Charter amendments shouldn’t be controversial

joe_hollowayAs was discussed in an op-ed by County Executive Bob Culver in last week’s Salisbury Independent, voters will have a chance to decide on amending the County Charter.

It appears that the County Council’s decision to place these amendments on the ballot has upset the county executive. We can’t speak for the entire council, but we feel safe in saying that was certainly not our intention.

We had discussed these amendments at council meetings attended by the executive. He never voiced any concern about the process at the time. If he would have desired some change in the process, we could have accommodated him if he had spoken up. He did have some input, writing us in July and suggesting an amendment to be placed on the ballot. We were more than happy to do so.

That is why it is surprising to read the attacks on the process we took to place these amendments on the ballot. Contrary to what the executive claims, the council worked in the open and complied with the charter. Every council member supported placing them on the ballot.

Two council members served on the charter review committee that the executive praises in his op-ed. This committee proposed numerous charter changes in 2012. Contrary to the executive’s claim, not all of these amendments were placed on the ballot at the time. In fact, four of this year’s amendments came from the charter review committee’s work.

The other amendments arose from the council observing the day-to-day functioning of the government and seeing the need to tweak the charter.

For instance, the charter currently allows 30 days to confirm executive appointments. Various circumstances have shown that this 30-day window may, at times, be insufficient to give fair consideration to these nominees. So we proposed changing the time limit to 45 days. It’s difficult to see why this is controversial.

Another amendment would codify the current budget practice of placing the money cut by the council from the budget into the undesignated fund balance. The charter is currently silent on where this money can go, since the council cannot add spending in any area of the budget. Right now, the budget process involving the executive and the council works well, and we always agree on where to place it. However, we need to think about what will happen if the process breaks down. Planning for the worst case scenario is a prudent thing to do.

Council members are more than happy to discuss the substance of these amendments. We placed information on our county website about them. We’ve devoted time at council meetings to explain them. Individual council members are on social media and in the press talking about them. The idea that we are trying to quietly sneak them through is absurd.

As council members, we have faith in the voters of Wicomico County to be able to understand these amendments. We think that voters can make up their minds on whether they are good or bad.

We aren’t taking it upon ourselves to tell people how to vote. We don’t presume that we are wiser than the voters and must instruct them in the voting booth. That’s a disservice to the process and, frankly, and an insult to the residents of Wicomico County.

The voters, not the politicians, are ultimately in charge of changing Wicomico County’s charter. We simply ask that you study these amendments and then make up your own minds.

Marc Kilmer represents District 2 and Joe Holloway represents District 5 on the Wicomico County Council.

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