The charter government, beginning in 2014, instituted a new system of governance in Frederick. The concept has a lot of potential, but there are serious challenges. I’m a fan of having council districts with defined constituencies. This should result in better representation of our communities in Frederick. However, our current system suffers from some serious deficiencies. Like any new system of governance, we need to look at how to improve these institutions for the future.
Within the current system, the County Executive is too strong. This criticism has nothing to do with the party in power. However, to ensure truly responsive and representative government for communities like Brunswick, Jefferson and Middletown, we need a stronger County Council: one that can be a check against the executive, provide constituent services and truly engage in the budget as an equal power center.
Instead, our Council tends to be too dominated by the Executive. Too often, the Council has served as merely a rubber stamp for the Executive’s agenda. The result has been constant annual spending hikes with tax increases to boot.
With a new council in place, following the 2018 elections, we have the opportunity to amend the charter, adjust practices and improve how the government operates. According to Article 7 of the Charter (and Article XI-A of the Maryland Constitution), there are mechanisms in place to do so.
If elected, I will advocate for serious reform of the Charter to ensure we’re providing the best results for our citizens. Some of these are suggestions for Charter reform, others can be done through improved operations.
- We need a Council that can engage in the budget by voting on changes to budgetary line items and increase funding, if necessary.
- Council members should be active in constituent relations as advocates for their communities.
- Moreover, we need to find ways to encourage citizens to engage in government through participatory approaches and transparent practices. Let’s bring citizens to local government and local government to the citizens.
- Citizens should be able to easily track the results of government projects so they can see not only where their tax dollars are being sent, but also if those tax dollars are producing results.
- Policymaking requires a multi-stakeholder approach, including citizens, community leaders, civic groups, business leaders and industry experts, to create a long-term strategy to smart growth in our county.
- And maybe most importantly, we need to cut the partisanship and posturing that has poisoned our national politics and is corrupting even local governance here in Frederick.
Of course, there are more steps that can be taken. I’ve written this not to be a product of political artillery, but rather as a part of a conversation. Only by working together can we foster opportunities and build a better path forward for the people of Frederick.