Can The Hopefuls Take The Heat?
This past week the Frederick Board of County Commissioners whittled the list of 50 applicants for the proposed charter government writing board down to 15 people.
The commissioners will pare this number further by appointing a nine member committee with three alternates. Among the crowd of worthy contenders is yours truly.
These candidates have been given the following 12 questions in advance:
Why should you be appointed to this board?
Describe what experience you have had in writing, revising, interpreting or following a charter (constitution or bylaws).
Please share with us your vision of what the charter should look like. Do you support a countywide police force or the current form that we have now with a full service Sheriff's Office?
The process of drafting a charter can be time consuming. Are you committed to devoting the time necessary? Can you commit to completing the task?
How do you operate in a group setting? Do you have experience in reaching consensus in groups?
Once the charter is drafted, voters will need to be educated so they are prepared to vote on its passage in November 2012. Will you assist/participate in a voter education effort after the charter draft is completed?
There is a slight chance that the board appointees may be subject to a special election. Are you willing to undergo that process?
What are some of the possible pitfalls from the charter form of government that could cause the waste of tax dollars? How can these pitfalls be avoided?
How much power should a county executive have versus a council member?
How do you think transparency and public involvement can best be maintained?
Describe the types of powers that you would propose be vested in the county executive and a county council in an ideal charter government. What checks and balances would you propose?
How many members would you propose be on the county council? Would you propose that some or all of the council be elected from distinct districts?
That’s an interesting series of questions, for sure. Being the first one invited to sit in the examination chair this Thursday (March 10th) at 6:45 PM, I expect that the other 14 candidates, along with many others will be watching on FCG TV, cable channel 19, or via the county's website at http://www.frederickcountymd.gov/media/ .
What I appreciate most about the format that the county commissioners have established is that the process will be very open and transparent to the public.
The idea of changing the form or governance in our county is not a minor issue, and all voters should place serious focus on the reasoning behind this effort and weigh in regularly with questions and comments, as the charter board does its work.
For many, having some kind of preconceived notion of how Charter Home Rule should be structured for Frederick County is probably a good thing. However, if I am fortunate enough to be selected, I would hope to be a part of an effort to spread a very wide net throughout the Frederick County community to educate and gather thoughts and ideas from residents and experts in the field.
What is encouraging for our community is that this group has the ability to customize the charter (within certain parameters) to the needs of Frederick County.
Before the board gets too deep into the process, I'd like to learn from the public why the 1991 Frederick County charter effort failed. What is it that this board can learn from that attempt? Other Maryland counties have traveled down this same path with successes and failures. Can we gain insight from them?
In the end, my bet is that if our community is ready for the greater responsibility that home rule brings, it will be a transparent process with stakeholder input along the way that will make the difference.
Rocky Mackintosh is president, MacRo, Ltd., a land and commercial real estate firm based in Frederick, MD. He also writes for MacRo Report Blog. Rocky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.