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Don't let the lies stifle democracy

February 09, 2008

To the editor:

I have been reading the various articles on the opinion page as well as Mail Call comments concerning charter home rule with growing amazement and consternation. I admit that I support charter home rule, but wonder why any member of either political party, or especially independents would want to cling to a system that currently responds to no voters.

It seems to me that currently, county government must go through two different and competing hurdles, with the wishes of the entire community losing out in the long run.

To begin with, commissioners have to meet with the predominantly Republican delegation to gain its approval to bring certain matters to the General Assembly. Then this minority Republican delegation must bring these issues before an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature.

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I wouldn't be surprised that some Democratic delegates might not see the value of investing too much money or interest in the Republican hinterland, especially when their own districts also need funds and attention, though I certainly wouldn't personally approve of such an attitude.

For independents, of course, they seem to have no one to turn to, and must simply hope for the best.

I am also saddened by the attacks on the League of Women Voters, to which I also belong (as do men, by the way).

The League of Women Voters exists to encourage people to vote and to assure that every vote will be counted effectively. It organizes forums for candidates to allow voters to hear the positions of all candidates in a non-partisan fashion.

It also promotes democracy. The current system in Washington County as described above doesn't satisfy my definition of democracy, since neither the voter, nor their elected officials, are directly engaged in local issues, but must move through two series of competing gatekeepers.

Since the League of Women Voters works energetically to support democracy at all levels of government, it only makes good sense that they would support charter home rule as well.

I've also heard people say they don't trust their elected officials, or that we need a system of "checks and balances." The highest form of checks and balances at the local level should be people getting involved locally in politics and, if they are unhappy with their current elected officials, actively supporting candidates they do approve of, or running for office themselves.

Each locality is only as strong as the local citizens who care enough about their government to get involved.

I urge everyone to stop listening to misrepresentations about what charter home rule would mean for Washington County, and to either read the charter itself, or to contact and discuss their concerns with the many people on the charter home rule steering committee who are actively working to bring more democracy to Washington County.

It would be a sorry day for democratic processes in Washington County, if someone's lack of support is based on misrepresentations, if not downright lies.

I urge your support and vote on Feb. 12 for adoption of charter home rule.

Pat Heck, chair

Washington County Democratic Central Committee

Member, Charter Home Rule Steering Committee

Keedysville

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