Letters to the Editor

February 08, 2008

Editor's Note

The Opinion Page staff has placed all the letters we have received on the charter issue on opinion pages that will run between now and Sunday, Feb. 9.

E-mailed letters received today will be posted on The Herald-Mail Web site at Even if they are hand-delivered, letters not in hand as of Thursday, Feb. 7, cannot be printed before the Feb. 12 primary. Thank you.

Free us from the Annapolis quagmire

To the editor:

Please vote "yes" for charter home rule for Washington County. Why am I asking fellow Washington County citizens to vote to change from our current form of government to home rule? To me, there are several compelling reasons to adopt this change.

The biggest benefit to charter home rule is that local legislation can be voted on in a timely fashion and doesn't depend on passage by a legislature that meets in Annapolis between January and March. Local officials will hold advertised hearings about proposed bills at which citizens will be able to give input locally to make changes before a bill is passed or defeated. If passed, the citizens can bring the bill to referendum with petitions signed by 7 percent of registered voters. In this way, government is brought closer to the governed - in my view, the best way for government to work for the people.


Charter home rule is not an unknown. Our country municipalities operate successfully under charters, as do the governments of other Maryland counties.

The proposed charter home rule document was thoughtfully prepared by nine citizens with input from individuals and groups from a wide variety of constituencies. Opposition to the adoption of the charter seems to stem from what it may not include or to a specific item such as the number of council members. However, what this document does provide is an avenue for issues and concerns that have support to be placed on the ballot in the future.

The charter is designed to allow for modification by the local citizens - the county voters manage the charter through referendum and voting on proposed changes.

As a member of the charter committee and as a former Washington County Commissioner, I believe this is a good document, and I urge you to vote "yes" for charter home rule on Feb. 12.

R. Lee Downey

Reject home rule foes' scare tactics

To the editor:

Fellow citizens of Washington County:

Do not be swayed by the "age- old scare tactics" being used by opponents of charter home rule. They claim charter home rule will increase your property taxes. This is false. The county commissioners currently have the authority to increase property and income taxes as well as the power to impose special property tax districts.

Charter gives them no more taxing authority for special tax districts than they have now. The new county council's taxing authority would be the same as that which the commissioners have today.

Over the last 10 months, I participated as a member of the charter-writing board, with several other well-diversified citizens in the development of the proposed charter. While I don't agree with every detail of the proposed charter, I overwhelmingly and enthusiastically encourage its approval.

Being an informed citizen is our civic responsibility. Vote 'yes" on Feb. 12.

Ron Bowers
County Commissioner

County doesn't need more taxing powers

To the editor:

It's time the charter board levels with the people of Washington County and told us the real truth about how home rule can increase our taxes. Over and over again they say that a new county council won't have new taxing powers. However, right in the Maryland Annotated Code is the authority for a charter county to raise new taxes by "special taxing districts." This is totally unlimited and unchecked power for any purpose the new county council should choose.

Secondly, why didn't the charter board provide at least some protection against runaway government growth? There was a proposal to cap government spending that was rejected. Even liberal Montgomery County has this important safeguard, as do four other Maryland charter counties.

When you scratch the surface a little more, it becomes increasingly obvious what's going on and the voters should pay attention. The charter board knows home rule will result in more government expenditures and doesn't trust the voters of Washington County to have a referendum on taxes. They've extolled the virtues of referendums for months, but this charter doesn't even allow for a referendum on taxes, taking away the public's voice.

We already have high enough property taxes in Washington County, Retirees living on fixed incomes have enough trouble getting by now, so why would we want to pass something that would make it easier for government to increase our tax burden? Vote "no" on charter home rule.

Dan McElrath

As written, charter has serious defects

To the editor:

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