Mayor Richard Hillman, awaiting findings of an ongoing study of possible readjustment of the Annapolis boundaries, says his 300-year-old city could function more efficiently if it seceded from Anne Arundel County altogether.
But County Executive James Lighthizer disagrees.
"Annapolis will not separate from the county, not as long as I'm county executive," he declared recently.
The Maryland legislature last year ordered the mayor and county executive to name a nine-member commission to determine whether the city should expand its boundaries, become a separate political unit or integrate into the fast-growing county surrounding it.
The legislature got involved after the city tried to annex a development called Wimbleton and it evolved into a court fight over a long-standing annexation law. Secession was suggested as one alternative for the commission to study because of the rapid growth of the county in recent years and the duplication of services that has resulted. Baltimore City, which seceded as a separate entity in the mid-1800s was cited as an example. It is separate from suburban Baltimore County.
The Annapolis boundary commission has met four times since May and is to make a recommendation by December l984.
The issue has sparked a growing rivalry between Hillman, a Republican, and Lighthizer, a Democrat, over who is best able to provide the 30,000 Annapolitans with schools, public works, police and fire protection.
Both the mayor and the county executive have publicly addressed such existing problems as duplication of services, double taxation and confusing "sawtooth" boundaries between the city and the county.
Privately, they call each other names and belittle each other's jobs.
"The problem with the mayor," Lighthizer chuckles, "is that he has a part-time job and he's trying to turn it into a full-time job. He would like to become King Richard ruling over his own little empire."
Hillman is used to being called King Richard and has a ready response. "All of this talk about my wanting to be king is a reflection of Lighthizer's own dissatisfaction with his job. I mean, what's a county? It's a political convenience, some lines drawn on a map. Annapolis, on the other hand, is a city that everybody's heard of. I get to do a lot of fun things as mayor."
Annapolis was founded in l649 by tobacco growers and slave traders from Virginia. Its size tripled in l951, after a boundary commission similar to the present one approved its annexation of neighboring Eastport. It is home to the State House, the U.S. Naval Academy and a quaint, walkable shopping district similar to Georgetown's; it is also a yachting center for Baltimore's and Washington's leisure classes.
By contrast, Anne Arundel county is a heterogeneous, largely rural political entity with a growing population of 400,000, largely concentrated in Glen Burnie, which is more a suburb of Baltimore than of Annapolis.
Annapolis's southwestern border, which seesaws back and forth along the woodsy, winding Forest Drive, separates it from the quiet, waterside developments of Hillsmere Estates.
Its northwestern border stops just short of Parole, a cluster of shopping malls strung together by major highways lined with gas stations and fast food restaurants as they head towards Washington.
Hillman says he is not after the largely undeveloped Annnapolis Neck area, for which the city would have to provide costly roads and plumbing, but rather the lucrative Parole shopping district.
"People already think Annapolis Mall is part of Annapolis," Hillman said. "We already get blamed for everything that happens there, so we might as well make money from it."
So much does the city covet Parole that it supplies water to the shopping centers, in exchange for an agreement that they will someday support annexation.
Commission chairman Ronald McGuirk, a bank executive and former county councilman, said in Annapolis Neck, only developers tend to favor annexation.
"There's a general suspicion that the only reason a developer wants to be part of the city is because the city zoning laws are less strict; he can get away with things he couldn't get away with in the county," McGuirk said.
Hillman, though, says Annapolis Neck residents oppose annexation because they fear the higher taxes Annapolis residents must pay--a combination of city and county taxes, minus a differential that is lower than the county tax.
"The city is raped by those county taxes," Hillman said. "We're being charged for services we don't receive.
The city now provides all of its own services except schools, libraries, hospitals and courts.
Whether Annapolis could support its own school system is a major point of contention between Lighthizer and Hillman.
"There is no question that we could provide a quality educational product," Hillman said. "It may not be that top-heavy kind of system that builds swimming pools and television stations. But we have ingenuity and dedication. You should see how many parents visit our schools. The halls are practically crowded."
Lighthizer, however, says Hillman is sacrificing efficiency for ego in his quest to annex land and secede from the county.
"The bottom line is, what is the most efficient way of delivering services," Lighthizer said. "As I see it, the thing to do is to consolidate the city and county services. With a population of 400,000 and a budget of $340 million, we clearly have a much more sophisticated government."
Anne Arundel's county police department is the 66th largest in the country, and that the fire department is the 30th largest, Lighthizer says. "Annapolis was created 354 years ago, back in the days when there was nothing around it and they needed their own city services. But those days are over."
Chairman McGuirk said he hopes to involve the city and county councils in the commission meetings this fall, then to hold public hearings, but that at this time the commission is still working to define the scope and methodology of its project.
"A lot of subdivisions thoughout the state will be looking at this issue," McGuirk said. "Annexations in Annapolis generally take a very high profile, because of the large degree of opposition that surrounds them."