Antogonists get what they wish for….

I received a rather biting message about not posting from my favorite antagonist tonight. So here you go…

Who knew that my recent post about shopping and politics would be so fortuitous (but not in the happy way.) Let’s just say I was in the middle of a verrry important meeting when the most depressing email showed up in my inbox. What did it say? An announcement that my favorite shop is closing its doors January 31st. RIP Mary & Blanche! I sure I hope I don’t make any new friends who have awesome senses of humor because I have no place to buy them gifts. I hope I’m not rent-a-date to another white elephant party because where will I go? And by golly, where the heck am I going to go when I need to just find anything, last minute of course? But most of all, I think I’ll miss visiting the most…

As a downtown resident, I often found myself at Stevens Hardware to pick up whatever it was I needed. And now no more. While I wasn’t a regular patron of Madison Boutique or Plat du Jour, I often found myself walking through their doors to see if they had what I was looking for. My placemats came from Plat du Jour and my fabulous now-Pensacola girl got one of her favorite dresses from Madison Boutique. (And she looks damn good in it, too!) And both those stores are closing their doors.

I’m actually rather depressed. It’s the start of a new year, things are supposed to be good and happy. What does this mean about our town? We have shootings within city limits almost regularly now. We have a market house that well… we all know the status. And an old “Riordan’s” building that’s still closed.

My only hope is that things will quickly turn around, considering it’s an election year and all. And an election year with many vacant seats. In all honesty, this could be a most fascinating eleven months!

Instead of wallowing, I’m going to go watch Meredith Vieira on Rock Center. She’s interviewing one of JFK’s former flings. Quite scandalous. Could you imagine if such a scandal rocked City Hall…? Now THAT would definitely warrant a future post.

Midnight Madness… shopping and politics

Despite the fact that some folks consider this here blog a “news” source, we are actually a completely opinionated Web site that occasionally delves into local politics, City of Annapolis shenanigans, Annapolis rumors, and activities of the Annapolis Police Department. And tonight, we’re venturing out to a true passion- shopping!

I remember my first Midnight Madness quite memorably… had no idea what it was about and was invited to join my very-first-friend-in-Annapolis and her mother to check it out. I discovered Tin Can Allee, or something similar to that name, on the corner of West and Cathedral, that night. (that place was great) I’m not sure if it was the awesome company of the evening or the overall joy and excitement and genuine holiday spirit that filled the streets of Annapolis, but I knew after that night just how special and to some degree, magical, Annapolis truly is.

As a lover of downtown, a very seasoned shopper, a serious bargain hunter and someone who, even in their 30’s, has to take NyQuil on Christmas Eve because of my excitement for Santa’s visit, I live for events like this. My must-stop shops, always, are Mary & Blanche! and Lilac Bijoux. If you appreciate the humor in this blog, I can guarantee you’ll very much enjoy the crap (crap as in, best place to find a stocking stuffer or hostess gift for someone with a sense of humor) that Mary & Blanche! sells. And if you love fashion and sparkles and fun jewelry (or you have to buy a prezzy for someone who does) you can (usually) always find something on the tables at Lilac Bijoux. They also have some rad clothes, but until I return to the gym, I’ll stick to their jewelry. Both shops are on Main Street and both shop’s owners are all absolutely lovely people.

Since I can remember, I’ve maintained that Annapolis, and your opinion on the historic district, is usually based on your experience. No matter how delicious that $10 gourmet sandwich on goody bread (for an extra $2) is or how refreshing your $5 bottle of water is, if you don’t have a pleasant experience, you’re much less likely to return. Have to wait 30 minutes at a wine bar for a glass of water and be told they are “out of glasses”? Not really likely to buy another bottle, no matter how fabulous it sounds. Or if a business owner is your next door neighbor and is too good to speak (or even smile) to anyone on the block, you’re not going to support them. Because Annapolis is about the experience. And for many, it’s about the relationships built from your experience.

As a new reader recently wrote, “I like your clear, not-politically-correct approach” and the blog takes pride in calling it like it is, at least in our eyes. (it’s that whole totally subjective thing) So as one might imagine, our relationships are true and genuine. We obviously aren’t wearing Best Friends necklaces with City Council members, or married to the only Republican Alderman, but apparently someone out there is. And that relationship has clouded the city’s judgement, again, regarding Midnight Madness and the use of Market House. (And he’s planning on running for Mayor next year…)

Last night, I started writing this post with the intention of it being all about shopping. And then found this article. I was SHOCKED. And then pissed. And now just downright disappointed. On so many levels. Disappointed that the City of Annapolis completely contradicts themselves and can’t even follow their own policies… the exact policies they so easily and quickly spout when asked a question. (Their law requires licenses for these events, which have to be approved by City Council.) They don’t play fair, ever. Disappointed that Mike Malinoff would make such a jackass comment. (What professional goes on the record with the media and says, “if so and so wanted it, he could have had it” like a 5 year old) Disappointed that the Market House is not being made available to any community group. Disappointed that the City of Annapolis obviously doesn’t think that maybe these craft fair type vendors would be competing with our local merchants who are part of downtown 365 days a year and pay taxes so they can operate. Disappointed that again, the City continues to display signs of an “old boys network.” And disappointed with some of the reactions shared at the end of the article. And to SafetyFirst, the individual who wrote, “This is just one of the many reasons I who am a long time resident of this city will not spend a penny on any business downtown” … it is because of people like you that one of the true landmark businesses of downtown is closing their doors.

And a simple disclaimer before people jump all over me, please know that my grandmother died of breast cancer. I work in women’s health. And I’m involved in a lot of charity work, and have been for over half my life. I get it.

So, much like the overall debacle of Market House, the City of Annapolis government again displays signs of total incompetency. I have no doubt tonight’s Midnight Madness will be an amazing evening full of energy, excitement, good will and holiday spirit. I’m excited to see this magical town decorated for the holidays, the sidewalks packed and many familiar faces on the streets. I’m not too excited about spending money, but I will. Not at the Market House, of course, but for no other reason than to show my support for my town. And I hope each of you do as well! Who knows, you just may see or hear something seriously Annapolis Chatter worthy…

Returning to City Council Meetings…

I returned to the halls of 160 Duke of Gloucester tonight for a few things. One, some (big and exciting) things are happening and I need to get back in to the groove, fast! Two, there was a presentation for the new and improved City Dock. Three, some shenanigans going on by my favorite Ward Four Alderman regarding the hiring of high ranking public officials on the agenda. And four, and perhaps the most important, I haven’t blogged this month so I needed something to write about.

Being the second child in my family, let’s start with reason #2: the presentation for an “improved” Annapolis City Dock. A few weeks ago, I received an email asking me to sign a petition. Its sender was CONNECTAnnapolis, a group of community-minded citizens who advocate for a  more cohesive community, through a greater pedestrian and eco-friendly environment in our city. And of course one of the driving forces behind this group is my favorite, @zignatures. The plea had four calls to action: sign the petition; speak at City Council; reserve a green balloon; and/or post on Facebook.

My two take-aways from the email: before the City Council meeting, they were meeting in Eastport. Now don’t get me wrong, I will forever be in love with Eastport. And I’m certainly appreciative that they weren’t gathering at the most phony “pro-Annapolis” establishment in town, but I do find it rather ironic. Because after all, they probably decided against meeting downtown because of the lack of parking. (Let’s just keep things real here.) My other favorite part was the call to reserve a balloon. Yes, a balloon. You can imagine my excitement when I read this! After all, nothing says eco-friendly like a balloon, right? Please tell me someone else finds the humor (and hypocrisy) in this? So when I showed up, I may have peed my pants in excitement (just a wee bit) when I saw all the balloons, full of HELIUM! Yup, that chemical element that we are in shortage of. And THEN, to put the cherry on top, they left their big over sized bags behind… didn’t even so much as throw them away or put ‘em in the recycling bins right outside chamber doors. I of course texted my truly green friend who taught me about those who “greenwash” and homegirl didn’t believe me. As I told her, I wish I was creative enough to make this stuff up. So kudos to you, CONNECTAnnapolis, for holding true to your mission. If you read anything I wrote, you’d know I was clearly supportive of the compromise garage, the one that your head-leader-in-charge pretty much single-handedly put the kabash on.

Reason #3 I attended the meeting tonight, well, it was postponed. I’m wondering if my bff Sheila is stuffing more things up her sleeves.

But I did sit through a rather interesting discussion regarding the Office of Elections, or lack thereof. Needless to say, the proposal to rent a space for this use was also postponed. I’m not exactly sure what kind of space they need, but I’m fairly certain I could find them something for less than $40k a year. Nor am I entirely sure how the City vs County thing works for elections, but that may be a fact finding mission for another day. Or not. I CAN tell you, however, that one individual has filed paperwork to run in the next election. The City Attorney didn’t specify the position, nor the individual, but I can only guess! After all, I have heard quite a lot of Chatter about different individuals who have their eye on the Ward One seat. And even the Mayor’s (corner) office…

“I would rather undergo a…”

“I would rather undergo a vasectomy via Weed Whacker than attend an opera,” wrote one of my favorite comedians, Dave Barry. Thank goodness I’m not in the market for a vasectomy. I am, however, in the market for a new form of entertainment. So I’m putting on my depends and attending the Annapolis Opera’s performance of Aida this Saturday night. I know you’re all thinking that I’m too young to attend the opera, but I figured that if this form of live entertainment has been around for as long as it has, than it can’t be that bad, right? I’ll let you know next week (or next year if I continue to blog at my current speed.)

But really, I follow a lot of weird trends and I’ve noticed “younger” folks attending more arts focused events over the last few years. And I heard a rumor that the Annapolis Opera is hoping to soon start a club for young people, so I want to get in on the action while I can. Plus, I need to start broadening my horizons, getting out more, and being more involved in ALL of Annapolis. Details on that to follow at a later date.

So here’s what I do know. The fine folks over at Eye on Annapolis wrote a piece about it here highlighting 3 things you probably never knew. Annapolis has had its own opera for 40 years and this year marks the 30th year of the music director. In February, Little Red Riding Hood will come to life, complete with some young, cute kids. And then if I haven’t been turned off, I’ll try and hit performances in March and April.

If you aren’t able to attend, I heard that someone will be live tweeting Aida. If I can get my stuff together, I’ll tweet (and Facebook) as well… but can’t promise it will be about the opera though. My ADD may kick in if one of our fine city council members, or mayor, are in attendance. I’ll be sure to make note of their fashion choices, especially any elected official that is in favor of hiring a decorator to come to City Hall to pick out paint chips. You think I’m kidding? Then you didn’t read this.

I’m hoping that after Saturday, I’ll have plenty of material to blog about. Both the performance and who and what I see. And I’m hoping you’ll join me, and if nothing else, provide me with future content for this here blog…

No sir (or ma’am.) I will not walk.

Parking is perhaps the number one complaint in this town. And as I listen to different sides,  I start to really wonder just how lazy are we? Don’t get me wrong, I drive to City Hall for City Council meetings and I live maybe a quarter mile away.

This past weekend, I watched people over and over park illegally near the downtown playground, get out and take children across the street to play. Parents complained about children not getting enough exercise over and over at the marathon meeting. Parents talked about the playground being a neighborhood gathering place. I wonder if these are  the parents that signed the Save The Playground petition. They don’t want a parking garage, but they think it’s okay to park illegally so they don’t have to walk? I hope others see the irony.

Last night at City Council, the point was made again that people don’t like to walk.

First, it’s important to understand there’s currently a “moratorium” on events that occur in Downtown Annapolis. That being said, every event that wishes to use City property at City Dock or close roads, must get City Council approval. And the City is a ‘lil behind on permits for such events. (They are now just approving May and June events.) One event on the docket last night was the concert series by the Naval Academy Band.

A nice Chief all decked out in khakis was present to testify. He pleaded with City Council for them not to take away their reserved parking during these events. His argument – some of the instruments are really heavy and essentially, too heavy to carry.

The United States Naval Academy recently spent a pretty penny to build an entrance that is essentially spitting distance to City Dock. You know, the one right there on Prince George and Craig St. by Gibson’s Lodging. Last time I checked on Google Maps, there is ample parking inside the gates of the Naval Academy. And because each member is a member of the United States Navy, they have access to this (free) parking. Most organizations that use City property do not have this privilege. I understand that they don’t necessarily want to carry some of the heavier instruments, but when I want don’t want to carry heavy items long distances, I drop off said heavy items and then go park. Is that asking too much? And if they’re concerned with someone stealing, they can have someone watch it. But I’m not sure how easy stealing a tuba would actually be.

Additionally, at the end of the day, they are members of the United States Navy. I get that they’re musicians and I appreciate that they offer entertainment for folks to enjoy. But the mission of the United States Navy is “to maintain, train and equip combat-ready Naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression and maintaining freedom of the seas.”  I really hope they’re never called to combat because if they cannot carry a musical instrument a few hundred feet, I’m not confident they could carry a fellow service member from danger.

And sadly, not a single member of City Council asked that question last night. I’m trying to figure it out… who gets to host events down at City Dock and who doesn’t. Who does City Council question and who do they not? Other events on the docket were:

  • APD 1-Mile Challenge, May 19. No one from APD was present to testify. A few questions were asked about road closures but sadly no doughnut references were made.
  • Greek Festival, May 27. No one was present but the event organizer is a heavy hitter in the City. No questions were asked.
  • Zooma, June 2. No one was present and the organization’s Executive Director lives down the road in Arlington. Quite a few questions were asked.
  • Corvettes on the Bay, June 16. They had about 10 people present and they stayed until the vote. They were questioned quite a bit.
  • USNA Band Concerts, July 24, July 31, Aug. 7, Aug. 14. Just the Chief and he dipped out after he testified. No questions asked.

I’m thinking Annapolis Chatter should host a big Local Gossip Festival at City Dock. We could charge one secret per adult and one parking solution suggestion per child. Attendees won’t be allowed to take the Circulator and we’d encourage attendees to park as close as possible. We’ll need to have all the parking spaces reserved, too. How many questions do you think would be asked? Who’s in?

Why TriRock and other future events will inevitably fail in Annapolis. What say you?

If you read my post taking on the Ward One Resident Association, you know I was supportive of TriRock Annapolis. And I really wanted them to get it right. I wanted the City of Annapolis, the government and the citizens, to see the good in this type of event – I want us to really understand the potential we have to host some kick bootie events. I wanted the organizers to prove they could make good on their promises. And I wanted the downtown Annapolis businesses to profit from this. I’m not associated with any of the above mentioned so I had absolutely nothing to gain, but gosh I wanted it to work!

The main concern among folks was the disruption to traffic and street closures. And so the City sent out an email Thursday afternoon with all the information included. I’ve copied and pasted it here. It clearly states that Prince George St. between Randall and Maryland Ave. will be for residents only, from 2p Friday to 6p Saturday, assuming to accommodate the streets that were closed and cleared. On Friday at 4:45p, no signs had been posted. When I called the City’s office right before 5, (4.58 to be exact) I was very pleasantly surprised that the phone was answered. I figured Friday afternoon, they’d surely be gone. The City employee was quite irritated with my news, but I was shocked when I was told she hadn’t been downtown yet. As the Special Projects Coordinator, you’d think she would have at least been on-site for five minutes considering all the tension and animosity surrounding TriRock.

The signs went up but they only made it less than half way up Prince George St., not even to East St. If there are no signs, non residents will park. And they’ll have a valid argument. I know the parking enforcers work hard… or so many people wouldn’t complain about getting tickets. But somewhere there’s a disconnect.

Fast forward to Saturday morning. Folks didn’t get the memo about no parking and the tow trucks were out at 5a doing their job, clearing the streets and serving as an unsolicited alarm clock at 5:30a on a Saturday for your’s truly. So I decided to capitalize and take a drive through town before roads closed. Where were the competitors parking? Up at the top of West Street? Nope. On Prince George in residents only, King George, and in the Hillman Garage. (Towne Park had employees in that booth at 6a!) I stopped one athlete and asked where the organization told him to park. His response, “wherever we could find a spot or in one of the two garages.” I kid you not. My heart sank.

I sat quietly observing outside the Donner Lot (where the Farmer’s Market takes place) that I assume TriRock paid for. It was half empty and I saw a few spectators with out of state plates pull in to park. I was ecstatic to see the Circulator go by. And then a volunteer drove by and stopped to ask the Police Officer directing traffic asking where the volunteer parking was. She kindly showed me her notice saying there were two places for them to park- an address on Compromise or the Gott’s Garage for $10, which would be reimbursed. Again, pure disappointment. Park Place and Knighton are $5 and the Circulator is free! Create a situation that puts people on the Circulator and make it part of the Annapolis experience. First-hand experience is an excellent marketing opportunity. And  it would have saved the Competitor Group money. But I guess the folks out in San Diego don’t care about that? Maybe this is part of why WORA butt heads with them? Did the City of Annapolis work with the Competitor Group to educate them about the options?

All these thoughts ran through my mind. And then, my personal favorite. A little blue car drove up Prince George in the opposite direction of traffic. The driver was sporting a TriRock jacket and fit all stereotypes of San Diego. He was clearly part of the organization. And he wanted to proceed down the bottom half of Prince George, empty of all cars, and closed to all traffic for the event that he was part of. Oh- and the race had started and bikes were racing full speed down the road. The police officer told him no way was he going down that road. Points for the APD. I was shocked at what seemed to be total arrogance on TriRock’s part that they could violate the law and more importantly, put their racers’ safety in jeopardy.

But TriRock did patronize the businesses on the closed streets. They purchased Sugar Buns from Sugar Buns in the Kitchen and they bought crepes from Sofi’s. And both businesses were extremely busy that morning. They followed through on their promises. People were walking with their plants from the HAF Annual Plant Sale, so it didn’t prohibit the fundraiser.

People came to town. Some stayed and some made a weekend of it. It brought the downtown residents out to the streets. It was fun to watch and its overall impact on the traffic and streets was significantly less than commissioning week and boat show.

We see the potential for Annapolis to be a great location for big time events, but it can never happen until the City gets it together, the residents are kosher with outsiders bringing their money to our town and understand that their lives aren’t really inconvenienced, and the outside organizers can work on their arrogance. And that’s where AnnapolisChatter stands. If you have an opinion, please feel free to contact us or post below!

Best title for this post wins a cool prize

When the folks from Hollywood took over State Circle yesterday, I found myself asking new questions. I think it’s great for the City of Annapolis for this type of exposure. It’s a great source of income for the City, but like everything else, it comes at a price to the citizens. Is it going to deter folks from coming downtown? Or is it going to bring down gawkers? I’m hoping for the latter… and that they come with full wallets.

But I wonder. Does the City have an obligation to let people know? We’ve been given announcement after announcement about the road closures for the TriRock Annapolis tomorrow, which closes streets for six hours. Not days. The City stated it’s up to the organizers, and not the City, to inform the residents. (I thought the City had three public information officers on staff?) This information was distributed in this letter, but Bishop Varney Productions’ distribution didn’t expand very far. (Don’t bother Googling them, they don’t have a website and the address they’re operating out of appears to be recently rented.) The City also stated that all streets are functional for normal use. This picture taken on North Street proves otherwise. Sorry. Additionally, a not-so-polite Annapolis Police Department Officer sat in his car blocking State Circle. (I would have snapped a picture but I’m pretty sure that would NOT have gone so well.)

Park up on West Street and take the Circulator down to avoid the closed roads. You should have plenty of opportunity to see the action and I hear they’ll be out late tonight. Also heard on the streets:

*Sadly, Dame Judi Dench will not be coming to Annapolis.
*They might be filming a scene inside a restaurant up near that area… and it may be shot sometime between Tuesday and Thursday next week.
*It is rumored that the out-of-towners are staying close to downtown in a hotel.

If nothing else, walk by Johnson’s on the Avenue and peer in the window. They totally transformed the inside of the building. Maybe the owners will consider actually renting it after this. (another post to follow about that) Thankfully they didn’t change anything on the outside, or I would have wondered if the HPC had approved it. There’s a lot inside that building… and I hope that the nice people from Hollywood will consider donating it to our community when they pack up and leave town. I’m sure the Lighthouse Shelter, the FoodLink, the Food Bank, or any of the other community organizations, would very much appreciate the generosity. If you’re going to close down parts of our City, please be open to helping out those in need. And Sam, Olivia and Michelle, if you don’t have big plans to leave town for the weekend, you can still buy a ticket to Saturday’s Rock & Roast, benefiting Box of Rain, at the Maritime Museum in Eastport. They’re a great organization that throws a heck of a party and will give you a taste of what Annapolis is like. I may know someone that can sell you a ticket…