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September 6, 2012

Another Look At Charterís Antagonists

Joan Marie Aquilino

Having just read recent articles concerning Charter Home Rule and having been a member of the Charter Writing Committee, I feel compelled to address some of the opinions expressed.


Please know going in that I appreciate and welcome discussions of the issues, for it gives me a better opportunity to explain the process for some of the decisions made. Here is the link for the actual Proposed Frederick County Charter document found on the county government website.


Perfection is in the eye of the beholder and what the charter board did was an excellent example of nonpartisan cooperation in its truest sense. Over a period of 18 months we held more than 60 outreach educational meeting as well as our own fully vetted, transparent and always open to the public committee meetings, doing our best to understand and receive community input.


Much of that input is actually in this document. As we wrote this charter for Frederick County, it was always available in its draft format for comment, and we continuously encouraged opinions.


We didn't write a document to protect any particular political party, but rather to protect the voters of this county.


When looking at this charter with partisan eyes, there will always be issues with which you disagree and will show a bias in one direction or another. We developed this document in an extremely cautious fashion in an effort to do everything possible to avoid political biases. We did exactly that. Ours was not a political movement. It was a movement to better serve the voter and to give opportunities not now afforded to Frederick County residents, to provide a more efficient form of government.


If this document should fail, there won't be a chance to make logical timely changes to our government. The commissioner form of government offers no options of change to its voters. Charter Home Rule is a living document and the reason we need it now, not later. If you want the control suggested, then this change to Charter Home Rule is exactly why you should approve it on November 6.


The charter’s process of appointment to political positions does nothing more than give it back to those at home, those you put into office, those your voice can reach.


Right now the governor has the option to turn down anyone from either party when they offer recommendations. Political parties make recommendations only, not appointments; they have no control over the actual appointment, which is left completely in the hands of whomever sits in the governor’s chair, not those actually living in this county. It is better that it is done closer to home and more easily for voters to voice their likes or dislikes. Knowing Frederick the way I do – or you do – do you actually think an appointment would be made by the county council without voices from the community weighing in on the person recommended to fill the vacancy?


Another way of looking at this is that the charter gives you the framework; it’s up to you to build the interior. As mentioned, the governor can literally ignore the recommendations given for a replacement and make an appointment from the opposite party. That is the reality of politics, not the charter.


Lastly, on this particular subject, we all know that an appointment can give a person a perceived edge when the next election cycle comes around; but we have also seen, again right here in Frederick, where that didn’t protect the office from someone else. Do you remember the Charles Jenkins-Michael Hough battle royal in District 3-B? The Republican Central Committees made its two recommendations and the governor chose one. The voters chose the other at the next election. Ultimately this shows once again the power that lies in the hands of each and every voter.


We made every effort – and succeeded – in making this change to charter cost neutral for Frederick County citizens. That was a hard fought battle among charter board members and with vigorous citizen input. As this Board of County Commissioners came into office promising to trim government spending which the previous board did not do. The next Board of County Commissioners could also come in and escalate the cost and size of government, or continue to decrease the cost, depending on which candidates the citizens put into office. Charter does not cost more, the controls for that are with those you elect.


So, in closing I end with this for all to consider. If Charter Home Rule fails, you are left with exactly what you have now with no options of fixing or changing anything. The state and the governor have control over what we want – or even don’t want – within our own county. You only have to look at the historical data of our past and you will see the continuation of extreme Boards of County Commissioners taking our county from one edge to the other in areas such as growth, government spending, etc., all without the ability of having more measured protections which Charter Home Rule offers.


When you vote “Yes,” the options are endless for you to offer amendments that you, the voter, feel would improve and better serve our county. Ultimately, nothing in the charter will change without your consent, but you have to have it to change it.


Once charter passes, there is a mandate to do a review of the entire document at the end of the first five years and then every 10 years thereafter. There are no options for review with the current form of government. These are the mandates for charter review, but the ability to offer amendments, should they be needed, can accrue at any time by either the Council or by voter petition. There is also the option of returning to commissioner form by a simple amendment produced by the voters.


In a nutshell Charter Home Rule offers the ability to put your government back in your hands and bring your county government home to where it really matters and affects you personally. It gives you the control, not outsiders who really don’t know us or our needs.


What other counties do is not going to affect how you want your government to run. We looked at the good, the bad and the ugly and tried our best to offer you the best and most protective charter possible. Now it’s in your hands to decide.


I thank everyone who participated during the 18-month process that produced this charter for their efforts in making this truly a people‘s document, not a political one.


. . . . .'til next time . . .


As always, I’d love to hear from you; so, let me know what’s on your mind by emailing, or contacting me directly at


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