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Answers needed on charter home rule

October 22, 2006|by Brian Coss, Hagerstown

To the editor:

First of all, let me state that at this time that I neither favor nor oppose "charter home rule," or whatever name may or may not be the title we as citizens may or may not grant the new form of government for the Washington County. I am simply trying to get some clarification as to why they need this new form of legislative power.

There seems to be a lot of confusion, perhaps even reluctance by our elected officials, who may or may not benefit more than the average citizen from this change, to discuss it.

For example, on Sept. 30, this paper ran a letter to the editor from the president of the League of Women Voters claiming she made a mistake about whether or not voters could vote on the slate of people writing the charter.

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No problem. Everyone makes mistakes, but this is someone we are relying on to give us accurate information on an issue that some say will dramatically change the shape of Washington County politics and the commissioners' ability to legislate by giving them more power.

Then on Oct. 4, I attended a forum hosted by the Greater Hagerstown Committee where one of the topics was "charter home rule." Without naming names, let me say that in attendance were current city, county and state elected officials, as well as former city, county and state officials.

So I simply asked that with such good communication with the two-plus-two meetings between the city and county officials, combined with the good relationship the all-Republican county commissioners has with the mostly Republican Western Maryland delegation to Annapolis, what is the necessity of "charter home rule?"

This is especially true when the Maryland General Assembly has this concept known as "local courtesy," in which the legislature essentially says, "If your delegation brings it before us in agreement, then we'll pass it, no problem, regardless of party."

Apparently there was not enough time at the forum to answer that, which suited me. It suited me because I feel it is the obligation of all our current delegates to go on record in this paper and explain to their constituents what "local courtesy" is and how it works in Annapolis.

Furthermore, I believe I feel our current County Commissioners should explain why they need more legislative power when they have such a good relationship with a legislative delegation controlled by their party in both Washington County and Western Maryland to pass legislation in Annapolis.

And this needs to happen soon, because apparently the only thing we do know for certain is that writing the charter is on the fast track unless a petition of some sort is written to oppose it.

Without these much-needed explanations from the current delegates and commissioners, my first sentence is null and void. If our elected officials cannot be forthcoming about this issue, then I am truly skeptical as to whose interest will be best served if such a change in our form of local government happens.

Call me crazy, but when an offer has to be accepted soon because it won't last long and seems too good to be true, the latter usually seems to be the case.

Brian Coss, Hagerstown

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