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Consider impact of home rule - and vote

January 28, 2008|By TERRY HEADLEE

Washington County voters will decide Feb. 12 whether they want to be ruled by a commissioner form of government or by charter home rule.

Trust me folks, this is a big deal.

Regardless of how the vote turns out, it will have widespread ramifications for years to come.

The topic has received considerable attention on our editorial pages, our Web site via poll questions and in Mail Call, our call-in hot line.

This is such an important decision for voters that Wednesday night, The Herald-Mail, along with Hagerstown Community College and Antietam Cable, will sponsor a 90-minute debate on charter home rule.

The debate at HCC's Kepler Theater will begin at 7:30 p.m.

We will have copies of the 15-page charter home rule document for anyone who wants one.

The audience also will be able to submit written questions for our panel. We'll try to get to as many questions as we can during the evening.

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So why wasn't the issue of eminent domain or voter districts included in the final version?

Will the new county council be given widespread taxing authority?

Are the so-called "checks and balances" by our local state delegation really necessary?

Those are among the questions that likely will be answered by a panel that was selected by The Herald-Mail to address both sides of the issue.

Speaking in favor of the home rule charter will be Jeanne Singer, who served as chairwoman of the charter board for Washington County; Washington County Commissioner James F. Kercheval; and Brien Poffenberger, president of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce.

Debating in opposition will be Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington; Thomas Berry, who was a charter board member; and Washington County Commissioner William J. Wivell.

The debate moderator will be David Warner, executive director of the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown.

We hope you attend, but if you can't, the debate will be broadcast live on Antietam Cable Channel 99.

It also will be broadcast live on local radio station WJEJ 1240 AM.

If you can't attend the debate or watch it Wednesday night on television, don't worry, we still have you covered.

The debate will air again on Antietam Cable Channel 19 on the following dates:

· Thursday, Jan. 31, at 7 p.m.

· Saturday, Feb. 2, at 2 p.m.

· Thursday, Feb. 7, at 7 p.m.

· Monday, Feb. 11, at 7 p.m.

I know we all have a lot going on in our lives, and it's not easy to make time for things such as attending a debate on charter home rule .

But this is one time you might want to.

I have listened to, as well as read, comments from most of the members of this panel. They all make compelling arguments for passage and rejection.

And believe me when I say this: You need to hear all sides before you cast your vote in 16 days.

Terry Headlee is executive editor of The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 7594, or by e-mail at terryh@herald-mail.com.

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