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New Women Voters president wants to increase participation

July 05, 2005|by MARLO BARNHART

WASHINGTON COUNTY

marlob@herald-mail.com

Monda Sagalkin knows a democracy only works if people participate.

And, as the new president of the League of Women Voters of Washington County, she said the organization will do everything it can to get people interested and participating in the process.

As she begins her two-year term, Sagalkin said the organization's key issue continues to be the question of charter home rule versus code home rule for Washington County.

A number of years ago, the League joined forces with the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Hagerstown Committee to study the two forms of home rule.

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Eight counties in Maryland have charter home rule, which gives those counties' governing bodies the power to administer taxes and licensing. Five counties - including Allegany County - have code home rule, which leaves the tax and licensing duties at the state level while allowing those counties to enact, amend or repeal local laws.

Ten counties, including Washington County, still have the commission form of government.

"Code home rule wouldn't change the status quo on taxes here," Sagalkin stressed.

The issue of home rule has gone to referendum twice in Washington County, failing both times.

In addition, Sagalkin said League members will be working with the local delegation on issues involving open meetings laws, health-care benefits for large companies and the voter-rights protection act.

"Also on the state level, we are hoping to get an independent bipartisan redistricting committee formed soon," Sagalkin said.

Fundraising and visibility both were involved in the League's presence at Monday's Mile Long Yard Sale on Paradise Church Road, where members sold water and gave away free ice cream donated by Good Humor-Breyers Ice Cream.

The group is having voter registration drives this summer at the Leitersburg Peach Festival, C&O Canal Days in Williamsport, as well as events in Smithsburg and Maugansville, she said. And volunteers are being sought as observers to attend all meetings of the County Commissioners.

In 2006, a new voter's guide will be published, and candidate forums will be scheduled, she said.

Moving to Washington County in 1985 because of her husband's work, Sagalkin, 62, said she didn't know a League existed here during her first 12 years when she was busy working at Washington County Hospital.

"I had been in the League in Alaska when we lived there, so I looked for the group here," she said, joining three years ago. She and husband, Sanford, remodeled and live in an 18th-century home along the river near Sharpsburg. They have two grown children.

Disbanded twice because of dwindling support, the League now has about 35 active members in the local chapter, Sagalkin said.

The League is open to men and women. Members of all political parties or no political parties are welcome, as are residents from outside Washington County.

For more information, contact Sagalkin at 301-766-0040 or e-mail her at monsansagalkin@aol.com; or contact membership chairwoman Donna Smith at 301-797-8761 or by e-mail at dsmith7119@aol.com.

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