habitat: Annapolis: “This is my family home, my past, my present, my future.”
    Dress: Business suit, tie.
    Distinction: Eagle Scout; President, Germantown-Homewood Homeowners Association; new-generation Republican activist; elected in ’09 to Annapolis Republican Central Committee.
    At a Glance: “Do no more until our house is in order” — including more development on Forest Drive: “It is not in the public interest. The roads won’t handle anything more.”
    Bright Idea: “Leave what you do better than you found it.”

6. Tim Mennuti (D)
The Grandfather
    Race: Alderman, Ward 2
    Habitat: Public service, as a Navy officer and schoolteacher.
    Dress: Wore no socks or jacket but carried his white hat, a snap-brim fedora. Wears his wife’s “yellow rubber gloves” to go fishing.
    Distinction: Self-styled “micro-economist, solving problems from the ground up.”
    At a Glance: “Work for the end-users: my 10 grandkids.”
    Bright Idea: Draws solutions from professional experience, family life, travels; cites Texas capital’s Keep Austin Weird campaign as a model for Annapolis: “We need to decide what downtown Annapolis really needs and market what’s special” about us.

7. Josh Cohen (D)
The Incumbent
    Race: Seeking second term as Mayor
    Habitat: Public office. Cohen’s a perennial and oft-elected candidate. In the last 12 years, he’s won election twice to the Annapolis City Council, once to the Anne Arundel County Council (leaving both jobs mid-term to move up) and once as mayor of Annapolis.
    Dress: Business suit, shirt, tie, socks.
    Distinction: Began the day (Rosh Hashanah) in temple; ended it in Heritage Baptist Church.
    At a Glance: “I don’t claim to have all the right answers, but I’m the only candidate with 12 years political experience. I ask your support so we can continue making progress.”
    Bright Idea: Campaign on city rehab: how much has been achieved in four years, how much remains to be done in the next four.

8. Frank Bradley (R)
The Contrarian
    Race: Mayor
    Habitat: His one-man Libertarian League of Plain Speakers; Annapolis Republican Central Committee.
    Dress: Red T-shirt.
    Distinction: Long white hair and beard, rosy complexion, must be — and is — Santa Claus, donating earnings from his annual gigs to charity.
    At a Glance: “Government gives you the bacon with one hand and takes back a pound with the other. I’m against Smart Growth. I want what’s best for us.”
    Bright Idea: Let’s go home. “How long is this [forum] going on? I was only planning on being here till 9pm.”

9. Bob O’Shea (R)
The Rabble Rouser
    Race: Mayor
    Habitat: Murray Hill family man, midshipman sponsor, business consultant.
    Dress: White shirt, dark coat and tie over khakis.
    Distinction: Passionate speaker; earned two rounds of applause.
    At a Glance: Predictable, transparent leadership with measurable goals — in contrast to the current administration, which has “failed to deliver on promises and treats us as an ATM. Now the mayor is working with an out-of-town developer to destroy our viewscape.”
    Bright Idea: “I don’t want cookie-cutter development that makes Annapolis look like every other city in the country.”

Annapolis City election Tuesday, September 17, 7am to 8pm. For more information and a list of polling places: