County should avoid tak­ing steps back­ward

Record Observer - - Opinion -

Edi­tor’s Note: The fol­low­ing ed­i­to­rial ap­peared in the Bay Times on Aug. 25, 2004, when County Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Ben Cas­sell at­tempted to change the county’s res­i­dency dis­tricts to vot­ing dis­tricts — pretty much the same is­sue vot­ers are be­ing asked to give an opin­ion on in Ques­tion A on the the bal­lot. The ar­gu­ments re­main the same, only the names have changed. Iron­i­cally, it’s Com­mis­sion Jim Mo­ran, who holds the same at-large seat as Cas­sell, who is push­ing for the change this time. The stated rea­sons for want­ing the change all seem to cen­ter on mak­ing it eas­ier for cer­tain can­di­dates to get elected and stay that way; they’re only in­ter­ested in them­selves and their power. Don’t we want them to rep­re­sent and serve us and our in­ter­ests? A vote against Ques­tion A is a vote for the peo­ple.

Queen Anne’s County vot­ers spoke clearly in fa­vor of more rep­re­sen­ta­tion when they went to the polls in Novem­ber 2000. They voted nearly two to one in fa­vor of more com­mis­sion­ers, and more than 60 per­cent wanted to see those com­mis­sion­ers elected by dis­trict. While those votes were cast in a straw poll, the sit­ting county com­mis­sion­ers heard the peo­ple and took ac­tion to ex­pand the board.

In the 2002 elec­tion, county res­i­dents fi­nally had the op­por­tu­nity to se­lect five com­mis­sion­ers. Af­ter years of be­ing gov­erned by a three-mem­ber board, two more voices were added. The com­mis­sion seats were di­vided into four res­i­dency dis­tricts to en­sure all ar­eas of the county are rep­re­sented, with one seat re­main­ing at large. Each com­mis­sioner still had to answer to all the vot­ers of Queen Anne’s County be­cause that is who elected him.

Now, Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Ben Cas­sell would take those new voices away. He would de­crease your vote not just back to the three it was pre­vi­ously, but to two. Un­der Cas­sell’s plan, or­di­nance no. 04-38, only one com­mis­sioner would answer to all the county’s vot­ers. The other four would be voted on by dis­trict res­i­dents and only rep­re­sent that dis­trict.

As it is now, Com­mis­sioner Joe Cu­pani is the board mem­ber who lives in north­ern Queen Anne’s County. He rep­re­sents the voice of the farm­ers, but he also needs to con­cern him­self with growth and sewer is­sues on Kent Is­land. Com­mis­sioner Mike Ko­val is the board mem­ber who lives on Kent Is­land. He rep­re­sents the voice of con­trolled growth, but he also needs to con­cern him­self with am­bu­lance re­sponse times in Cen­tre­ville and north.

Un­der the cur­rent plan, any voter can pick up the phone and call any com­mis­sioner and ex­pect that com­mis­sioner to care about his or her prob­lems. Un­der Cas­sell’s plan, the rep­re­sen­ta­tive from north­ern Queen Anne’s County would have no in­cen­tive to care or re­spond to prob­lems in Queen­stown, Gra­sonville or Kent Is­land. Like­wise, the com­mis­sioner from Kent Is­land wouldn’t need to re­spond to any vot­ers other than Kent Is­land. The com­mis­sion­ers from Dis­trict 2 and 3 would need only to care about their re­spec­tive dis­tricts.

The only com­mis­sioner who would need to try to re­spond to all the vot­ers would be the at-large com­mis­sioner, in­ci­den­tally the po­si­tion Cas­sell holds.

If Cas­sell’s or­di­nance passes, in­stead of five peo­ple rep­re­sent­ing you in Cen­tre­ville, you would be down to two. That sure sounds like a step in the wrong di­rec­tion for a county look­ing to the fu­ture.

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