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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

"At-Large" Council Best Option For Charter

George Wenschhof

The charter writing board, appointed by Frederick Board of County Commissioners (BOCC), has spent considerable time receiving input from experts and the public. They are now wrapping up their work composing the governing document which voters will weigh in on when they go to the polls on November 6.

The long awaited change to a charter form of government for the county is similar to what has been in use in The City of Frederick, where voters elect the Mayor as the administrator and the board of aldermen as the legislature. 

There are many important decisions on various components of the document for the charter writing board to consider, including the level of authority vested with the county executive and the appropriate balance of power specified for the county council.

Determining how the council is elected, is an area where differences of opinion are expected, as different options exist. In addition to the number of council members, options include a council made up of representatives elected by; districts, all at-large, or a hybrid of districts and at-large.  

The hybrid option of a combination of council members elected by districts and several elected at-large is often the path chosen as it is an intended compromise.

Electing a council member by district has appeal as it would seemingly guarantee geographical areas would be represented on the council.

However, a council elected by districts leads some to express concern the overall interests of the county would not be represented.

Hence, the formation of the hybrid council of members elected by districts and several elected at-large is often the result.

Unfortunately, a hybrid council can create more problems than it solves.

Council members required to run different "type" of races at substantially different levels of  expense, along with a council member being able to say he/she represents the whole county versus a council member who represents one district could divide council members and not provide the balance one would expect to result.

Election by district also opens up the messy discussion on how they would be drawn (equity in party registration), by whom and how often they will be updated.

In regard to the election of the council and to help ensure a smooth transition from the current BOCC, the charter writing board should keep it simple, smart; with all council members elected at large.


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1 comment:

Rocky Mackintosh said...

Thank you for posting your comments, George.

The topic of Council Districts vs At-Large ... or a blend of both, as well as the number of council members for Frederick County's Charter Government is very important for voters to understand.

This Charter Board will finalize its work over the next 30 to 45 days.

The public seems to focusing in on the effort that our group has been working away at for the last 15 months.

I wrote a piece on this last November ( ... the Charter Board welcomes comments and is still open to making revisions based upon that feedback.

Rocky Mackintosh
member of the Frederick County Charter Board