Government debate

Former Councilman Kirby Delauter introduces himself at the start of a forum to debate the merits of charter and commissioner forms of government. Also taking part in the debate were, seated left to right, Montgomery County resident Robin Ficker, former Carroll County Commissioner Richard Rothschild and Councilman Kai Hagen.

A Frederick County councilman spent much of a debate Monday night outlining some of the pros of charter government, while a former councilman and two other panelists outlined why a commissioner style was more effective for its citizens.

Councilman Kai Hagen (D), former Councilman Kirby Delauter (R), former Carroll County Commissioner Richard Rothschild and Montgomery County resident Robin Ficker debated those forms of local government in “You Decide 2020,” hosted by the Frederick County Conservative Club at the Red Horse Steak House in Frederick.

In his opening remarks, Hagen said he closely followed the charter writing process years ago, and opposed it then because he had concerns about gerrymandering in future council districts and how county executive vacancies were filled, among other issues.

But then, and at several points in the debate, Hagen said that no matter what form of government is used, whoever is elected is going to drive policy and how the county is run. He added that the overall qualify of life and government service countywide have remained strong.

In the charter form of government, a County Council serves as the legislative branch, while the county executive runs the day-to-day operations of the county and serves in an administrative role. In a commissioner form of government, commissioners serve as both the legislative and administrative body of the government.

Delauter, in his opening remarks, said he preferred a commissioner form of government because it allowed better constituent service and was more open.

“I saw a lot of decisions and things happening behind closed doors with no [meeting] minutes, no documentation,” Delauter said of his time as a councilman.

“[With] five commissioners, you have a far less chance of having a problem,” he added.

One of the ancillary themes of Monday night’s debate was the Conservative Club’s effort to get enough signatures from county residents to send a ballot initiative to the County Council to return to a commissioner form of government.

The club needs to gather 10,000 valid signatures by late July to get the ballot language drafted. Fred Propheter, president of the conservative club, said they had gathered well over 1,000 signatures as of Monday.

Ficker, who said he had led several efforts to get charter amendments and ballot issues placed on ballots in Montgomery County elections, urged those in attendance and across the county to sign the petition, to at least have an open debate about charter and commissioner forms of government this year.

“The power of the charter amendment is there,” Ficker said. “Collect the signatures, stop the chitchat, start the skit skat.”

In the debate Monday, Hagen, Delauter, Rothschild and Ficker covered several aspects of local government, including:

  • Oversight of the county executive between elections.
  • How has charter government, if at all, benefited its citizens.
  • How constituent services work in both charter and commissioner government.
  • How both styles interact with state government in Annapolis.
  • The size of government in both forms of government.

In the debate, Rothschild said charter government gives too much power to the executive branch, and that a commissioner form of government prevents corruption by each commissioner serving as a check on the others.

“A form of government that diffuses power is a little less likely [one] that will become the gears that grind us down,” he said of commissioner government.

No matter what happens, Ficker said it’s important for residents to sign the petition so that people can debate the proper form of local government, which will lead to a better product for county residents.

“Discussing your form of government is an all-American form of thing to do, and making sure people exercise their franchise,” he said. “When you put it on the ballot, you’re forced to have the discussion.”

Follow Steve Bohnel on Twitter: @Steve_Bohnel.

Steve Bohnel is the county government reporter for the Frederick News-Post. He can be reached at sbohnel@newspost.com. He graduated from Temple University, with a journalism degree in May 2017, and is a die-hard Everton F.C. fan.

(25) comments

threecents

Sorry, I couldn't see past the chip on Kirby's shoulder.

hgiii123

The push for Charter government was pushed by Republicans, including Ken Coffee and Rocky MacIntosh, among others, with the thinking/hope being that Ba'lane would be the County Exec (CE). Now that that didn't happen, and the county has and continues to lean "blue," they don't like what they pushed for any longer, and want a return to the "good ole' days, run by good 'ole boys in the back room." Those days are past. And who in the world would ever want a return of Kirby, Bill S., or Tony Chmelick, not to mention Ba'lane? We are finally moving forward again in a respectful, informed, professional and collaborative fashion. Compare and contrast today's Council meetings with those of the past when the clowns were present! Need I say more?

gabrielshorn2013

Is there anything wrong, or not working, with our current Council/County Executive form of governance? It seems to be working very well, and without the shenanigans that (*) refers to. The council's job, as the legislative branch, is to write and pass laws. Lobbying? Of course there is lobbying and trying to persuade your opponents to see your argument, and come over. Is that wrong? No! Maybe there should be even more of it. The nonsense of the previous Commission is gone, thank goodness.

phydeaux994

AMEN!! 👍

threecents

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]Gabe

Jleftwich

I'm not sure what is meant by "better constituent service" in a commissioner form of gov't. This isn't Mayberry in the 1950s. When I have an issue with something, I know what government department to direct my concern to (i.e., it can be found online). And whenever I've reached out to councilmember(s), I get a response.

Let's be real, Kirby, et. al. would not be spearheading this effort if Blaine were in the CE seat.

KellyAlzan

Kirbie has a passion for politics. And that’s fine. However, his former affiliation with Ba’lane Young has made the people of the Frederick county dislike Kirbie. Along with kirbies behavior and actions. He wants so bad to be involved with the county politics, but the people are saying NO. Kirbie is so upset that Jan has the CE seat, so much so, that she is deep in his mind, and he will take it to his grave.

To stay in politics, you have to be diplomatic at all times to everyone. Remember how Kirbie treated David Gray? You can’t do things that trigger people to dislike you. Kirbie is and was his own worst enemy.

Furthermore, Frederick county has become more and more blue and is becoming even more’r blue with every new dwelling that is built. Kirbie and Ba’lane turned the county blue. The people of Frederick county will never vote to revert back to commissioners. Not gonna happen.

KellyAlzan

I can see where Kirbie is coming from.

And I have no doubt there is lobbying going on amongst council members. But it also went on with commissioners, too.

I have no doubt that Kye successfully lobbied Steve McKay to support the balloon ban. I say this because Steve was quoted in the FNP as not being in favor of the balloon ban. Steve has always displayed a very practical mindset. Steve is the type of

man who I believe has the capability of reading kye’s proposal for the balloon ban and instantly picking up that such a ban is non-enforceable and a waste of time and energy. I know Steve is / was able to see this.

And then he voted in support of the balloon ban.

This tells me that there was definitely lobbying going on.

A feed weeks ago I was in an unnamed permit office (not Frederick) and a county commissioner and a county planner were there at the counter discussing a proposed housing development. And several times the commissioner said “If we hit it from this approach,

I believe I can successfully lobby the others to support this, but if we hit it from this other approach, I’m not even going to try to get their support”.

Yes, the lobbying goes on. And I believe strongly that’s how the silly balloon ban passed.

gabrielshorn2013

Could it have possibly passed because it was the right thing to do plumbum? So right that states up and down the eastern seaboard are following suit? Look it up.

threecents

That's "Sheriff Kelly" to you.

gabrielshorn2013

Yes, but to us she will always be our "lead commenter", our "plumbum diurnarius" 🥰

stjohn42

Well, looks like Rothschild actually said that, but the point about Blaine remains.

stjohn42

I find it amusing that Kirby is asserting that the Board of Commissioners would serve as a check on corruption. It is a pity they could not get Blaine up there to say that for peak irony.

KellyAlzan

Yes, the irony!

richardlyons

[lol] About time for another Blaine LTE.

KellyAlzan

I was thinking that last night! Any day now. Cant wait!

public-redux

Is * ever going to explain the why of his assertions? Why is constituent service better with 5 commissioners rather than 7 council members?

Reader1954

why is that jerk Ficker there? Whatever he is for you better vote against

DickD

So, the one that we cannot name, Kirby, wants to go back to a Commissioner. Why? We aren't going to vote for you or Blaine.

FrederickFan

Charter has been a big success. Frederick County now has strong, competent and honest leadership. No one wants to go backward but the good ol boys. We don't need the corruption and embarrassment of the likes of Kirby.

richardlyons

[thumbup]

stjohn42

[thumbup]

gabrielshorn2013

[thumbup]

That Guy Garcon

Hmmm... When all the commissioners are friends and can all use each other to get kickbacks, incentives and the things they want approved, isn't it kind of the same as having one person making the decisions? I think Mr. Delauter still has a chip on his shoulder from not coming close to being county executive and is hoping this is his out to get back in some sort of power. What did the kitty say? Tough but the milks all gone?

Frayou

I thought we had this debate prior to approval?

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