Frederick County's Charter Vote

November 01, 1991

A special election will be held Tuesday to determine whether Frederick County should replace its current government with home rule.

Proponents of the proposed charter argue that it is needed to give local authorities legislative powers that now largely rest in Annapolis. Opponents say the charter would only create an unnecessarily expensive form of government that goes against the advice of Thomas Jefferson: "That government is best which governs least."

Frederick County, which is less than an hour's drive from both Baltimore and Washington, has been experiencing explosive growth in the past two decades. Its 1970 population of 84,927 jumped to 149,550 in 1990, and is expected to increase another 34 percent by the year 2000. Although Frederick County is still the second largest milk-producing county in a six-state Mid-Atlantic area, its character is changing. New business parks are transforming formerly rural vistas, bringing with them housing developments, particularly along Interstate 270, the increasingly congested thoroughfare that connects Frederick City with Germantown, Rockville and Washington.

Under the current form of administration, a five-member Board of County Commissioners runs day-to-day affairs. If any major laws are required, they must be passed by the General Assembly in Annapolis. The Sun thinks it is time for local elected officials in Frederick County to get more power in vital decision-making.

The proposed home-rule charter may not be a perfect document but it addresses the weaknesses of the current government system in an intelligent manner. Instead of at-large commissioners, members of the county council would be elected from five separate districts. No individual could serve on the council for more than three four-year terms. The elected county executive would be limited to two consecutive terms.

The proposed charter would bring much of Frederick County's government business home. Average people could easily follow

legislative initiatives, attend hearings and evaluate the philosophy and performance of their elected officials.

As the county keeps growing, good government will require immediacy and flexibility in local decision-making. The proposed charter would provide both. We urge Frederick County voters to deliver a resounding "yes" to the charter question on Nov. 5.

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