Why We're Against Question D
There are many reasons to Vote No. Take your pick. A self-serving Charter Amendment? Sneaking it onto the Ballot? Hiding the Question among the bond questions? Ignoring the Will of the People? Cost to taxpayers? Collaborating with Special Interests?
However, a good starting point is that Prince George’s County Citizens Want Term Limits. In 1992, voters of Prince George’s County approved a citizen-driven Charter Amendment to limit the County Council and Executive to two terms in office. The County government orchestrated a substantial effort to undermine the citizens, but the term limit amendment passed.
After the 1994 election, 7 of the 9 Council members were new, and citizens felt that they were being listened to. But this feeling did not last long, and by 2000, the “new” Council believed that the term limits that had brought them the opportunity to run for an open seat had outlived their purpose and should be repealed. Since 1994, our elected politicians have repeatedly sought to overturn term limits, and voters have repeatedly upheld it each time, most recently as Question J in 2014. Choosing to ignore and circumvent The Will of the People once again, the current Council members have enacted legislation, and with no advance notice and limited public participation, to minimize awareness and opposition.
As concerned citizens, opposed to abuse of governmental authority, we are seeking to inform voters so that they understand the complete picture. When it comes to overturning the will of the People, our County government uses all of its powers and enlists special interests and other politicians to drown out opposition voices. The County Council started pulling in special interest support immediately after enacting CB-40-2016 in July, and we expect a flood of special interest money to distort the issues.
Dilutes Power of the individual District Council members. Currently, each Council member has a 1/9 vote (11.11%). Adding two At-Large seats reduces the power of each District member to 1/11 (9.1%), about a 20% reduction in voting power.
District members are most responsive to local needs. Each citizen theoretically gets two more representatives, but County-wide officials do not have time or resources to address local needs. District members, by their nature, are compelled to tend to the needs of their constituents. There is no evidence that this has prevented Council members from addressing County-wide issues. The problem has not been that Council members represent Districts of over 90,000 residents each. The problem has been that too many Council members already are beholden to special interests and do what is in their own political interests instead of the public interest.
At-Large members will interfere in District zoning cases to help Developer contributors. We already have problems with some District members putting Developers before their constituents, and we have some problems with members interfering in other Districts to give favored Developers what they want instead of listening to the local community concerns. These problems will be exacerbated when At-Large members with no ties to local communities do the bidding of the interests that got them elected.
Weakens Council versus County Executive. First, in Prince George’s County, the Council is generally weak compared to the County Executive because of the powers assigned by the Charter, which the Executive uses to get at least five Council members under his thumb. The 2003-2010 Council lined up 6 members to form a veto proof majority (2/3) to balance power with Jack Johnson. If Question D passes, a veto override will take 8 of 11 votes (72.3%). Thus, in negotiations with the Executive over controversial policies, the Council will be unlikely stand up to the Executive. This also means that the Council will be less able to perform oversight of administration agencies.