The Ninth Ward: Of politics, parking garages, playgrounds and developers named Parks

This editorial in the Annapolis Capital sums up the garage proposal:

Mayor Josh Cohen has gotten religion and will no longer support destroying the beloved playground and park to make a garage on downtown’s Compromise Street.

This garage is the most horribly wrong-sided, idiotic and foolishly insane boondoggle ever to come here for so many reasons including the fact that the deed apparently stipulates that the land is always to be for a playground yet Aldermen Ross Arnett and Sheila Finlayson urge us to move quickly because the Board of Education owns a parcel and is poised to act. I predict that an outpouring of citizen protest will likely grow. Perhaps they should follow Cohen’s example and get out while the getting is good. Politics, baby.

Rumors of political intrigue are flying rampant. Criticize Cohen on the budget, or his many other ongoing blunders, but not for his decision on the parking garage, regardless of why he reversed himself. Of course the key to all of this is quite simply a matter of the ‘’P word’’ — politics. And you thought I meant parking?

Parents and children gathered to show their support for retaining the park before the “emergency” City Council meeting Monday. Annapolis has done fine since the 1600s without a garage on Compromise Street, and without cars until about a century ago. We’ve known for many months about the complicated timing for plans for this property but it’s suddenly an emergency to Finlayson and Arnett. They are drinking the punch of having a sole-source and unsolicited proposal from local developers Jerry and Jeremy Parks who will build this for “free.”

Emergency! We have to move quickly. We need this garage! At the “emergency” meeting, Jeremy Parks testified along with former city administrator and Ward One Resident’s Association President Doug Smith, the former chemical engineer who has apparently found a new stint testifying with the deep-pocketed Parks while none of the residents, his former constituents, including the many children who came to protest, were allowed to speak — but Parks and Smith gave their slideshow.

It’s quite amusing to see the once-feuding Smith and Finlayson apparently playing on the same team for some change, I mean for a change. Even more puzzling is hearing the tax-and-spenders Finlayson and Classie Hoyle praise Parks for his entrepreneurial spirit! They could certainly learn a thing or two about that spirit.

Smith came to Annapolis and co-led the effort to create a council-manager form of government, then abandoned it and silenced himself to be Cohen’s highly-paid city administrator — the antithesis of what he had previously supported.

Only Alderman Dick Israel of Ward 1 seemed to raise the one real and pertinent question, namely, why do we need another garage? The issue remains: Is our historic, waterfront downtown to be for parking cars or for people?

We have thousands of on-street, off-street, aboveground, underground, surface and multi-level spaces, many of which are often underutilized. We have congested roads but we only have one real downtown playground. Kenny Kirby likes the basketball court at the park but seemed to support the garage anyhow. Fred Paone again acted incredulous that he did know anything. Well, duh! The other aldermen similarly rambled, acted clueless or were silent.

A viable, attractive downtown must not be based on inviting and accommodating more cars. It must be for people. Cohen’s decision is a step in the right direction but I hope we still move forward on transforming our City Dock from a parking lot to a park — and the car situation will sort itself out. Seriously, it will. Supply of spaces is not the issue. Demand for them is the issue. Parking is not the problem downtown and it can be handled with existing garages. Who will come downtown if we have fewer attractions but more garages and congestion?

Proponents will be taking on the children of Annapolis and this is not child’s play to them. Will we have more Parks, parks, parking lots or just politics?

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