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Live chat with Jeanne Singer

October 02, 2007

Our live chat begins today at Noon and ends at 1 p.m. We will be speaking with with Jeanne Singer, who chairs the board that's writing the Washington County charter that will be voted on in February 2008.

You can participate by sending your questions to us by clicking here.




Cynthia: How do you believe Charter Home Rule would benefits the citizens of this community?

Jeanne: I believe that charter home rule will benefit the citizens of the community by making our local government more responsive and more accountable to the citizens of Washington Co. Currently, local laws need to be run through the state (via our delegation). Charter home rule will allow local issues to be decided locally, and will allow our delegation to focus on statewide issues. In addition, charter home rule allows for referendums by the voters so that if the county council passes a local law the voters have the ability to essentially veto the law.

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Yvette: What are the qualifications of those that were chosen to sit on this

Board and draft the proposal for Charter Home Rule?

Jeanne: The board of county commissioners solicited applications from county residents who were interested in serving on the board. Each commissioner was allowed to select one individual to sit on the baord, and the other four members were selected by the board of county commissioners as a group. The only qualification was being an interested citizen of Washington County.




Alisa: Why did the Board propose districts in the draft charter?

Jeanne: The board actually proposed a hybrid model under which five council members would be elected by district and two would be elected at-large. The board liked this model for several reasons. First, we solicited input from the public as we were drafting the charter. While we did not hear from many inidividuals, the several dozen that we did hear from were overwhelmingly in favor of districts. In addition, as we decided not to provide for a county executive, the legislative and executive functions are both vested in the county council. Legislative representatives are typically elected by districts and executives are typically elected at-large. As the draft charter combines those two functions, the hybrid model allowing for both methods of elections seem to be a reasonable compromise. Also, we reviewed the process for which council members were elected in the other charter home rule counties. All but one of the counties elect by district or use a hybrid model and charter home rule seems to be working well in those counties.




Peter: If the Board considered a County Executive form of government, why wasn't it proposed?

Jeanne: The board did discuss providing for a county executive in the draft charter. The existing counties that have a county executive tend to be the larger, more metropolitan counties. The charter home rule counties that are most comparable to Washington County have not yet adopted a county executive position. The board was in agreement with those counties that a county executive is not necessary in a county the size of Washington County.




Cynthia: How did the Board arrive at a proposal of 7 members to be elected under this form of government?

Jeanne: The board arrived at the proposed 7 member county council after much prolonged discussion. Our initial discussions started with the size of the board. Shortly after the disussion began, we realized that we needed to determine how council members would be elected before determining the size of the board. Once the board reached consensus to use a hybrid model, 7 seemed to be our ideal number. It would allow for districts of a reasonable size and would provide for a limited number of at-large seats to ensure that one district did not have a majority of the council seats. State law does limit the county council to be comprised of 5, 7, or 9 council members.




Moderator: How can citizens learn about the proposed charter? Will there be public hearings?

Jeanne: The draft charter is available at www.charterboard.org. In addition, there will be several public hearings before the final charter is presented to the baord of county commissioners on Oct. 30. There is a public hearing on Thursday, October 4, at 7 p.m. at the Kepler Theater. There is a public hearing on Wednesday, October 10, at 7 p.m. at the Maugansville Ruritan. There is a public hearing on Saturday, October 13, at First Christian Church on North Potomac at 9 a.m. Until the charter is presented to the county commissioners on October 30, it is a work in progress. The charter board is soliciting public opinions to determine if any revisions to the existing draft should be made.




Moderator: Charter has been defeated twice previously here. What gives this document a better chance than the previous two?

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