How bitter are feelings over the failed Market House lease?

Annapolis City Council members spent a half-hour trading vitriol and declarations of disgust at their regular meeting Monday before unanimously approving Annapolis Seafood Markets' request to withdraw from a deal to operate the establishment -- a move council members pretty much agreed upon before the vote even came up.

"I've heard from people all over the city, even my dentist, telling me what a joke this whole process was," said Alderman Louise Hammond (D-Ward 1), whose district includes the city landmark that has been vacant since January.

"I'm embarrassed, and I apologize to the citizens of Annapolis," added Alderman George O. Kelley Sr. (R-Ward 4), a mayoral candidate who in a later interview characterized the lease negotiations as being "under the table" and secretive.

"What we are seeing here are what we call fruits of the poisonous tree," Kelley said at the meeting.

"That is just a bunch of baloney, and you know it," replied Mayor Ellen Moyer (D), who is running for reelection.

The mayor has steadfastly defended the lease process, which fell apart earlier this year after New York-based Dean & DeLuca essentially withdrew from the deal, turning over operations to local partner Annapolis Seafood. Why Dean & Deluca pulled out is still unclear.

Kelley has asked for all city documents on the negotiations. He said he expected to get them this week. Moyer maintains that the council was kept apprised of all aspects of the negotiations.

After the Dean & Deluca deal collapsed, Annapolis Seafood last month asked to withdraw, citing the political turmoil within the council over the negotiations.

Outgoing Alderman Sheila Tolliver (D-Ward 2) suggested Monday night that the company's withdrawal should count against it if it decides to rebid for the contract. She was quickly countered by council members Michael W. Fox (R-Ward 7), Joshua Cohen (D-Ward 8) and Classie Gillis Hoyle (D-Ward 3).

"I don't think the council should sit here and imply that [Annapolis Seafood] is not honoring the lease," Fox said. "They thought they acted in good faith. It was we as a council that failed. We don't need to beat up anybody else."

Meanwhile, the Market House, which was expected to reopen this fall, sits empty. Moyer has set a deadline of Oct. 6 for new bids. It could be as late as next spring before a vendor is in place and the market reopens.

Owens to China for Trade

After hosting several Chinese political and business delegations here, Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens (D) is now leading a trade mission to China.

Owens is accompanied by Bill Badger, chief executive of the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation; Martha Smith, the president of Anne Arundel Community College; and representatives of companies such as Comcast Cable Communications and St. John Properties. The delegation is expected to return Tuesday.

"This trip is an important next step in expanding Anne Arundel's reach into the global marketplace," Owens said in a statement. "China is a country with terrific partnership potential."

It will be Owens's second trip to China in two years. Last year, she was part of a group headed by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) that visited technology and venture capital companies in Shanghai.

Cab Rides Cost $1 More

Taking a cab in the county just got a little more expensive.

County Executive Owens earlier this month signed a bill that would raise the taxi surcharge by $1.

"Hopefully, this will provide some relief in light of the increasing amount of money it costs to operate a taxi cab," Owens said in a statement.