Pre­serve good gov­er­nance; vote against Ques­tion A

Record Observer - - Opinion -

By now, most peo­ple in Queen Anne’s County have prob­a­bly heard about the “Straw Poll” con­cern­ing dis­trict vot­ing which will ap­pear on the lo­cal bal­lot for the up­com­ing elec­tion.

Although dis­guised as an ef­fort to give peo­ple a greater voice, in re­al­ity vot­ing by dis­trict erodes the demo­cratic process by limiting cit­i­zen votes to two County Com­mis­sion­ers in­stead of five.

We’ve been down this road be­fore. Back in 2004, dis­graced Com­mis­sioner Ben Cas­sell at­tempted the same pro­gram to take away cit­i­zen votes. The Bay Times wrote a well rea­soned ed­i­to­rial on why dis­trict vot­ing was not in the cit­i­zen in­ter­est, and prop­erly called it “a step back­wards.”

Much like 2004, the “vot­ing by dis­trict” scheme is be­ing pushed by de­vel­op­ers and real es­tate in­ter­ests who were un­suc­cess­ful in get­ting “their” can­di­dates elected in 2014. In­stead, four of the five elected Com­mis­sion­ers fi­nanced their own cam­paigns and, there­fore, were not be­holden to the de­vel­oper/real es­tate groups. So, if you’re a de­vel­oper, the fastest way to cor­rect a “prob­lem” that doesn’t ex­ist for 99 per­cent of Queen Anne’s County cit­i­zens, is to take away the PEO­PLE’s voice by tak­ing away their votes.

The “vot­ing by dis­trict” ef­fort is be­ing led by de­vel­op­er­sup­ported Com­mis­sioner (Jim) Moran, (who re­ceived tens of thou­sands of dol­lars in spe­cial in­ter­est de­vel­oper money dur­ing the last elec­tion cam­paign – more than any other can­di­date), so it’s no sur­prise where his allegiance rests. Com­mis­sioner Moran is sim­ply sup­port­ing his sup­port­ers who are in­tent on paving over Queen Anne’s County, plas­ter­ing our small towns with new hous­ing de­vel­op­ments, and mak­ing all this hap­pen with the ap­proval of those Town and County Com­mis­sion­ers whom they have in their pock­ets.

The cur­rent sys­tem of al­low­ing ALL cit­i­zens to vote for ALL Com­mis­sion­ers is good democ­racy and good gov­er­nance be­cause it pro­vides the proper checks and bal­ances against bad pol­icy be­ing pushed in one dis­trict over an­other. Dis­trict vot­ing on the other hand car­ries sub­stan­tial risks be­cause of the po­ten­tial to have Com­mis­sion­ers trad­ing votes for self-in­ter­ested pro­jects in­stead of be­ing re­spon­si­ble to the greater in­ter­ests of ALL cit­i­zens whom they serve.

Pre­serve good gov­er­nance and democ­racy by vot­ing AGAINST dis­trict vot­ing in Queen Anne’s County.

Milling­ton too large to have ev­ery­body di­rectly an­swer­able to all vot­ers. Hence, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive sys­tem is nec­es­sary to insure that things ac­tu­ally get done. At the County and Mu­nic­i­pal level, is­sues are more lo­cal and af­fect peo­ple through­out the county in most cases and not just those in a given dis­trict. For this rea­son all the com­mis­sion­ers should be ac­count­able to all the vot­ers in­stead of just a few.

“Back Room Deals” can and do oc­cur at the State and Fed­eral level all the time and are usu­ally dealt with by both pro­fes­sional and cit­i­zen lob­by­ists. Why would we want to open our­selves to the ex­pense of this type of sys­tem at the county level. I, my­self, am a “grass roots” lob­by­ist for sev­eral non­profit groups, so I have first hand knowl­edge of how this sys­tem works.

Cur­rently, we have what I feel is a good group of Com­mis­sion­ers who are ap­proach­able by any­one in the county re­gard­less of what dis­trict you might live in. As a wise old man once told me, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Our cur­rent sys­tem is work­ing well, so I urge all vot­ers in Queen Anne’s County to vote NO on ques­tion A on Novem­ber 8th.

Centreville life.

The bal­lot is­sue known as “STRAW POLL BAL­LOT QUES­TION A” pro­poses that QA County vot­ers change the way they vote for Com­mis­sion­ers from the cur­rent sys­tem where all vot­ers vote for all Com­mis­sion­ers (but 4 have to re­side in their home dis­trict) to a sys­tem where vot­ers will vote for only the Com­mis­sioner in their home dis­trict plus one Com­mis­sioner at Large. Thus a voter could only vote for 2 Com­mis­sion­ers, whereas now each of us can vote for all 5.

I think this has all kinds of neg­a­tive im­pli­ca­tions. It is crit­i­cal for us to un­der­stand that our Com­mis­sion­ers ex­er­cise both leg­isla­tive and ex­ec­u­tive pow­ers in QA County. (There are no checks and bal­ances be­tween our leg­isla­tive and ex­ec­u­tive branches). The Com­mis­sion­ers’ pow­ers in­clude set­ting tax rates, con­trol­ling all County Staff, County ser­vices, County in­fra­struc­ture, Board ap­point­ments, and ul­ti­mately all County gov­ern­ment de­ci­sions. Why would any of us want to re­duce our abil­ity to hold our elected gov­ern­ment lead­ers ac­count­able? But that’s what this pro­posal will do if passed and adopted by the Com­mis­sion­ers.

I do not be­lieve this is a par­ti­san is­sue, but QA party lead­ers have taken op­pos­ing views. It’s in­ter­est­ing that the QA Coun­cil of Gov­ern­ments (the in­de­pen­dent mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties/ towns) came up with the pro­posal; the Demo­cratic Cen­tral Com­mit­tee sup­ports it, as do some ma­jor in­flu­en­tial de­vel­op­ers! The QA Repub­li­can Cen­tral Com­mit­tee is strongly against it, as are a num­ber of Kent Is­land cit­i­zens and other cit­i­zens from around the County. If you live out­side of a mu­nic­i­pal­ity, es­pe­cially if you have Growth Ar­eas in your dis­trict, you stand to lose big with this pro­posal. You could have the ma­jor­ity of Com­mis­sion­ers (3) mak­ing crit­i­cal de­ci­sions about you and your dis­trict, and you could never vote them in or out. They would never have to be ac­count­able to you and you could never hold them ac­count­able! Think about that.

This is not what democ­racy is about. It would be a ma­jor step back­wards for the cit­i­zens of Queen’s County. Vote AGAINST Bal­lot Ques­tion A. Pro­tect your right to hold all of your elected lead­ers ac­count­able.

Ch­ester

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