MacRo LTD Blog

The American Idol of Charter Writing Boards?

Well now … the members of the board appointed to draft a constitution for Frederick County are definitely NOT American Idol material!


… and last of the Charter Home Rule Writing Board was surely no competition for the “Shocking” Idol episode on FOX, where voters eliminated Pia Toscano from the top nine contenders.

However, the Frederick County Charter Board did provide its viewers with an educational session identifying what the “hottest” issues are that can move voters to approve or defeat a charter effort.

There were two primary topics on last week’s agenda:

  1. A presentation by Maryland Charter guru Victor Trevala, who spoke on the process that charter boards typically follow when given the charge to draft a constitution for their county.
  2. A discussion headed up by yours truly, on the creation of a pre-drafting outreach effort by the Charter Home Rule Board.

As noted in the MacRo Report Blog post (This Charter Board has been Launched), Mr. Trevala is the man who wrote the book on Home Rule Options in Maryland (Copyright 2001 by the Institute for Government Service, University of Maryland).

He presented to the group the traditional process that all charter writing boards throughout Maryland have followed over the last 30 years. Simply stated, once the board is appointed (or elected), the body typically goes right to work drafting a proposed constitution. Once completed, they then hit the road to sell their product to the voters several months before the matter is decided at the polls.

Out of the 77 sections of the document, he informed the group that there are really only 4 issues that are voter “hot buttons”:

  1. The role of the County Executive (executive branch) – is it an elected or appointed position and what will his/her powers be?
  2. The size of the County Council (legislative branch) – should it have 5, 7 or 9 members and what will their powers be?
  3. Should the Council members be elected from designated districts, at large or a combination of both?
  4. Transition:  How and when will the government switch from the County Commissioner form to the Charter Home Rule format?

Mr. Trevala stated that in most cases, at least one of these can become pretty contentious issues, and more often than not will lead to the effort being defeated by the voters.  As a matter of fact, he told the board that in the last 30 years, out of about 18 attempts throughout Maryland counties there have only been 2 victories at the polls.

Wow, how encouraging is that?!  Obviously not very!

I had to ask a question of our speaker:  “Out of all those efforts, how many of these boards throughout the state actually conducted an outreach effort to educate and gather feedback for the voters BEFORE the document drafting began?”

Answer: “None!”   Hmm… so maybe that could be one reason why the success ratio is so dismal?

This is no reflection on Mr. Trevala, as he is the unquestioned Maryland expert the technical side of Charter Government …. but the other side of the effort is that of gathering community input.

What a great segue into the second topic of the evening – Outreach.

Collectively, the Frederick County Charter Board appointees have all strongly agreed that they want to hear from the voters before we dive into the details of drafting.

But how will this pre-drafting outreach effort take place?

Simple.  The Board will need to engage in a multimedia and personal speaking effort throughout the Frederick community:  Newspaper, Internet, Social Media, Television, Radio, Service Clubs, Community and Association meetings, local events and the list goes on … HUGE JOB!

The purpose will be to educate and garner feedback, not unlike the early stages of a well run strategic planning effort where an organization reaches out to all its constituencies to learn their likes, dislikes and vision for the future.

From this important phase the board should have the information it needs to develop a framework to customize all of those 77 sections of a constitution for Frederick County.

Chairman Ken Coffey appointed an Outreach Committee to formulate an action plan.  Members are:  Yours truly (Rocky Mackintosh) as Chair, Joan Aquilino, Debra Borden, Jeff Holtzinger and Dr. Tom Browning.

Today at 5 PM Ken Coffey and I will be on WFMD 930 AM to discuss the outreach process… please call in with your comments.

The members of this board may not be worthy of the title of “American Idols”, but with all the talk of a petition drive to replace 8 of the 9 members, we hope not to be eliminated either!

Become a MacRo Insider

The author: Rocky Mackintosh, President, MacRo, Ltd., a Land and Commercial Real Estate firm based in Frederick, Maryland. He also writes for

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *