From the Desk of
County Commissioner Paul Smith
Why I Oppose the Charter
I oppose the proposed Charter for several reasons, including the following:
- It would increase the size and cost of government. It would increase the number of elected officials from 5 to 8, and it must be expected that these increases would also bring corresponding increases in staff, and increases in staff time to handle the business of elected officials.
- It would give one person considerably more power in governing. This can be more efficient, but it also brings the risk of mistakes if an Executive has an extremist agenda or a faulty view on any particular issue.
- The proposed balance of power between the Council and the Executive is weighted too heavily in favor of the Executive. For example, if the Executive decided to cut a county program (say TransIt, for example), then the Council would be powerless to restore funding for it.
- The proposed pay for council members ($22,500/year) is too low; it will make it more difficult and less likely to get quality people to run for office. An appropriate salary would have been $33,500/year. The proposed salary structure puts at risk the effective and responsible management of the City Council.
- The value of each vote would be reduced by 50% because instead of voting for all 5 elected officials, each voter would only be able to vote for 4 of the 8 elected officials.
- The districting proposal would be more likely to give a voice to particular districts, but it would also create a system where the representatives of each district will tend to always vote for his/her district regardless of what may be best for the whole County.
- The Charter seems to presume that the entire County Government would suddenly be under the control of the new County Executive. But this poses some problems.
The charter does not propose what staff positions there would be in the new County
Council. There would need to be at least a clerk, a legislative assistant, an attorney, and some staff support for each of the council members. But the set up of such an organization would be entirely subject to the veto power of the County Executive, who would not have to fund something that he disapproves.
- Various previsions in the proposed Charter were unnecessary and create additional problems: (a) The limitation of 45 days for enacting legislation, and the requirement that it only be done on Tuesdays; (b) The requirement that new legislation cannot take effect for 60 days after passage; and (c) The requirement that the budget must be passed by May 25th. Each of these
creates potential problems, the solution of which is more problematic than the benefit that the requirement intended to provide.
- The Charter prohibits the County Executive from having involvement with any other business for profit during his/her term. While this provision is intended to make sure the Executive will give his full time to his elected office, the Charter prohibition is excessive for the salary offered. This provision would eliminate some of the best qualified people from running for
this important office because it would require them to totally divest themselves from their businesses for 4 years, which in turn could terminate the business to which they could return when their term would end.
For these and other reasons, I believe that passage of the current, proposed Charter would be a mistake for Frederick County. I understand the benefits that charter government would bring, but I believe these benefits would be far-outweighed by the problems that it would bring.
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