2016 Election: two Howard County Charter Amendments on ballot

Besides BOE election, there are two very important votes for HoCo residents on this year’s ballot. There are two charter amendments to vote. While Amendment 1 – the citizen election fund system has some noise in the media, amendment 2 seems to have very few publicity at all.

I had a phone interview with Chinese Newspaper A&C Business News discussing two Howard County charter amendments.  Thank reporter Joy Zhou for putting the interview into an article. https://chaowu.org/2016/10/23/my-interview-on-two-hoco-charter-amendments/

Charter Amendment

Citizens’ Election Fund System

Amending the Howard County Charter to require the County Council to pass a law establishing a Citizens’ Election Fund System that includes public funding for the campaigns of candidates for county executive or county council, or both. The express legislative purposes for the Amendment include that any System to be proposed for adoption by the Council would promote and encourage broader access to elective office in Howard County, enable County citizens to run for office on the strength of their ideas, and provide for small donations by citizens and matching public funds. The Council law must allow candidates to choose whether to participate in the System, and must establish a commission of County residents to determine annually the amount of County funding required to fully fund the System for the full election cycle for the ensuing fiscal year. The County Executive’s proposed annual budget must include the required amount, but if the Executive does not include that amount, the Council can add the required amount to the proposed budget. The Executive’s proposed annual budget does not have to include the required amount if funds are transferred from the “rainy day fund” to the current expense budget during the current fiscal year, or the Executive certifies that the County’s fiscal condition makes it imprudent to include the required amount, and the Council approves the certification by a two-thirds vote. Unspent money in the Citizens’ Election Fund at the end of the fiscal year would not lapse into the County treasury.

My take:

  1. Incumbent with big money at hand does not like this.
  2. People with smaller network, less big company friends like this.
  3. People who do not want public money into politics, or smaller government do not like this.
  4. People who want more political engagement like this.
  5. It seems in general Democrats love this and Republicans do not like this.
  6. There is a big problem with this. All candidates should join this and it should not be optional. By setting it optional, it will create a new loophole and does not save money in the longer term at all. Hopefully this will be addressed in the future. At least this is a good start.
  7. I support this.

QUESTION B, Charter Amendment

Changes to Budgetary and Fiscal Procedures

Amending the Howard County Charter to require that the County’s annual budget include a contingency reserve in the current expense budget and a contingency reserve capital project in the capital budget. Any appropriation for the contingency reserve in the current expense budget could not be greater than 3% of the amount of money in the general fund. The County Council’s budget authority would be expanded by allowing the Council to increase appropriations in the annual County budget for the contingency reserve and the contingency reserve capital project required by this proposed Charter amendment, and for the retiree obligations trust. The County Executive’s budget authority would be decreased by requiring, instead of allowing, the Executive to include a contingency reserve in the current expense budget and a contingency reserve capital project in the capital budget.

My take:

  1. It looks like a power grab. The county council want to grab more power from the county executive.
  2. In general the county council is diverse such that sometimes in order to appeal to a narrow special interest, it will spend unnecessary money.
  3. The strange part is that there is very few discussion on the second amendment either by the council, the county executive, the media or the citizen.
  4. I do not support this. 

Grab a picture from one of my favorite news website: http://marylandreporter.com/2016/10/05/public-funding-of-county-campaigns-on-the-howard-ballot/

Current County Council members Jen Terrasa and Jon Weinstein supported Amendment A


2 thoughts on “2016 Election: two Howard County Charter Amendments on ballot

  1. Pingback: My article on local election with over 3000 readers | Dr. Chao Wu

  2. DividedStatesOfAmer (@DivStatesOfAmer)

    Citizen’s Election Fund System:

    My take from ” that includes public funding for the campaigns of candidates for county executive or county council, or both”: Why do we need government to further facilitate campaigns? We need less government in the election process, not more. At this point, the amendment states it would “match” funds, create committees and allow for more expenditures. It can also move rainy day funds to pay for elections. What this boils down to is more HOCO taxpayer dollars involuntarily placed into a a democratic voting system – no one should want. Against.

    Changes to Budgetary and Fiscal Procedures:

    Agree, vote Against. As we have seen in the State of Maryland and other counties, “reserve” or “contingency” pots are quite often abused and used for inappropriate purposes. This will increase the overall budget to accommodate…or invariably cut services we already have to make up the 3%.

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