All Hands on Deck! This vessel is on a mission for Frederick County citizens!
The recently appointed on the evening of March 30, 2011 in the Commissioner”s Meeting room in Winchester Hall on West Church Street.
The panel of 9 members along with 3 alternates, who were appointed by the Board of County Commissioner a few weeks earlier, chose to press on with the goal of completing this enormous task. This decision was made by the group despite the fact that there is a group of eight who seek to be included on the Charter Board.
In a March 17, 2011 post entitled “Debunking Assumptions and Mythology about Frederick County’s New Charter Writing Board,” I offered my thoughts regarding certain concerns expressed by those who advocate and/or seek a special election to change the current membership of the board.
I will not revisit those thoughts here, as the purpose of this post is to offer one board member”s impressions of the first official gathering of this body.
The meeting was in a public format with about 25 in the audience. In addition it was televised … and is now available to be viewed on the .
Getting down to business
The meeting began a few minutes after 7:00 PM (yours truly was a couple of minutes late … won”t happen again!). County Commissioner President Blaine Young offered opening remarks on the promise of what Charter Home Rule could bring to Frederick County.
John Mathias, County Attorney for Frederick County, then spent time providing the group with an over view of the forms of government available to local counties in Maryland, including a review of other Maryland county charters that have been approved such as Cecil County. He also discussed the laws governing the charter process and explained the charge of the Charter Board. The matter of the current petition effort was discussed and the laws that cover the Charter Petition process.
Of interest to this rookie were the “do’s and don’ts” of the Maryland Open Meetings Act and the Maryland Public Information Act.
So what constitutes a meeting of this board and any committees that it may form?
It turns out that anytime a majority of the members of any body gets together, it is considered a meeting. In the case of the Charter Board that means if 5 (not including alternates) of us meet for lunch … that”s a meeting and it must follow the required format. Or if there is a committee made up of two or three members, then any time any of them talk to each other … that”s a meeting! So we have to make sure that we adhere to the rules.
Any and all email correspondence between/among members on anything relating to Charter is subject to the Maryland Public Information Act, meaning that all written correspondence between and among members is available to the public.
To that end the County has established an email account (email@example.com) where citizens can submit comments and questions to the board or individual members. Reaching out directly is also allowed.
How will the ship”s crew be lead?
This was a interesting segment with a lot of healthy discussion. After a good bit of discussion on the plan and how it will be facilitated, member and local attorney Bob Kresslein proposed Ken Coffey as Chairman. For the last 24 years Coffey has been associated with Frederick Memorial Healthcare System as the Chief Development Officer (fundraiser … not to be confused with real estate development). Between 1977 and 1986, he had roles in Carroll, Frederick and Howard County, Maryland governments. Coffey was also an alternate Board member in Frederick County”s 1991 Charter effort.
In a flash member Joan McIntyre Aquilino seconded the motion with an amendment that Mr. Kresslien be Vice Chair and Debra Borden serve as Secretary. All agreed and the gavel was then passed from Mr. Mathias to Mr. Coffey.
The target date to complete this task is July 4, 2012, four months in advance of the next presidential election, where the issue is hoped to be on the ballot.
Even though the target is 15 months away, this group wants to get down to the business of this daunting task as soon as possible.
While we all understood that the single charge of the board is to write a constitution for Frederick County, we also realized that unless this body can engage the community in the process, it is likely that the effort will fail at the polls.
The group also agreed to seek out the assistance from a local expert on Charter Home Rule. , who literally wrote the book entitled Home Rule Options in Maryland, was suggested to be a speaker at our April 7th meeting. Since then from a series of email correspondence, it appears that he will be with us that evening to share the wisdom of his vast experience in facilitating the writing of government charters in Maryland.
The discussion then moved to taking our show on the road around the county to engage the public in a process of mutual education and listening to general questions and concerns about how local government functions. Debra Borden and Jeff Holtzinger spoke about putting together a power point presentation.
In addition with the benefit of our meetings at Winchester Hall being televised, we also agreed that outreach to pull in an audience is as important.
Divide and Conquer!
Drawing on the lessons of the 1991 Charter board, Messer”s Coffey and Kresslein proposed that when we do get to the point of actually taking all that we have learned from the public and other resources that we break the many sections and subsections of what is typically found in a County Charter and assign them to breakout committees consisting of voting and alternate board members … among others.
What can you do?
Clearly this body has a lot of work to do! However, while it is a big task, if it is done in a vacuum without the input from the citizenry of Frederick County, this effort could be all for not.
So, please if you have any interest in how the government of Frederick County can and should function, get involved, tell your friends and neighbors to attend meetings, watch the broadcasts on Cable Channel 19 (FGC-TV), email us questions and comments, share this and other posts with friends … learn all you can about what this will mean for you and our county!
Our next meeting is this Thursday, April 7, 2011 at 7:00 PM at Winchester Hall, 12 East Church Street, Frederick, Maryland 21701.
The author: Rocky Mackintosh, President, MacRo, Ltd., a Land and Commercial Real Estate firm based in Frederick, Maryland. He also writes for TheTentacle.com.