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Charter home rule deserves a chance

September 29, 2007|By DIANE EVES

To the editor:

Months of careful study, thought and deliberation have resulted in a proposed charter for the government of Washington County. Many hours of personal time were volunteered by members of the charter board and the preceding Home Rule Task Force in the hope that the rest of the citizens of the county would give this charter a careful reading and the concept of home rule their thoughtful consideration.

Charter home rule will not be forced on Washington County, but it is also hoped that Washington County will not be denied home rule by those who already have their minds set against it and will voice their opinion without the careful thought required to cast a responsible vote in February.

The reporters and editorial staff of the newspaper have already published a few details of the proposed charter. Judging from the printed responses to The Herald-Mail's opinion poll published in the paper, some folks are already voicing their opposition without having read the newspaper articles or the charter itself.

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I'd like to address a few of the poll's responses. First, one person wrote of a concern that a certain area of the county always has "more power" than other areas and this person is against the charter for this reason. However, the proposed charter establishes a county council composed of five members, who would be elected by newly established districts, as well as two at-large councilmembers, to avoid any such "concentration of power."

Another person asked how many counties have home rule and whether it has been successful. The majority of counties (15) have some form of home rule, and none have chosen to revert to a commissioner form of government. Apparently, residents of these counties are satisfied.

One of the poll responders suggested finding out how home rule has been working in Allegany County. The form of government in Allegany County is code home rule, not charter, so we must be careful not to compare apples and oranges, although there might be some merit in finding out how Allegany County residents feel about home rule in general.

Also expressed in the poll were concerns about forfeiting the oversight of our delegation. Let me remind readers that it is not just our own delegation that has "oversight" of Washington County affairs. I'll follow with this question: How much do you think delegates in, say, Somerset or St. Mary's counties care about Washington County's affairs? Perhaps worse - how do you think delegates from Montgomery, Howard or Prince George's counties feel about Washington County's local issues? Often, other counties' delegates see these local issues as mere bargaining chips to gain support for their own counties' projects and proposals. I'd like to feel that our local affairs were taken seriously by all involved in enacting legislation concerning us.

That folks have an opinion one way or the other is encouraging. The downside is that some opinions might be without a foundation. Please, fellow Washington Countians, take your responsibility seriously. The citizens of a democratic form of government owe it to each other, as well as to our forefathers and to those who will come after us, to be thoughtful, diligent in educating ourselves (or at least conferring with those who have educated themselves), and open to discussion with those of opposing views. Read the charter on the charter board's Web site at www.charterboard.org and attend one of the public hearings on the proposed charter.

Diane Eves

Former member

Home Rule Task Force

Hagerstown

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