Aldermen Consider Legislating for Office Space Again
Alderwoman Sheila Finlayson says the redesign of City Hall marginalizes the aldermen so the mayor can have a larger conference room.
The fight over where to create office space for the Annapolis City Council's eight aldermen and women could result in legislation again.
"I feel that you [Mayor Josh Cohen] do not have the best interest of the council at heart," Alderwoman Sheila Finlayson (D-4th Ward) said. "We do not have a closed place where we can go and meet our constituents. You don’t care about that."
In November 2011, City Council passed a resolution that established dedicated office space in City Hall for the aldermen. The argument since then has been about how much space each alderman should get and where that space will be.
Baltimore's City Council members have private offices, but council members in Bowie, Riverdale Park and University Park do not.
City Hall is undergoing renovations and the current plan moves the mayor's office to the second floor and creates a second-floor room for the aldermen where eight cubicles would be set up.
Room 216 will be about 228 square feet, and Finlayson said that's unacceptable because room 214—about 330 square feet—is slated to become the mayor's conference room.
"We are the last ones to be considered, and I feel like we have to fight for everything that we get here," Finlayson said. "To put a conference room above our elected officials is totally unprofessional and inappropriate. I’m sorry but it is."
One suggestion floated at Thursday's work session was to move the aldermen into the Maynard-Burgess House, an unfinished building across from City Hall. The building has 670 square feet.
"I think a little bit of a separation is a good thing, as opposed to everyone being cheek to jowl," City Manager Mike Mallinoff said.
Finlayson and Alderman Ian Pfeiffer (D-7th Ward) worried it might be confusing for people who think of City Hall as the place to reach elected officials. But Alderman Ken Kibry (D-6th Ward) asked that plans be drawn up to see how the space could be laid out.
"I would much prefer having an office where I could close the door and sit down with my people and talk without having to worry about someone overhearing," Alderwoman Classie Hoyle (D-3rd Ward) said.
Cohen asked David Jarrell, the director of public works, to have plans drawn up for the space.
Another option—and the most expensive one—would be to move the aldermen's offices to 93 Main St., which the city rents for the Office of Law at $5,000 per month. That space would give each alderman his or her own office as well as a private conference room.
The law offices will be moved to the first floor of City Hall early next year.
After a heated debate, Cohen said the city has made multiple concessions and worked to accommodate the aldermen as best it can, but the plan is to proceed with renovations according to the current plans.
After the session, Finlayson said she may bring a resolution at the Nov. 26 City Council meeting to designate room 214 as the aldermen's space.
Alderman Richard Israel (D-1st Ward) suggested the idea of a resolution to Finlayson, and said he would support it depending on how it's written.
Finlayson said the whole argument frustrates her because the council had to fight its way into City Hall in the first place.
"This drives me crazy," Finlayson said. "Where else in the world do you have to legislate a damn desk?"