Wednesday, October 29, 2008

County Charter Amendments

Several people have asked me about the two obscure county charter amendments at the end of Tuesday's ballot (labeled Question A and Question B.) The short answer is that both charter amendments will improve our county's governing document and I encourage voters to vote "Yes."

In contrast to the weighty statewide ballot questions, these two county questions deal with relatively minor, insider provisions of county law. The reason they need to be on the ballot is because they seek to change language in the County's charter. Unlike the County Code which is changed through legislation, the Charter can only be amended by the voters.

  • Question A is a technical amendment that clarifies language about how a bill becomes law. The intent of the existing language is clear but the letter of the law is ambiguous. This amendment will simply clean up the language. It will not alter the balance of power in any way between the County Executive and County Council.

  • Question B follows the state's model for appointing members of the Ethics Commission. The Commission is a volunteer body with tremendous authority to restrict all sorts of government employees' actions. This amendment will increase the Commission's independence by making its appointment process less reliant upon any one branch of government.

    Currently the County Executive appoints all seven members of the Ethics Commission. The charter amendment will change this by providing for the County Council to nominate several of the members. The Executive will be required to appoint three of the Commission's seven members from the list of people nominated by the County Council.

    In no way is this amendment directed towards any individual serving on the Commission. I and the other Council members have the utmost regard for the integrity of the Commissioners. This amendment should be viewed instead as simply improving the "good government" practices of our governmental structure.
Both charter amendments have broad, bipartisan support from both the County Council and County Executive Leopold.

[Update 10/31/08:

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