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Home rule means more of the same

September 13, 2007|By TIM ROWLAND

Commentary

I plan on voting in favor of charter home rule for Washington County in February, under the sound, tried-and-true political philosophy of, "What the heck?"

I mean, why not? I don't know anything about home rule and don't care to know anything about it, but - you know - it's something to do. It's February, for heaven's sake. Nothing else will be going on.

Might as well experiment with a new form of government.

Home rule. Yippie. So they ream you at the local level instead of at the state level, I don't see where it's going to make much difference anyway.

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At least if they're local, you don't waste as much gas driving to Annapolis so's you can give them what-fer. So don't look at it as a change in government, look at it as a way of reducing your carbon footprint which, admit it, is already the size of a sasquatch.

I did feel the need to slightly educate myself on the topic, so I went to the county Web site, where it was, unfortunately, pretty easy to find a draft copy of the proposed charter.

It starts out, "Washington County constitutes a body corporate and politic. Under this charter, it shall have all the rights and powers of local self-government and home rule as are now or may hereafter be provided or necessarily implied..."

Anyone else smell a lawyer?

OK, we'll skip that part; let's go to the section on "Definitions," where we learn that "The term 'County' means Washington County, Maryland" and that "The term 'State' means State of Maryland."

So if you were worried that you might actually be voting on home rule for Beaver County, Utah, they've got that cleared up for you.

It looks as if the county would be divided into five districts. Each district would get a representative and two more would be elected by the county as a whole.

I think that part of it sounds good. So you would be guaranteed to at least one person who understands that Rohrersville isn't in Frederick County.

I did worry a touch about this part, though: "A law may be enacted under this section in the event the law is necessary for the immediate protection of public health, safety or welfare." Just what we need, the Washington County Patriot Act.

If you don't like a law the county passes, you can bring it to a vote if you can get 10 percent of the voting public - unless the law has to do with money.

That's too bad. I think it would be fun to bring the entire county budget to referendum, just to see what happens.

So yes, I read the whole enchilada. I even caught the typo in the next-to-last paragraph - unless they really do mean "the first Council shall commerce" instead of commence, in which case it's worse than I thought. No matter, I am a friend of typos. I employ enough of them myself.

All told, I congratulate the committee that drafted this charter. It looks as if it has properly addressed everything that is under its control.

The thing I worry about is the one thing that is not under the committee's control: That would be you.

Not that I am implying that you, the voters, have a history of electing less than stellar office holders, but ... But ...

So, how 'bout those Redskins? Really came through in OT, didn't they?

The draft does list some qualifications for council members, such as they have to be a resident of the County (that would be Washington County - remember your definitions) for a year.

Big deal. A frog can be a resident of Washington County. Other than that, the only restriction is that a council member can't also be a member of any agency with which there might be a conflict of interest.

So if you're a resident of Washington County and don't do anything else, you're perfect.

My problem is that I don't see anywhere in the qualifications that a candidate needs to be smart.

But then, why break old habits? Matter of fact, if you're satisfied with the quality of lawmaker we have in office today, by all means vote for this charter - because it will give you two more just like them.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324 or via e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com. You can listen to his podcast, The Rowland Rant, on www.antpod.com.

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