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April 22, 2011

A Waste of Time and Money

Amanda Haddaway

Last Sunday afternoon I walked by Baker Park. Ellis Burruss was standing there in all his glory trying to obtain signatures for his petition drive. I considered going over and having a chat with him, but I wasn’t sure I could be nice, so I refrained.


The petition drive’s goal is to obtain enough signatures to force a special election for the selection of the county’s charter writing board. The majority of people behind this initiative didn’t even apply for a position when applications were sought and are now acting out because they don’t approve of the current Board of County Commissioners or their selections for the charter writing board.


Mr. Burruss’ initiative, along with a small group of other people, could potentially cost taxpayers a lot of money. The Frederick County Board of Elections has estimated that a special election to pick this board would cost the county at least $250,000.


Some pro-petition people will try to justify this number by saying that it breaks down to mere cents per taxpayer, but they are missing the point. The county is currently in a dire financial position and we – the taxpayers – can’t afford to have a special election on a topic that we will have the opportunity to vote on at a later date without any additional cost.


Important programs are being defunded and jobs are being eliminated, so why on earth would any taxpayer want to spend an additional quarter of a million dollars that we don’t have?


Enough with the sour grapes! I’m not thrilled with some of the charter board member selections, but the process to appoint them was done according to provisions laid out in the Maryland Constitution. The county commissioners advertised several times that it was seeking applicants. Applicant interviews were held in an open meeting and were televised.


The members of the appointed charter writing board are already making great strides to be open and transparent. Members are using both social media and traditional media to engage voters in the process and share updates and developments with the board’s progress. All of their future meetings will be open to the public and they have encouraged participation from the community.


There will be plenty of opportunities for public input during the next 18 months. Let the charter writing board do the work that they were appointed to do. Once they have produced a document, we will all have access to it and will be given the opportunity to vote on whether or not we support changing our form of government.


Until then, it’s time for all of us to be fiscally responsible and allow the existing charter board to do its work. We’ll have a chance to vote on whether we approve of their final product or not; and the majority will again prevail.


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