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October 4, 2012

Charter: Itís The Right Way To Go

Joan Marie Aquilino

Election Day is but a month away and it’s so very important that we all educate ourselves and make our date to cast out ballots. “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything” are words not spoken lightly.


There are so many ballot questions, but none as important as Question A, (found after you vote for individuals seeking office) and at the very end of the ballot. This is the referendum on whether or not you want charter government for Frederick County. Each and every charter is slightly different depending on the needs of the people it serves; Frederick County’s proposed charter is suited to fit the needs of citizens in this county and nowhere else.


Let’s start at the beginning and clearly explain what charter government actually is. The proposed Frederick County Charter can be found on the Official County page on Charter along with all the meetings and background used in forming many of the decisions. I dare say you will never find a more thorough or transparent effort by citizens in this county.


A charter is a document that spells out the powers, duties and structure of government and the rights of citizens – a local constitution. Charter government is nothing new to Frederick County. If you live in a municipality in this county, you already live under a charter form of government. Here’s a little realized fact, municipalities actually have more clout in Annapolis than our county does because of the way they govern themselves.


Who’d think that former County Commissioner President Jan Gardner and present President Blaine Young would be on the same side? Well, they are now. Why, you may ask. Because no matter their political differences, they both support charter government for our residents.


Frederick County Teachers Association President Gary Brennan supports charter and offers this statement:


“Frederick County teachers know that the time is right for charter. It clearly establishes two branches of government, so no single branch has too much power. The county council will set overall policies for the community. The county executive will set clear priorities and run the government more efficiently, and without undue influences."


Karlys Kline, co-chair of the Charter Education Coalition, and the woman found heading most of the charity events in Frederick, shares these thoughts about her support:


“188 strangers in Annapolis don’t know what is best for Frederick. But they are the ones who are making…decisions for us. Charter home rule will bring decision-making back home to Frederick, where it belongs. It’s all about local decisions on local issues.”


Last week the Charter Education Coalition released its Charter Survey. The results showed once voters learn about charter they strongly support it and agree that it addresses voters’ overall concern for the management of the county. By almost two-to-one voters, believe that an elected county executive will be able to set clear priorities and run the county more efficiently without adding bureaucracy and cost to county government. Forty-nine percent of voters surveyed believe a county executive will benefit Frederick County. Twenty-eight percent think it will add bureaucracy and 23% are still unsure.


This survey was taken in June prior to the final document presentation to the county commissioners, as well as prior to much of the education process.


I firmly believe having been part of the education process that the results would be even higher today in support of charter. I have literally walked into a room of 14 women not knowing how they felt and when Debra. Borden, my fellow charter board member, and I left we had 14 supporters and were told their husbands would soon follow.


Those not supporting charter have a difficult time coming up with solid reasons why not. Their stance becomes an emotional rather than rational dialogue that is neither productive nor effective. You can’t argue emotions and – if fear is what makes them voice those concerns – it’s a matter of education to help them understand. Promoting fiction and ignoring facts isn’t good for anyone.


Let’s review a couple of the myths floating around to get them out in the open.


MYTH: Charter will make us just like Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.


FACT: Comparing Frederick County to the larger jurisdictions like Baltimore, Prince George’s or Montgomery counties is like comparing apples to pencil sharpeners. They have absolutely nothing in common with Frederick! However, Harford and Howard counties are closer to Frederick in size. They are both charter counties and run very well.


MYTH: Another highly emotional statement is that people won’t vote for charter because they don’t like the hybrid structure of the county council. They are used to voting for five at-large seats and won’t understand the change.


FACT: That statement underestimates the intelligence of county voters, who are fully capable of understanding any structure that is established. This argument is pure ‘inside baseball.” The average voter does not have a strong position on council structure. What voters do care about is that charter brings greater accountability and a much needed system of checks and balances to our government.


Lastly, this one almost makes me laugh it’s so very silly and unfounded.


Myth: Charter government puts people with little experience at the helm.


FACT: Voters are the ones responsible for choosing our elected leaders and who will put the county executive and council who will serve in office; they will be able to decide who is best suited for those positions. There is no qualification now for the county commissioners. There are no qualifications for the President of the United States, the Governor of Maryland other than age and residency (which are both covered in the charter).


As I mentioned earlier, the people not supporting charter really fall down on validity of facts and instead go for soft emotional fear tactics.


Please use the links I’ve provided to do your own research. If questions still remain, you can always send them my way or to anyone at the Charter for Frederick website.


. . . . .'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


[Editor’s Note: The Myth and Fact sections contained in this column are taken from the Charter Writing Board’s web site with some minor changes. They were used with permission.]



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