Death of Home Rule
One of the issues on the ballot in Washington County, my home territory, last Tuesday was the approval of a home rule charter. The charter proponents were funded by not completely transparent sources yet the charter was defeated by nearly 2 : 1.
I voted against it as did everyone I know in South County. Our colleague at Common Sense enumerates some very good reasons why the charter was a bad idea. I agree. Personally I viewed the charter decision through a Mel Gibson in “The Patriot” (“better one tyrant three thousand miles away than three thousand tyrants one mile away”) and Mark Twain (“no man’s life, liberty, or property is secure when the legislature is in session”) lens. To me having major county laws enacted in Annapolis in a short annual session is infinitely preferable to a county commission churning out laws out of boredom or pique (see Montgomery County).
What set me firmly against the charter, though, were the messengers. If the messenger is the message then the home rule charter was smarmy, disingenuous, condescending, and generally untrustworthy.
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I belong to a civic organization in South County and was surprised when the charter’s equivalent of its apostles to the Gentiles showed up at our monthly meeting. Our meetings usually focus on fund raising and local projects and such so I was surprised when the agenda included a presentation by two representatives of the charter committee without any representative of the arguments against the charter.
We were subjected to a laborious presentation followed by what was billed as a question and answer session but which could best be described as a blow off session.
The charter representatives presented what they said were the arguments against the charter in strawman fashion and proceeded to knock them down.
The representatives studiously answered questions that were not asked. They deflected all questions on taxing authority in a borderline dishonest manner. For instance, when some of the people in the audience asked questions about user fees, which they termed taxes, the representatives stated that the county couldn’t raise taxes.
In short, we were treated with colossal disrespect.
One of the first lessons I learned in the real world was that if you are applying for a job they will never treat you better than they do during the interview. The same is true for politicians and political causes.
To be clear here, I was never going to vote for the charter because it was a terribly flawed document. But I can’t help but believe that the advocates for the charter succeeded doing what the opponents were never able to do: create a visceral dislike it.