I get it…Nobody cared about the referendum on congressional districts. As I said in the piece, the only inside baseball people want is from an Oriole. Last week seemed to be the time everybody hit it too.
The Maryland Reporter showed that Maryland has the least compact districts in the entire nation.
And Blair Lee in the Montgomery Gazette reported that the Montgomery County DEMORATIC Central Committee was going to oppose the districts until the State Party in Annapolis stepped in and threatened to withhold $30,000 in funds so they backed down and took “No Position.”
That’s on top of good government groups such as Common Cause and the League of Women Voters opposed the districts.
Nobody can defend these maps.
On a local note though, I wanted to point out some of the questions that only Harford County voters will get to have their say on. There are a lot (although I didn’t go back to check previous Harford County ballots to compare) due to the charter review that just occurred.
Question A – Vacancy of the County Executive: To Amend the Harford County Charter by requiring the County Council to fill the position of County Executive within 30 days with a qualified voter of the same political party as the immediately preceding County Executive. In the event a vacancy is filled 90 days or more prior to the next congressional primary election, the position of County Executive will appear on that ballot. The appointed or elected County Executive shall serve for the remainder of the unexpired term.
First up is Question A. From an outsider looking in, this was an extremely embarrassing situation. The Republican County Executive leaves office early, and the Republican controlled County Council tries to put up Martin O’Malley’s deputy campaign manager to take over before narrowly losing the vote? And then the Council President who tried to engineer this takeover of Martin O’Malley’s deputy campaign manager of the County runs as the Conservative candidate for County Executive?
So a vote for Question A would require the replacement in this situation to be from the same party as the previous candidate. We do this for legislatures all the time, but it usually isn’t a requirement for executives for good reason. An executive is elected for their ability as an individual, but many times legislators are elected based on their party’s power and makeup. When it comes to Harford County, let’s say a dynamic politician that is able to get cross party support such as Jesse Bane runs for County Executive and wins, is he replaceable with Art Helton?
Question B – Post Council Employment: To Amend the Harford County Charter by allowing County Council Members after they leave office to apply for employment with the Harford County Government..
Across this country we’ve been enacting “cooling off” periods for people in government. It’s wrong for elected officials to be able to profit off of their being elected. A vote for Question B would roll back all the protections we’ve been putting in place and allow County Council members to create in the budget a job for them before they leave office. Or imagine a County Councilman who is voting the County Executive’s way and suddenly he resigns his seat and takes a high paid government job. It happend with Senator P.J. Hogan in Annapolis becaue they only ban you getting a job as a lobbyist. Good government be damned.
Question C – Eligibility for Redistricting Commission: To Amend the Harford County Charter by expanding eligibility for appointment to the Redistricting Commission for any political party with at least 15% of the total registered voters and a representative not a member of any political party already represented. .
The Democrats didn’t run a candidate for Council President and lost out on getting a seat on the redistricting committee and this would fix that. As I stated before, and touched on, redistricting is extremely important to establishing a good government, but ultimately this doesn’t matter. The redistricting committee would still be made up politically appointment people, and the map has to be approved by the very people that are holding those seats. Take the power of the maps away from those with a conflict of interest on them. So who cares if Democrats aren’t at the table, the County Council will just do whatever they want to protect their little kingdoms.
Question D – Exempt Employees: To Amend the Harford County Charter to modify the list of exempt personnel positions to be consistent with the pay and classification plan..
Can somebody chime in and tell me what this is about? I’m guessing this is just cleanup legislation because it came too soon to be from the County Council’s stupid attempt to give their Council Administrator two separate raises.
Question E – Definition of a Pending Zoning Case: To Amend the Harford County Charter by defining a pending zoning case as a current case filed and/or pending with the Zoning Hearing Examiner, County Council, Circuit Court for Harford County and/or Court of Appeals. .
Zoning. Argg…of course with the Walmart stuff, zoning is obviously important and will be front and center. Counties provide police protection, limited road work, schools and zoning. Some may view zoning as the biggest government intrusion into people’s personal rights, some people don’t want their next door neighbor being a Wal-Mart. Regardless, the County Council acts as a judicial body in their determination of zoning cases in Harford County. In this role, Council members cannot discuss zoning cases because it may taint their impartiality. Voting for this Question would allow Council members to talk about future cases, by defining what a pending case is. It is important that these decisions are made based on facts presented in open testimony and that a Council member isn’t voting a specific way because of what they are told in a back room. If you want to see how politics can influence what should be judicial decisions, look at the Howard County Council since they also serve as the liquor board.
Question F – Posting Requirements for Public Notice: To Amend the Harford County Charter by requiring public notices be posted in one newspaper widely circulated in Harford County and on an official site. .
This should be a no-brainer in the internet age. A vote for this would allow the County to post notices in one newspaper and on their website. Baby steps.
Question G – Filing Dates for Annual Budget: To Amend the Harford County Charter by allowing an additional 15 days for the budget to be submitted by the County Executive and adopted by the County Council. .
This one also is a common-sense thing. Right now the County has to submit a budget BEFORE the budget in Annapolis is passed. The County budget depends a lot on funds being remitted from the State and the County can get screwed (as the O’Malley Administration has made an art form of despite promise not to). Whether it is transportation funding, school pensions, or even “re-allocating” County taxes. A vote for this charter amendment would allow the County Executive to submit a budget roughly after it is known what Annapolis is doing.
What do you think about these questions that will be facing Harford County voters?