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Cohen, council sworn in

New mayor pledges effective, transparent government

By JOSHUA STEWART, Staff Writer
The Capital, Published 12/08/09

Shannon Lee Zirkle - The Capital Josh Cohen makes his inauguration speech Monday night at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts

Joshua Jackson Cohen and members of a new City Council were sworn in yesterday, with the new mayor pledging an effective, efficient and transparent government for Annapolis.

Cohen's entrance into office brought a close to the 22 years Ellen O. Moyer has served the city, first as an alderwoman and then, for the past eight years, as the city's first woman mayor.

But the day also marked the beginning of political careers. Five council incumbents were joined by three new members. The new council has a heavy Democratic majority; of the nine members, including the mayor, only one is a Republican.

They take office as the city, like municipal governments around the nation, faces budget crunches due to flattening property values, less money from the federal government and struggling businesses.

While challenges are looming, both Cohen and

Moyer highlighted their predecessors' victories over adversity during their tenures. Cohen pressed the 500 people who attended the inauguration at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts to be active in civic life and work to make their own vision of Annapolis a reality.

"As we start this new chapter, I ask you to do something that's very simple, but very powerful, which is to imagine," Cohen said to the crowd, which included federal, state and county elected officials. "I ask you to imagine the Annapolis that you want to see. Imagine our town the way you want it to be, and take out your pen and pencil and join us in writing the next chapter in our history together. This is our story, this is not a dress rehearsal, this is not a draft copy of our history, this is our moment, this is our opportunity to be what we would never thought we would be. It's up to us."

He praised former mayor Roger "Pip" Moyer for guiding the city through an economic rebirth in the 1960s, as well as Ellen O. Moyer - Pip Moyer's ex-wife - for her work creating parks and attractions that he enjoyed as a child growing up in Murray Hill and that his two young daughters still use today.

Cohen announced what he said he hopes become the "watchwords" of his administration: effectiveness, efficiency and transparency.

He said the city needs to be more effective by being more responsive to addressing residents' concerns. It needs to be more efficient by providing the most value per tax dollar and making sure services are not duplicated. And the city can be transparent by having clear goals and intentions, he said.

Moyer said she looks forward to Cohen, like his predecessors, making Annapolis better.

"The mayors of this city dealt with the challenges they faced and each of them left the city a better place than when they found it, culminating in the vibrant and award-winning city it is today," Moyer said. "This new administration too will face new challenges."

Vocal Republican

After Cohen took the oath of office from Clerk of the Court Robert Duckworth, the new mayor, in turn, administered the oath to members of the new council.

Dick Israel, Fred Paone, Classie Hoyle, Sheila Finlayson and Ross Arnett will continue to represent wards 1, 2, 3, 4 and 8, respectively. Hoyle, who is starting her third term, is the council's most senior member. This will be the first full term for Paone, Finlayson and Arnett, who all took office in special elections.

Paone, the only Republican on the council, said he's not concerned he and his legislation will be cast aside by the eight Democrats.

"No, I don't think so," he said. "I have a way of making myself heard."

A fresh council

Hoyle encouraged her newest colleagues to exhaustively study every piece of legislation.

"You just have to study the issues and have the conviction that you are right," she said.

Mathew Silverman, a county police officer and the youngest of the council members, will represent Ward 5. This year's city election was his first foray into politics; he received 61 percent of the vote, defeating Republican Jim Conley. He replaces David Cordle, a two-term Republican who did not seek another term so he could run for mayor. Cordle finished second to Cohen.

Ken Kirby will represent Ward 6. He unsuccessfully ran for the seat in 1993, but this time secured 60 percent of the vote, defeating Republican Greg Stiverson. Kirby replaces Alderwoman Julie Stankivic, a one-term Republican who did not run for re-election.

Ian Pfeiffer, a lobbyist, will represent Ward 7. He defeated Republican Jennifer Monteith with 52 percent of the vote in his first run for office. He replaces Sam Shropshire, a one-term Democrat who did not run for re-election so he could run for mayor.

A former Ward 8 alderman and County Council member, Cohen secured 46 percent of the vote in the Nov. 3 primary election, beating Cordle and independent candidate Chris Fox.

Cohen finished second in the Sept. 15 primary election, coming in behind Zina Pierre in a seven-way race. But days later, details about Pierre's past financial troubles surfaced, as did questions about whether she lived in Annapolis or Prince George's County. Soon, she withdrew from the race and the Central Committee nominated Cohen as her replacement. Members of the committee said they picked him for his "electability."

What's next?

Moyer was appointed to the City Council in 1987 after the Ward 8 seat became vacant. In 2001, she was elected the city's first woman mayor after she defeated Republican Herb McMillan. She was re-elected in 2005 in a three-way race.

Moyer was scheduled to leave town hours after yesterday's inauguration and embark on a meandering, itinerary-free, three-month road trip. She said she has no job waiting for her in Annapolis, and no aspirations for another office.

"Ellen has been the driving force before so many qualities that makes Annapolis what it is today," Cohen said.

(Revised December 2009)