Nothing Like Democratic Unity! ~ Annapolis Capital Punishment
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Monday, September 29, 2008

Nothing Like Democratic Unity!

Some Democratic activists, including a current and a former City Council member are being implicated in suggesting that the Housing Authority of Annapolis (HACA) is placing restrictions on who can and cannot perform voter registration drives on HACA property. Sorry for the multiple-clauses, but...if such rumors are true, the repercussions could be serious and would raise a litany of concerns. Local activists have brought this to CP's attention, saying that at a recent HACA Board meeting, Exec. Dir. Eric Brown announced that only Dennis Conti & Trudy McFall (an announced Mayoral candidate and her campaign manager) are allowed to do voter registration on HACA property.

At least one activist has suggested that this would be in McFall's interest with the rationale that she will not garner many votes from HACA residents and therefore, keeping registration counts low would guarantee fewer votes for her opponents. McFall and Conti have long affiliations with HACA, as Board Chair and Executive Director respectively.

This rumor appears to have been based upon a person working to register voters in the Glenwood Apartment, a HACA property for seniors, who was supposedly told they could not carry on their activities.

CP immediately contacted Brown, who vehemently denied the charges before I could even fully finish my question. Apparently, someone else had already asked him a similar question. Brown explained that because Glenwood residents are elderly, they become concerned when visitors knock on their doors and therefore HACA prefers that they be contacted in advance so accommodations can be made. Brown said there were no other restrictions and that HACA has not said that McFall and Conti will be the only ones allowed to carry on registration. Sounds reasonable to me.

Conti sent me an immediate reply:

"This rumor is absolutely false. In fact, on Oct. 4 the NAACP is doing voter registration at Robinwood, Newtowne 20, etc. Trudy and I helped the Annapolis Democratic Central Committee to do voter registration this past Thursday at the Eastport Community Center, but that has been our only involvement. I suspect this is a continuation of a campaign to discredit Trudy. I would suggest that you question the motives of whomever you are hearing this from."


I spoke with Debbie Johnson, the woman who was actually doing the registration drive at Glenwood. She is also president of the HACA Resident Advisory Board as well as the College Creek-Obery Court Residents Ass'n and is of course well known to HACA staff. She tells a different story than Brown, pointing out that she was in fact asked to leave by the resident manager. She says that Brown originally told her that Glenwood residents could register at an upcoming NAACP drive a few blocks away. Johnson did not understand why Brown said seniors would have to be inconvenienced to leave their building to register when she was already there.

I was unable to reach Alderwoman Classie Hoyle before press time, but will include her remarks in an update if she contacts me. County Councilman Josh Cohen, who is NOT in any way a party to these rumors, was contacted by some of the parties involved. He chalks this whole thing up to a misunderstanding. I tend to agree. Since I am not on staff of a newspaper or being paid to track this down (although I will gladly take donations)I don't want to do the necessary digging. It just upsets me that there is such acrimony and discord among Democrats and it does not bode well in an election year, where public housing will no doubt be a top issue for mayoral candidates.

If anyone else wants to weigh in on this, add a comment, provide some insight or otherwise help us to attain the truth please write. In the meantime, in the inimitable words of Rodney King (who I admit may not have been the best messenger but...) "Can't we all just get along?"

By the way, for clarification, it is my understanding that when doing voter registration drives, all workers, regardless of affiliation or bias, must register any and all voters, without any consideration of or interest in party choice. Therefore, it would be a serious mistake and misunderstanding to think that only Democrats are being registered in such campaigns.

UPDATE: CP received a reply from Alderwoman Classie Hoyle, who was unable to reply at original posting time due to The HACA matter:

I did not hear Eric Brown say Trudy and Dennis were the only persons to do voter registration on HACA property. I did hear him say in the HACA Board meeting on Wednesday, 24th, that ALL were to get his permission before we entered HACA property to do voter registration. I informed him and the HACA Board that Shelia Finlayson was AAC Democratic Chair for scheduling voter registration. And that she had scheduled voter registration in public housing. He again announced ALL voter registration requests must come through him to get permission. His reasoning was it's common courtesy to get his permission first. He sighted fear from tenants with seeing strange people on the property.

Again, this further confirms CP's original reaction that this was a misunderstanding.



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2 Comments:

Chuck said...

Paul:

Nice piece. Fair and balanced.

Oh... let's just say: nice piece.

This summer concerned citizens, of all political pursuasions, have registered over 500 new voters in the City of Annapolis alone. In the County the numbers are much larger. As a member of the Democratic Central Committee I have personally registered D's, R's, G's and U's myself.

I was most happy registering two Annapolitan women, both over 80, who had never voted in their lives before! I wish all the defensive cynics had had that experience.

It's fair to highlight ANY impediment to voter registration, no matter how large or small -- even rumors or policies that restrict access for the 'convenience' or residents.

This Saturday we'll be in Harbor House again registering voters. We're meeting in front of the Eastport Community Center at noon. Please come join us.

Paul Foer said...

Thanks. As a former candidate for political office, I can tell you that the most disappointing thing of all was low voter turnout and low voter interest.
I say that in spite of having been the recipient then and now of really nasty and mean-spirited remarks of some detractors. The silence of the majority was and remains deafening compared to nasty, negative utterances. The more people that vote, the more meaningful the entire process becomes. At least you said the post was nice. What was not fair and balanced?

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