March 12, 2006

Independent research led to vote

Carroll County's delegation recently decided between two plans, Option One and Option Two, in setting five commissioner districts. The path to my decision was independent and deliberate in voting for Option One.

Wanting to hear from the average voter, I conducted a survey of registered voters at two shopping centers in the Hampstead and Manchester area to find that only four out of every 10 even knew what I was talking about and most did not care how the districts were drawn. A survey of Finksburg residents, at the shopping center at the corner of Routes 91 and 140, revealed strong sentiment about being divided. In all, I surveyed 53 people, three more than came out to the districting meetings. I let the people speak in my district.

After consulting districting committee members Joe Getty and Janet Jump, who voted for opposite options, I made my decision for the reasons enumerated below. An unelected districting committee was formed to make recommendations as one piece of the process; delegation members, elected by the people, have the responsibility to use their judgment to make the final decision and put it into law.

Constituents in unincorporated Finksburg deserve to be united into one district to gain a local elected spokesman. Eldersburg and Sykesville are essentially the same town as they share the same zip code and post office. They should remain together as they will under Option One.

Hampstead and Manchester each already have a mayor and town council who are elected to speak for them. Having two commissioner voices to speak up for this northern area of District 5A will be most valuable when it comes time to build the proposed second high school.

Both Option One and Option Two meet the eight legal criteria and were deemed equal plans for community review by the districting committee. While the committee that studied this issue did a Herculean job to involve voters, it appears that citizen apathy prevailed.

Public hearings held by the delegation brought out many of the same activists or future commissioner candidates who stated that they had been at many of the districting committee meetings. Letters from all the town mayors were alike, which is not surprising since most are Democrats, save the recently converted Haven Shoemaker.

My vote regarding district lines has been made after study of districting committee reports, review of e-mails, letters and calls, public hearings, survey of the opinions of voters in District 5A and discussion with committee members of opposing views.

When I voted against the transfer tax, after study and investigation of the three county tax increases made since 2003 and seeing evidence of heavy cash inflows from increased home assessments and no constant yield kept, my decision against the tax was vindicated by the now $25 million surplus beyond the expansion in the 2006 budget of approximately $51.9 million. Hopefully, my homework on the districting issue will result in the correct decision as my research did with regard to the transfer tax. If not, it can be changed at the new census in four years.

Del. Tanya Shewell

District 5A

Document requests unfilled

In the last week many newspapers printed a story covering a lawsuit I filed on March 3, 2006 in Anne Arundel Circuit Court against Delegate Tanya Shewell for her failure to comply with the Maryland Public Information Act. I would like to take this opportunity to fully explain the timeline of the request I made of Ms. Shewell regarding information she had collected during her survey of citizens regarding the redistricting of Carroll County.

On Dec. 22, 2005 I had hand delivered to Delegate Shewell's office in Annapolis a written request for information regarding the survey she conducted. On Jan. 26, 2006 I called the delegate's office seeking to determine when I might expect a response to my Dec. 22nd request and was told that her office gets many letters and while the woman had a recollection of my request, she asked for another copy of the letter. I immediately faxed a copy of the original request to Ms. Shewell's office and asked that the delegate please call me.

On Feb. 17, 2006 I went to Ms. Shewell's office in an attempt to collect the documents that I had requested. The legislative assistant went back to tell Ms. Shewell that I was there and what I had requested. She returned, closing Ms. Shewell's office door, and informed me that Ms. Shewell would not see me and again asked if I would like to leave a message, which I did.

At this point I drafted another written request for the documents that Ms. Shewell had and faxed it to her office. This letter asked for a response by Feb. 23, 2006, 2 months after the original request. As of the date of this letter I have still not received a response to my request or even the courtesy of a phone call informing me that the process had begun to compile the information.

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