Charter? For or Against
Do we need one person in charge – or not – when it comes to the executive functions of the county government, much like a president, a governor, or a mayor/burgess. Or do you want five people in charge? That’s the question.
It’s that simple. That is the major question and the first hurdle you must cross when you decide if you are for or against charter government for Frederick County. That is what charter government is; and that one person in charge is called a county executive.
Right now all the executive and legislative powers and responsibilities are shared equally among the five county commissioners. With charter government the legislative powers would be assumed by a county council, much like Congress, a state legislature, or a town council.
All 12 municipalities in Frederick County have the charter form of government, lead by a mayor or burgess performing the executive functions and with town councils performing the legislative functions.
It has been about 20 years since the last time we had the debate about charter government and the voters had the opportunity to cast their votes on whether or not they wanted to change to a new form of government. Now, for the record, the voters have said “No” four different times when the question was been placed on the ballot; twice for charter form (1970 and 1991) and twice for Code Home Rule (1968 and 2002).
So, what has changed in the 20 years since the last time the voters said “No,” to a charter on the ballot? Frederick County is at a crossroads and we need one person in charge with a defined vision for the future whether we like the vision or not. We need to know what the plan is for our infrastructure, whether it is school construction, roads, water and sewer, waste-to-energy trash disposal, or other major capital projects. Also the buck stops with one person regarding whether or not the county government is operating effectively and efficiently. That person would be the county executive.
Right now we are lucky that we have a clear majority of commissioners on the board who are in agreement on the direction for the county. But that has not always been the case; and, at times, the county commissioners have operated like a five-headed monster with no clear direction.
At election time, when casting your vote for commissioner, you pick the issues that are important to you and figure out which candidates stand with you on those issues. Then you pick a majority of candidates and try to vote for a good group of commissioners.
There are those who single shot (vote for only one candidate) and that is great for the ego but means nothing to the candidate who sits without a majority on the board.
While the Frederick County Charter Board works through the process of deciding what to include – or exclude – in the proposed charter, contact them to let them know whether or not you want a strong executive or a weak one. You can reach them by e-mail at charterboard@FrederickCountyMD.gov; or visit the website at http://www.frederickcountymd.gov/index.aspx?NID=4490 to learn more about what types of charter can be adopted. For instance you can have an elected county executive, or you can have a county executive appointed by the elected county council. This is just one example of the different type of charters that can be written.
As to whether or not we should hold a special election to determine who will serve on the charter writing board, here’s what I think. Yes, it is a right under the state’s Constitution to petition – getting 2,000 valid signatures of registered voters. But before you sign the petition to hold a special election, ask yourself several questions.
First, do you have a major problem with the majority of the members of the current charter writing board?
What are those differences, and do those seeking to replace any or all of them satisfy those differences?
Are you for or against charter government?
If the required 2,000 signatures are gathered, and a special election is held, it will cost Frederick County taxpayers at least $250,000 to hold that special election. A quarter of a million dollars is a lot of money, especially during these tough economic times.
If you are against charter government, don’t sign the petition. You can just wait until the presidential election in 2012 and vote against charter government without any additional cost to place an additional item on the ballot.
Let the debate begin, free of charge. We don’t have money to waste.
Here is a list of those people who are currently serving on the charter writing board and some professional background information on each:
Fred Anderson, a lieutenant colonel and a career employee with the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office since 1979, currently serves as the chief of the Law Enforcement Bureau.
Joan Aquilino-McIntire, local business owner and entrepreneur, former local PTA president and member of the Frederick County Planning Commission. She is currently employed as a legislative assistant with the Maryland House of Delegates.
Debra Borden, former assistant Frederick City attorney, now in private practice specializing in employment, real estate, land use, and corporate and municipal law.
Dr. Tom Browning, former economist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and current president of the Frederick County Farm Bureau. He also serves on the Frederick County Agricultural Land Preservation Advisory Board, and several other agricultural boards and organizations.
Ken Coffey, vice president and chief development officer at Frederick Memorial Healthcare System, with more than 20 years of executive development experience with a regional not-for-profit healthcare provider. He also has extensive government background working in different county government forms, including both charter and county commissioner.
Jeff Holtzinger, former mayor of the City of Frederick, is a local attorney and registered engineer in both Maryland and Pennsylvania. He is also a civil engineer and former director of Engineering for the City of Frederick.
James Hoover is mayor of Emmitsburg and a deputy director with the Maryland Transit Administration. He has over 20 years of employment experience with the State of Maryland, and more than 15 years experience in local/municipal government.
Bob Kresslein, a local attorney specializing in estate planning and probate, banking, commercial real estate, business formations and transactions. He has been an officer and served on the Board of Governors of the Maryland State Bar Association. He is the former chairman of the Frederick County Democratic Party, and has served on the boards of numerous Frederick County charitable and civic organizations.
Earl ‘Rocky’ Mackintosh is the owner of a local commercial real estate company, who has over 40 years of business experience in Frederick County. He is the past chairman of Goodwill Industries of Monocacy Valley, Inc., and Frederick Memorial Healthcare System.
Doug Browning, a Certified Public Accountant and the former Frederick County manager, is currently employed as the vice president of administration for Frederick Community College. He has over 40 years of experience in accounting, banking and multiple county governments in Maryland.
Dana French, a retired career officer (captain) with the United States Navy. He has served on the City of Frederick’s Parks and Recreation Commission and been the president of the Friends of Baker Park. He is also a consultant on strategic planning, management, executive leadership and community development.
Earl Robbins has 34 years of professional experience in the production industry with major manufacturers with worldwide operations. He is the chairman of the Hood College Board of Associates, vice chairman of the Frederick County Business Development Advisory Council, an active member and former officer with the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce, and a former president of the Frederick County Board of Education.
The next meeting of the Frederick County Charter Board is Tuesday, May 10, 2011, at 7 P.M., in the third floor meeting of Winchester Hall, or you can watch it on Frederick County’s Cable Channel 19.