Charter Review Committee SoundAs an individual member of...


September 03, 1995

Charter Review Committee Sound

As an individual member of the Charter Review Committee I want to express my personal concerns and disappointment over the recent controversy and the Aug. 8 resolution of the Harford County Council requesting the county executive to abolish the present committee and form, with the council, a committee which the council says would "more clearly represent the citizens of Harford County."

I am particularly perplexed by the reasons for abolishment cited by the council president, Joanne Parrott. In The Sun Aug. 13, Mrs. Parrott complains she is not happy with the group because there are "too many Democrats, too many lawyers and they do not represent the county geographically."

Prior to the council's Aug. 8 action, the Charter Review Committee had met for the first time, on Aug. 3.

Much of the focus of the initial discussion was on how to do an effective public outreach through a series of well-advertised public hearings to be held at various geographical locations. The objective was for the Charter Review Committee to obtain the maximum citizen input possible. The committee sought to encourage and review any and all recommendations from fellow citizens.

Through the county charter, the Harford County Council structure was established to serve as our official councilmanic representation. They ultimately are the body empowered to accept or reject all citizen recommendations pertaining to the county charter.

It would be critical that if any charter amendments were to be considered and approved by the council, that they be legally sound.

To callously dispose of a willing group of Harford County volunteers under any circumstances is not only insensitive but in this case would prove to be fiscally irresponsible. During a period such as this when concerns have been raised about the ballooning costs of council support staff doubling and legal costs are known to be exorbitant, it would only be cost-effective and prudent to the taxpayers of Harford County if the council chose to take advantage of the free legal resources offered through a volunteer committee that includes two judges, a state delegate and a number of attorneys.

As for the charge that the present charter committee is deficient in geographical representation, I believe it would be difficult for anyone reviewing this list of volunteers to find a more well-rounded demographic representation then this group.

It also appears as if the selection is broader than what Mrs. Parrott sought Oct. 7, 1987, when as a council member she introduced Resolution No. 22-87. That would have established a seven-member charter review board, which included a member of the Democratic and Republican Central Committee members, attorney, a representative appointed by the county executive; and one appointed council representative from districts A or B, C or D, or E or F (three instead of seven appointees).

The fact that there were later appointments beyond those initially called for in Mrs. Parrott's resolution of 1987 as well as those today, demonstrates that the process, like the charter, has the continuing and present potential to evolve.

While the charter empowers the county executive to set up a Charter Review Committee, it does not dictate the format of the group. Obviously Mrs. Parrott in her 1987 vision took the liberty not to restrict herself to the model or makeup of the prior and original 1971 Charter Review Committee, which only had five members and the additional support of an advisor and an attorney.

At the first meeting of the Charter Review Committee a fellow volunteer asked one of the more experienced members why it was that some counties had chosen not to go with a charter form of government.

I distinctly remember being a little surprised to hear that one of the primary reasons most often cited was the negative public perception of conflict between the legislative and executive branches, as seen in some Maryland counties, and the fear of its destructive quality.

Conflicts are regretably an inevitable part of human interaction. At the highest level disparate opinions in a two-party government structure can be productive in creating a healthy dialectic that serves the constituency in a meaningful way.

I am hopeful that the council will accept the executive's invitation to make additions to the committee, so that the real and more important process of getting down to work can begin.

Jan Stinchcomb


Don't Trap Drivers

It's the rare individual who doesn't experience a sudden and dramatic personality change when handed a uniform, badge and gun. The paraphernalia associated with police work appears to spawn a cowboy mentality and a penchant for abuse of power.

A police officer is a public servant -- no more and no less. His job is to protect and serve, not to harass and punish.

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