We can govern ourselves

vote for home rule Feb. 12

February 11, 2008

Washington County residents should vote to approve the home rule charter on Tuesday, Feb. 12.

It's time we took control of our own destiny, and not leave it in the hands of lawmakers from Montgomery County, Baltimore City or the Eastern Shore.

The proposed charter was written by a group of local citizens who spent months looking at what other counties have done.

They held hearings, spoke to every group that would listen and made some changes in response to public comment.

The charter-writers crafted a document that will give county government and citizens more power over local issues.

It adds two members to the county board, increasing the chances that someone from the southern or western party of the county could be elected.


The charter will also allow county government to pass laws without regard to whether or not the Maryland General Assembly is in session.

And under charter, there won't be any last-day-of-session midnight changes to local legislation.

Instead, the county council would have to publish information about proposed laws, then hold a public hearing on them.

If the county council passed a law citizens didn't like, they could petition it to referendum.

If times change and the county government needs to change with them, citizens can amend the charter.

And as Jeanne Singer, who chaired the charter board, has said, it will be a whole lot easier to amend the charter than it would be to start from scratch.

Some citizens oppose the charter because it is not a perfect document. Neither is the commissioner form of government, but unlike the commissioner system, charter would make it much easier for citizens to make changes.

Of course, the best restraint on elected officials' bad behavior is an informed citizenry that pays attention to the issues and votes based on performance, rather than on the basis of name recognition or some other irrelevant factor.

Keeping the current commissioner system will mean that citizens won't have a chance to change how they're governed or force a new local law to referendum.

Keeping the current system will mean that when the commissioners want laws to forbid parking of tractor-trailers on public roadways or to require that residents maintain sidewalks near their properties, they'll have to go to Annapolis and have it approved or rejected by the General Assembly.

Does it make sense to give someone on the Eastern Shore or Montgomery County a say on a local sidewalk ordinance?

We say "no." And we believe that the residents of Washington County would be better served by charter home rule government. We urge those who go to the polls on Tuesday to vote "yes" on charter.

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