Citizens for Commissioner Government launched their petition signing February 1, 2020 at Fire In Ice at Market and Patrick Streets in Frederick. Signature gatherers were stationed around the city with clip boards and petitions.
TheTentacle.com reached out to members of the last Board of County Commissioners for their thoughts on the movement. Several of them had a lot to say, so each has been invited to submit a separate piece to be published in its entirety.
Commissioner Delauter’s responses were straight to the point: It’s been “bad” for the county; not in the least budget neutral with the “budget up close to $100 million in 5 years” and it should be “repealed”.
Commissioner Shreve, also brief and to the point said it’s all about “the math”. “Five commissioners, or seven council members and one county executive.” It can’t help but “cost more”.
He said the County Executive’s staff alone is approaching $1,000,000 per year. He also said the Executive’s staff is often at odds with the Council. It’s hard to have responsive, effective government that way.
Commissioner Shreve pointed out if you look to Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties, their councils are in their own buildings. More government expanse in Frederick’s future?
Commissioner Smith thought his worst fears of Charter had come to fruition. “Too much power is given to the County Executive. This is especially true with regard to financial and budgetary matters. While I worry about giving the Council the right to increase the budget, that is exactly what may be needed to give the Council a little more power.” He went on to say, “The Council should have its own attorney” and “should not have to be stuck with whatever attorney the County Executive allows…”
One of his concerns has yet to be realized, “With respect to the County Executive’s excessive power, at this point this problem has not been fully exposed because the first two Councils have been mostly content to do whatever the County Executive wants. But the impotence of the Council will be manifest more at some time in the future.”
Commissioner Smith favors a repeal of Charter.
The only Commissioner I communicated with who would vote for it again in “two seconds” is Commissioner Young. “I do not want five mayors, five presidents, five governors or five sheriffs. If I had won the election some of those that are against it would have a different opinion. They want to go back to the original form of county government. Then let’s go back to three county judges. Heck, we can go back further that allow appointments by the King of England.”
Would county residents agree with Commissioner Young’s comment “It is not the form of government that is costing us, it is those that are elected to it, holding those positions?”
Young further explained he wouldn’t run the county any differently than he did when he was President of the Board of County Commissioners. He said the “board voted to give me executive privilege.” and “the board gave me power to make motions. Without that authority I would not have continued, it is an archaic way of governing.”
He said: “I did not have to run to the Board of Commissioners every time I made a decision. I would inform them if there is an issue then they can vote to do something different.”
Isn’t he making the argument that it was unnecessary to move to Charter because he had, as a Commissioner overcome the slow slog of Commissioner Government, without the added expenses of expansion?
To be clear, Commissioner Young credits the effectiveness of the “Young Board” with the approach they took. He credits the team effort of his slate for allowing him to take the lead so as not to have to report back to the others when decisions had to be made. He doesn’t think that would be possible in the future if we were to revert back to Commissioner Government.
Isn’t there an argument to be made for the benefit of the “slow” roll of increasing a bureaucracy? Isn’t there an argument to be made in support of five elected personalities to prevent one all-powerful monarch?
County Executive Jan Gardner did not respond to TheTentacle.com’s request for comment.
On July 24, 2019 in the Carroll County Times she said in regards to Charter Government “There can be a lot less public process.”
All Councilmen were invited to comment, only Councilmen Jerry Donald and Steve McKay took the time. Councilmen M.C. Keegan-Ayer, Jessica Fitzwater, Michael Blue, Phil Dacey and Kai Hagen did not respond.
Councilman Donald: “I don’t see Charter government as being more distant than Commissioner Government.” He said he’s had about seventy town halls. He went on to say “I think the results of Charter Government have been outstanding. Our bond rating has improved. Schools, libraries and parks are being built.” He added, “Things are good here.”, and said Charter was budget neutral.
Councilman McKay: “I say that I would sign the petition simply because I respect the effort that such an initiative requires, and I also think it important for the voters to ultimately decide.” He added, “I voted for Charter and I would do it again, principally based on the argument that it provides us greater autonomy from Annapolis.” He added he didn’t think Charter has been budget neutral. That “was a false promise perpetrated by others when Charter was brought to the voters.” He admits the budget has grown but doesn’t believe Charter is the reason.
People have said Charter gives us “autonomy” in Annapolis, but have yet to have anyone explain exactly what that means or how we benefit. Executive Gardner said in the Carroll County Times “I get a lot more respect in Annapolis.”
The juxtaposition of her statements: the “public isn’t involved as much”, but “I get more respect” tells you everything you need to know about concentrating power in one elected person.