Joe Volz: Will Frederick County charter government be for the people? -- Gazette.Net







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Abraham Lincoln offered eloquent words about a government of the people, for the people and by the people in that noble Gettysburg speech given just up the road during the Civil War.

Yet some of his actions as president belied his stated philosophy. For one thing, he threw thousands of dissenters into Fort McHenry with no regard to their habeas corpus rights. And the government seized control of the telegraph lines.

Mr. Lincoln talked a better game than he played. But God was on his side. He supported freeing the slaves — eventually.

When our charter review committee talks about giving Fredericktonians their rights, what does that actually mean?

It may be that we residents don’t know or care that much about reforming our charter and tossing out the Frederick Board of Commissioners because our county fathers and mothers believe it is the correct course of action. It has come up serveral times before and was defeated.

Former county Commissioner Lennie Thompson (R), who makes as much sense on what the people want as anyone, said in The Gazette: “The number of people who affirmatively want to know about the charter, you could put in a phone booth.”

Could be.

We are not going to have a Civil War here about charter reform.

In fact, we will be lucky if we have a huge turnout when the vote to change to the form of government takes place on Nov. 6.

People do not feel that passionate about changing the government, particularly when it means paying the new county executive $95,000 — twice what the president of the county commissioners gets now. Blaine Young, the current board president, is not running for anything next time — except governor.

Charter reformers think, misguidedly, that having a county executive means we will get more attention in Annapolis.


Our county executive invariably will be a conservative Republican, and the governor and legislature is Democratic. It’s not the job title but the political party that makes the difference.

If we wanted to have some clout in Annapolis, we would pick someone like Jan Gardner, the popular Democrat, as county executive.

Thompson contends that it is “utter nonsense” to assume a conservative Republican executive would have more influence in the state capital. Sure, county execs from Prince George’s and Montgomery counties have clout in Annapolis but they are Democrats.

Another issue about charter reform is whether all of the proposed seven county council members should be elected countywide. Right now, all five county commissioners are elected at large.

The new proposal would elect two at-large and five from districts. There are those who argue that all we will do is spawn a whole new generation of green pols with provincial interests who will not be concerned about the county as a whole.

Could be.

Anyhow, a coalition has formed to “educate” the electorate without supposedly pushing for or against charter reform.

Let’s bring Lennie back and sign on Honest Abe as his speechwriter.

Joe Volz, a former Pulitzer Prize finalist, has written for newspapers in New York and Washington. You can reach him at