By Kathy Knotts
In a waterfront city where the mayor often arrives to work and events by boat, a resolution to deputize his personal vessel created a bit of a storm.
In the end though, Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley got his wish. Late Monday evening a resolution brought before the city council to have the mayor’s rigid-hull inflatable boat deputized passed with just one vote against.
After a contentious clash between neighbors and city officials, Buckley will be allowed to dock his boat at community docks when using it for city purposes. The issue arose after the mayor’s 17-foot Brig was ticketed by the Harbormaster for docking in a space reserved for smaller boats. The street-end dinghy docks are for vessels under 12 feet and with motors under 25 horsepower. On Ego Alley, near the Alex Haley statue, the free dinghy docks can accommodate 17-feet and under vessels.
The passage of City Council Resolution R-39-22 means the mayor’s personal vessel may be used for “officially demonstrating that water transportation is a viable option in Annapolis that will reduce road congestion and greenhouse gas emissions.”
“When I come down on a boat, it means one less car downtown,” said Buckley. “When I’m motoring around the city I’m doing 6 knots, I’m not burning a ton of fuel.”
Buckley says that his role as an ambassador for the city means he should have the opportunity to take dignitaries and community members to waterways that are otherwise inaccessible, to show off living shorelines and access projects. The resolution also allows him to use his personal vessel as a means of transportation between his residence and locations for governmental activities. It also means the city may deploy him and his vessel for public service use as needed.
“I apologize for any hardship I’ve made for people,” he added. “I use one cleat, I’m not displacing anyone.”
Several members of the public came forward to challenge the resolution and what they call the mayor’s “entitlement.”
“I object to changing the rule,” said Richard Montaner of Annapolis. “There’s an application that I have to sign, and the mayor has to sign, every year for a mooring with a slip that goes with it…The city code says dinghies up to 12 feet in length at street endings, every street has the same sign that has been posted for years and years. I take exception to his three ‘Es’: exceptional, exempt, and entitled. I don’t object that you want to put it on the small streets, but follow the rules. It’s a matter of decency.”
“I object to the hubris,” said resident Sandra Elwood. “That we would have our CEO, our mayor, exempt himself from the same rules that every other citizen must follow…there’s a code of ethics for all city employees to follow. It appears innocuous, but it is an overreach to let an elected official have privileges that no one else enjoys…He knew his boat was too big, it’s the essence of entitlement. Walk from Lafayette Park to your home, just like everybody else.”
Under the resolution, the mayor will pay all expenses for the maintenance, insurance, fuel and storage for personal vessels used.
“The mayor is the principal representative of the city,” said Alderwoman Elly Tierney. “I was fortunate to join the mayor to go out and meet the Maiden [the world-famous all-female round-the-world racing boat that visited Annapolis last month] and I saw that this is a good opportunity for using the boat in that capacity. We are the maritime capital, no matter what Newport [Rhode Island, where the National Sailing Hall of Fame recently relocated] thinks. It was legally vetted and any ethics concerns residents have can submit that to our ethics commission. We have miles of shoreline and we have a major infrastructure project to prevent sea level rise that affects all of us and the mayor will be and has been instrumental in securing funding — he can’t do that on a paddleboard.”
“Annapolis is a maritime community,” added John Martino, CEO of Chesapeake Bay Media and the Annapolis School of Seamanship located in Eastport. “It’s altogether appropriate and positive that our mayor commutes to work by boat and acts as our ambassador. How many cities can say that?”