Charter Home Rule draft constitution rapidly taking shape … Have you chimed in yet?
I have made no secret of my belief that Frederick’s current form of government needs serious improvement to keep up with the needs of this county. With such dramatic swings in political direction every four years, and now claims by some that the current Board of County Commissioners is ruled by one individual, isn’t it time for a more balanced approach to governing?
Putting more than mouth and words to the topic, I have truly enjoyed serving as a member of the Charter Writing Board that was appointed ten months ago by the BoCC.
Using the contents of Cecil County’s Charter as a template, the group has been diligently discussing and debating a considerable portion of a draft document.
It’s hard to believe that barely half a year remains to finish drafting the charter and rally full support of the citizens of Frederick before fall elections take place.
The Charter Board outreach meetings (a total of 25 in all) generated tremendous input from residents of all corners of Frederick County; however, those meetings were not intended to be the end of citizen participation in this process. Now that the board is at the critical stage of developing the charter itself, community feedback is more important than ever!
Below is a brief rundown of the most significant points that have been vetted thus far in the draft of the Charter of Frederick County. Please keep in mind that these ideas remain subject to change as community input is received right up to the point of the scheduled final draft in June:
- Councilmanic Districts: The draft charter divides Frederick County into five council districts. A council member will reside in each of the five districts and be nominated and elected by voters. In a previous post on the MacRo Report Blog, we posed the question of Charter Home Rule: Councilmanic Districts or Not? This is probably one of the hottest issues among those who are engaged … should voters be restricted to voting for just one local legislative council representative or up to 5 at-large members?
- County Executive: Thus far, the Charter Board members lean toward a county executive who will be elected by registered voters of the entire county. Concerns still run deep over the amount of power this individual will have over our government. The MacRo Report dug deeply into this topic in a post entitled Charter Home Rule: A Strong County Executive? To put it succinctly: it is the role of the county council to make the laws and policies, and it is the role of the county executive to carry out those policies. Then it comes down to checks and balances.
- Term Limits: How do you feel about term limits for our elected officials? It is being proposed that there be three consecutive terms for council members and two consecutive terms for the county executive. Are term limits a good idea? If so, is the idea of three and two the right mix?
- Executive Veto: Speaking of checks and balances, the board is proposing that the county executive has the power to veto legislation passed by the council, although the council may override the veto with a four vote majority.
- Voter Referendum: With three exceptions, a law (or part of a law) may be referred to voters for approval if a petition signed by 10% of the registered voters is filed. This is a big deal for Frederick County citizens, because under the commissioner form of governing, the state of Maryland does not provide citizens the right to petition to change local policy.
- Budget and finance are the next big issues the board will be tackling on tonight’s agenda. Determining who has the final pull on the purse strings is always a Hot Button issue at any level of government. Where to place the authority of the county executive as opposed to the county council in developing the county budget is truly about checks. It will be a good debate, for sure … what are your thoughts?
These are just a few buttons that have been pressed as place holders for further discussion in the final round this spring.
The board is continuously seeking input at every step of this process. Please let us know your thoughts!
The Charter Board meets again tonight at 7:00 PM at Winchester Hall, in the Commissioner’s Hearing Room on the 3rd floor.
If you have an opinion about how the government of Frederick County should be structured, please attend the meetings, watch the broadcasts on Cable Channel 19 (FGC-TV), and/or email the members with questions and comments at email@example.com.
Rocky Mackintosh, President, MacRo, Ltd., a Land and Commercial Real Estate firm based in Frederick, Maryland. He is an appointed member of the Frederick County Charter Board. He also writes forTheTentacle.com.