Key Points to Charter Home Rule
After 18 months of outreach, research, and earnest debate, the appointed charter board (including myself) has completed a proposed charter document for Frederick County.
Now the hard work of educating the voting public about the importance of voting “yes” to approve Charter Home Rule on November 6th begins. To that end I am fulfilling a promise in a previous post, “Charter Home Rule Completed after Months of Healthy Debate,” to provide a breakdown of the key elements within this proposed charter.
Soon after the charter board was launched, our group had the opportunity to sit down with Maryland charter guru Victor Trevala. At that time, Mr. Trevala informed us there are four primary issues that make or break whether Charter Home Rule is adopted or defeated at the polls:
· County Executive role
· County Council size and role
· Council members elected at large, from designated districts, or combination of both
· Transition of government from county commissioner form to Charter Home Rule
The county executive, as chief executive officer of the county, fulfills the executive branch of county government. This individual is responsible for executing the laws enacted by the county council (legislative branch). The executive will prepare and submit to the council an annual county budget for review and approval, as well as give an annual report. The executive is also responsible for supervising and directing offices, agencies, and divisions of the executive branch and ensuring the county employees, as well as county boards and commissions, faithfully perform their duties.
The county executive is elected at-large, and will be paid a salary of $95,000 with benefits. The executive will serve no more than two consecutive four-year terms.
The county council serves as the legislative arm of county government. The seven-member body will write and pass the laws that the county executive will be charged with carrying out. The council must act as a body and will have no power to create standing committees or delegate functions and duties to smaller groups of its members. The council will not be allowed to interfere with the day-to-day functions of the county executive. They cannot appoint, dismiss, or direct any employee of the executive branch. The county council is a part-time body that may sit for no more than 45 days in a calendar year for the purpose of enacting legislation.
Five council members will be elected by district and two at-large by voters county-wide. Each council member will be paid a salary of $22,500 with no benefits, and may serve no more than three consecutive four-year terms.
Councilmanic Districts and At-Large
After intense debate, the charter board ultimately decided that Frederick County would best be governed by a combination of members elected at-large and by district. The charter divides the county into five council districts.
The district map is part of the proposed charter document. Five county council members will be elected by district, one from each. Two are elected at-large.
Transition from County Commissioners to Charter Home Rule
Most provisions of the charter – if approved – become effective on Monday, December 1, 2014 – the date the first county executive and county council take office. At that time, the office of the county commissioner will cease to exist.
All appointed officers and employees of Frederick County government holding office at that time will continue to be employed. Existing local laws and all rules, regulations, resolutions, and ordinances continue in full force until repealed or amended – unless they are inconsistent with the provisions of the charter, in which case they are repealed.
So what do you think – will this proposed charter make history and pass with voter majority?
I believe it will. This is truly a charter of the people, by the people, and for the people of Frederick County.
The charter board made the conscious decision to do what no other charter board has done in 30 years of attempts to bring charter government to counties throughout Maryland: We began the process with a prolonged outreach effort to educate and gather feedback from voters before drafting the document.
Charter board members held about 30 outreach meetings in every corner of the county. We collectively heard from hundreds, perhaps thousands, of private citizens – face-to-face, via telephone conversations, and in writing. We carefully and conscientiously weighed the concerns and suggestions of all.
I’ve written at length on the topic of why charter government makes sense for Frederick County. In a nutshell, the proposed charter will provide Frederick County with a stronger voice in Annapolis, more accountability within our local government, and a measure of autonomy from the State of Maryland.
It’s time for Frederick County to have a seat at the grown-ups’ table. It’s time to vote “Yes” on November 6th.
Rocky Mackintosh is the owner of a land and commercial real estate firm based in Frederick. He is also the editor of the MacRo Report Blog.