Volume XVII, Issue 37 # September 10 - September 16, 2009

from the Editor

Capital City Democrats Get the First Vote

September 15, they’ll whittle seven mayoral would-be’s down to one

Only 12,432 people may, or may not, vote in the Annapolis Democratic mayoral primary September 15. Far more of us — all of us who live in Chesapeake Country and indeed all of Maryland — have a stake in how that election turns out.

They’ll whittle seven Democrats who would be mayor down to one, who’ll in turn compete against one Republican and one independent in the November general election.

That person, in turn, will give all us Marylanders a 21st century capital. Or not.

Ellen Moyer has been the first mayor of the 21st century, and the city has changed enormously in her years. New development along West Street, planned before she came to office, has redrawn the city’s profile and brought it high-end commerce rivaling the shopping towns that throw their shadows over the city, from Westfield Mall and the Towne Centre at Parole.

The city has become greener, prettier (with fewer exposed electrical lines, for one thing) and livelier. It runs pretty well, one or two kertuffles aside. But Annapolis has yet to imagine the solutions that will let us, looking back, see our early 21st century capital city as the kind of quaint, somewhat benighted place we see in the earlier city as photographed by Aubrey Bodine or Marion Warren.

I’m looking out over Annapolis as I write, but I’ll not be voting in either the primary or the general in this decisive election. For though I work in the capital, I live in plain old unincorporated Anne Arundel County, which gives me one vote fewer than my city cousins.

But as a citizen of Maryland and a constant companion of Annapolis, I have some principles that guide the vote I can’t cast.

For one, I wouldn’t give my vote to anybody who’s in a lather to cast out the old. Time is about to do that for us. And time will tarnish any new mayor just as it has every old mayor. The more years, the darker the tarnish — because each year gives the mayor more time to offend one or the other of us in ways we refuse to forgive.

I’d give my vote to a candidate who looks to the future, which we can change, rather than to a past now hardened in history.

If I got to vote for mayor, I’d choose a candidate with political experience. Not necessarily experience in public office, though that earns some points. But it should be somebody who can navigate the system.

That standard is crucial in this election for two reasons. Reason one, Annapolis government has no city manager, so our capital lacks that chain of continuity. Momentum helps a city run itself, but in very real ways, each new mayor has to start from scratch with no recipe book.

Reason two, mayors stand alone. They don’t have the leadership structure that state legislators, for example, get from their political parties. Which may be a good reason to make mayoral elections nonpartisan.

Three of this year’s Democratic contenders already have been chosen by Annapolitan voters to make their city work. All three are men, and all were — or are, in Sam Shropshire’s case — city aldermen.

Two of them resigned that responsibility before their terms were up: Wayne Taylor to join John Leopold’s county administration, and Josh Cohen to represent Annapolis on the Anne Arundel County Council.

Happens all the time, at all levels of government. But I’m never happy about it. Would that keep me from voting for either of them? Not if I got to know them face to face and issue by issue from debates and by studying their platforms. Not if I found in them the future I was looking for.

City cousins, I sure hope you’ll do that with all of the candidates in these mayoral elections. Because with your votes goes the future of our capital.

       Sandra Olivetti Martin

   editor and publisher