Immediately after the City Council meeting at the end of September, City Manager Teresa Sutherland and I, along with our resiliency consultants Dan Nees and Joanna Throwe, took a three-day trip to Rhode Island to meet with elected officials, city planners, resiliency specialists and state and federal government agency representatives. Our goal was to see how communities and municipalities in the Narragansett Bay watershed are dealing with many of the same issues we face in terms of climate change, increased coastal flooding and rising sea level.
As we learned last weekend with the coastal flooding all around the Mid-Atlantic and here at City Dock caused by tropical Storm Melissa and the full moon, it is a good thing we are thinking about ways to cope with more severe and more intense tidal flooding.
We learned from the folks in Rhode Island that we have to be ready for that catastrophic storm that may come our way. We have to be prepared in order to help our residents successfully bounce back.
For our counterparts, they wanted to know about stormwater fees and the remediation projects we are able to afford because of those dedicated incoming funds.
On our end, we were able to visit projects and see plans on a number of resiliency initiatives. Do we know where to go to access county, state and federal funding should we need it? Do we have plans in place so that we don’t face delays after a catastrophic incident? These are important issues. I’m so pleased right now that we have our City Dock Action Group working on many of these issues and we are working toward financing mechanisms to tie these very important component pieces together to move our City into a robust and resilient future. My thanks to our counterparts in Newport.
Annapolis Police Chief Edward Jackson reminds city residents of the promotional ceremony for officers to be held on October 21 in Council chambers. That is at 7 p.m. We hope to see you there. We also wanted to thank Firehouse Subs Safety Foundation for donating two bulletproof vests to APD, valued at more than $4,000. We thank them for their generosity.
Annapolis Fire Chief Doug Remaley reminded me that the Taylor Avenue Fire Station helped with a flag ceremony the first week in October. This was for the Ground Zero Flag Tribute. They were joined by the Naval District Washington, Naval Academy Fire Department, Annapolis Police, Maryland Capital Police and Maryland State Police. For 18 years, the Ground Zero Flag Team has traveled from location to location with this flag that was flown at Ground Zero after the attacks of 9/11. It is a reminder of the brave men and women who sacrifice for public safety and in our United States Armed Forces. Thank you to the Ground Zero Flag Team for bringing the flag to Annapolis and allowing our City to be a part of that remembrance ceremony.
Speaking of the fire department, on the main floor of City Hall, there is a photo exhibit, organized by Art in Public Places Commission, in recognition of Fire Prevention Month. There are historic photos, and photos of firefighters and paramedics in action. Please stop by to see this impressive collection of images.
Charles Marohn of Strong Towns gave a presentation at Asbury United Methodist Church. It was a full house. He spoke to many of the issues that the City of Annapolis is confronting. He advised us to rethink the possibilities, especially as relates to infill development and amenities we offer to residents. I got a copy of his book, and I’m looking forward to reading more about his work in other cities. Check out his talk on the City’s YouTube page.
One of the things that Marohn talked about was the need to make small changes to improve the lives of residents wherever possible. Even before his talk, we began a program to clean up our most vulnerable neighborhoods. Members of my staff participated in a cleanup on Clay Street. I joined Neat Streets in Eastport in mid-September. At the end of September, a City crew, including me and Teresa Sutherland as well as staff from my office, and Alderwomen Rhonda Pindell Charles and Sheila Finlayson went to Newtowne Drive to create a punch list of the repairs the City could tackle right away.
In all, there were 26 items on our list. Of those, 16 are complete. For example, public works has restriped the crosswalk, removed metal and wooden sign posts that didn’t have any signs, removed all of the trash in the street and along the sidewalks, fixed a section of sidewalk that was a tripping hazard, painted the curbs, added a piece of sidewalk where it was missing, addressed cleanup issues at the bus shelter and more. Some of the projects that require our partnership with other vendors, like BGE, are in the works.
We will continue working for everyone on these quality of life issues. We encourage volunteers from the community to come out and help. As we know with the Neat Streets project, it can sometimes take as little as one hour with 20 or 30 people to make a tremendous difference in a city block.
From our City staff in economic development, we have a couple of updates. In the August new business report, every new business created in the city was either a minority or a woman-owned business.
Also, they are reporting that the city currently has a four percent vacancy for retail and office space. I am not sure if that is a record low, but it is certainly a good indicator of a robust business environment.
Lastly, the United States Naval Academy celebrated its 174 birthday on October 10. The United States Navy is celebrated 244 years on October 13. The Academy brought me, along with members of my team, to the Academy for lunch where we got to sit among the midshipmen and women and talk up our City so that when their friends and family come to visit they know all the best places to go. I was pleased to be able to have an intimate lunch with the 4,500 students and share a piece of cake with the Commandant of Midshipmen. Thank you for including us in your big day. (And Go Navy!)