County should avoid taking steps backward
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.