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May 30, 2007

The Elephant (or Donkey) in the room

Katie Nash

The move for charter government won't be stifled by bomb-throwers. Like every grassroots movement, there will be those who attempt to kill it before it reaches the public and for purely selfish reasons.

Sure, there is uncertainty out there that won't be ignored. To do so would be foolhardy for the proponents of charter, hoping the document will make it to the ballot in the next few years.

There will always be resistance to change and, understandably, many people in this county are still unsure as to how this change will affect their lives. That's to be expected and presents a challenge for citizens proposing this move.

There will always be citizens who retreat to their piece of Frederick County rather than engage in the process. This is true in voting as well as the debate over charter government. This defines the need for a grassroots effort.

What better way to reach Frederick countians than to pound the pavement and tell folks about the different types of government available?

The opponents of charter have yet to make a case against this option being explored. Some are hiding behind statements that this issue is one that requires lengthy study and consideration.

The elephant in the room, however, is that proponents agree and hold that reasonable consideration can only begin when a charter board begins drafting a document and the dialogue begins.

How can individuals begin serious discussions about how this will change the current system of government until a document is drafted? It is a lengthy process and there is no reason given why citizens shouldn't start talking about it now. Again, there has been no definitive reason this measure should be kept from the voters.

We've witnessed misdirection from some which demonstrates one of two things: a purposeful distortion of the facts opponents of charter have instituted; or a complete misunderstanding of Frederick County politics. A main contention is that charter is being raised by those who are unhappy with the Board of County Commissioners.

Discussion surrounding this form of government has existed, clearly, since Maryland codified provisions enabling counties to enact Home Rule. The current commissioners discussed this form of government on the campaign trail. The groundswell exists and is increasing; yet the bomb-throwers refuse to acknowledge it in their haste to spread rumors.

Again, the glaring truth is that this is a move toward a different form of government rather than a commentary on the functionality of this Board of County Commissioners.

Another argument is that the movement is carried by "spiritualists" sipping cocktails in bar rooms and board rooms. This is somewhat laughable considering those making this claim are often outspoken critics of "the good ol' boys.

Others claim that "builders" are driving the grassroots effort toward charter, saying that this is a ploy of the Democrats to "make Frederick County a socialist/progressive paradise."

How then does one explain that the leading proponents for charter include Maryland Senate Minority Leader David Brinkley (R., Frederick/Carroll) and Frederick County Delegation Chairman Rick Weldon (R., Frederick)? Not to downplay Delegate Galen Clagett and Delegate Sue Hecht's support as well; both have been extremely supportive of this move.

Both prominent Republicans and prominent Democrats in Frederick County support the appointment of a charter-writing board to move charter forward to the ballot. Again, the elephant suggests complete bipartisanship, yet opponents have conveniently refused to acknowledge it.

It is plain arrogance to hold the belief that bomb-throwing will keep advocates of charter government running scared forever. Frederick County citizens, who are paying attention, are, quite frankly, finished with this method of attack.

The 2006 election cycle is over; it's time to move on and begin an honest dialogue. Name-calling won't fix county's transportation and school-funding woes. But charter government just might.

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