Charter Approved...Now What?
“Take time to deliberate; but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in.” This is a quote from one of my favorite Americans, President Andrew Jackson. I use this quote in reference to the newly adopted constitution for our county, namely the Frederick County Charter.
You, the voters, took the time to deliberate on the 25-page proposed charter which will elect a single person to serve as county executive along with seven elected county council members in 2014.
By a wide margin on November 6, the voters adopted this document and new form of government. Out of nearly 100,000 ballots cast in the Question A charter referendum, 62,469 of us, or 63%, voted in favor, and 37,368, or 37%, voted in opposition.
Our new form of government will take effect December 1, 2014.
As a little background information on this process, when I, along with Commissioners Paul Smith, Billy Shreve and Kirby Delauter ran for office more than two years ago, we made the proposed transition to home rule government part of our platform, thus giving the voters of Frederick County the opportunity once again – after 20 years – to decide if they wanted to continue with the commission form of government or move to the charter form of government.
After being sworn into office, one of this board’s first acts was to appoint the Charter Writing Board. On March 10, 2011, we appointed a diverse set of 12 individuals, who met over the following 17 months in public to hash out every detail of our new government.
I continually advocated for everyone to become educated with this document, to read it in its entirety, attend public forums and ask questions. All of the Charter Writing Board’s meetings were open to the public and almost all of them were televised. All of their minutes and agendas could be found on its website along with updated drafts of the document, information on the process and links to videos of its meetings.
The main reason I advocated for everyone to read the document and learn the facts on their own was because certain individuals and groups tried to spread inaccuracies and misinformation about the document and powers. I honestly have no problem with those who voted against the charter because of legitimate concerns or issues but become disheartened when votes are made based of distortions.
Lately, I have heard rumors about new misrepresentations and errors being spread about the change to charter government. I will seek to address these falsehoods and correct the record.
First, the new form of government does not and cannot become effective until after the November 2014 elections. This date and transition are in the charter as adopted by the voters.
In November 2014 the voters of Frederick County will elect our first county executive along with the seven council members. They will be sworn into office on December 1, 2014; and, at the same time, the “five-headed monster” as I call it, the board of county commissioners, will be abolished.
Until the swearing in of our new leaders, Frederick County will continue to operate as we have with the county commissioners leading our government.
Another rumor is that the seat of our local government, Winchester Hall, will be renovated. This is completely false! Right now there is more than enough room for the new council members and the executive. None of the configurations of the meeting rooms will need to be altered.
Another rumor is that the newly elected officials will have increased staff support. This also will not happen under the current county administration.
We have created a Transition Team, lead by our county manager, which will work over the next two years to put the new form of government into operation. Hopefully, this will allow for a seamless transition when our new officials are sworn into office.
The Transition Team has been directed by the current commissioners to assimilate the current staff into positions of support for the new executive and council. There will not be any additional personnel hired between now and December 1, 2014, nor any renovations or construction to Winchester Hall to accommodate the form of government.
The goal of this Board of County Commissioners is to foster in a new era with a single elected executive to lead our great county, along with legislative checks and balances through the county council, all the while maintaining a lean, small and efficient government of, by and for the people!
Whether or not the philosophy will continue to maintain a lean, small and efficient government will be up to the voters – depending entirely on whom they elect as the first county executive and first county council.