A divided Annapolis City Council approved Mayor Ellen O. Moyer's $57.5 million financial plan Monday night largely unaltered, over protests from four aldermen that they had been excluded from the budget-making process.
Several amendments introduced the night of the vote by a coalition of Aldermen Louise Hammond (D-Ward 1), Sheila M. Tolliver (D-Ward 2), George O. Kelley (D-Ward 4) and David H. Cordle (R-Ward 5) were each defeated by votes of 5 to 4.
The amendments included a plan to add $220,000 to the fire department's budget to pay for new positions and to allow firefighters to take more time off. They also included a proposal to eliminate the job of the city's state lobbyist and another to reduce the city's funding of the Annapolis Maritime Museum from $50,000 to $30,000.
But all of those were shot down by Moyer (D) and her partisans, Aldermen Classie Hoyle (D-Ward 3), Cynthia Carter (D-Ward 6), Michael W. Fox (R-Ward 7) and Josh Cohen (D-Ward 8).
"Quite frankly, I'm insulted that we would get a pack of amendments this night when the finance committee has been up many, many nights debating," Hoyle said.
Hammond, Tolliver and Cordle said Moyer's administration had failed to answer questions they had asked both orally and in writing.
"If it weren't so bad and so serious, it would be amusing," Hammond told the council. "I don't know how you expect us to do our job when we can't stay informed."
The council's three black aldermen -- Kelley, Hoyle and Carter -- who have acted as the key swing votes since Moyer took office, this time did not vote as a bloc on the amendments. Though the three usually side with the mayor, Kelley has occasionally opposed Moyer's wishes -- as he did on the amendments -- turning what has often been a 6 to 3 vote over most contested issues into a closer 5 to 4 vote. He also has said he is considering a run for mayor in 2005.
"He's an independent person," Moyer said after the meeting. "He has to go where he thinks he can best be served."
But those matters did not come up during the debate, in which Kelley hardly spoke at all. Once the amendments were defeated, Moyer's budget passed without objection. It includes a reduction in the property tax rate from 60 cents to 58 cents per $100 of assessed value, a 3 percent cost-of-living salary increase for city employees and several spending increases on public safety, including four new positions for the police department.
The vote was another success for Moyer, who has seen her budgets approved for three years largely without amendments, though her plan to create a paramedic unit for the Annapolis Neck area was shot down last year. It was another year of frustration for Hammond, Tolliver and Cordle, who have complained repeatedly about not receiving information they requested.
"I'm disappointed in the lack of openness," Tolliver said. "I think that nine minds are better than a couple."
For her part, Moyer said she was "grateful" that the budget gained approval. But the opposition irritated her. "A lot of it appears to be political, and really not so much public service," she said.