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Why I favor the charter

January 25, 2008|By LINDA IRVIN-CRAIG

It didn't happen every day, but it did happen. I'm talking about a helpless feeling in addressing a community emergency. One would think that an elected and sworn county commissioner and colleagues could respond with appropriate measures when constituents' lives and health are at risk. Not always!

Empowering legislation had not been passed in Annapolis to address the particular set of circumstances and so our hands were bound to do nothing. From summer to winter, we waited and then waited again for the enactment date to be reached. Nearly a year into a problem, we finally had a solution. With a charter, Washington County could have moved in a timely way to respond.

No blame was laid to either the state or the county for the late response, but people in Washington County suffered from the delay. We can avoid a similar experience by voting "yes" on charter home rule on Feb. 12. And, registered Independents get to weigh in on this one, just as they can on School Board candidates, even though this is a presidential primary election date.

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Modernizing our local government is not just about change. It is about local response and accountability. Charter home rule allows citizens more input on local issues, on both ends - hearings before legislation and referendum after, if the results are unacceptable. We also can amend the charter as we grow into the process, perhaps addressing some of the concerns that have been expressed in letters to this newspaper. Passing the charter is the first step.

Home rule is also about allowing our locally elected state representatives to spend more time evaluating statewide legislative proposals and their potential impact on Washington County. It is about allowing them more opportunity to work through those issues with local interests in mind. And, nothing disallows their input, as citizens, in the local process.

With charter home rule, Washington County gets an improved process at the local and state levels of government. Please vote and vote "yes" on the charter.

Linda Irvin-Craig is a Hagerstown resident and a former Washington County Commissioner.

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