The County Council sent a letter this week to Joyce Starks, chairman of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, urging the commissioners to immediately begin the process of selecting a new general manager for the regional water and sewer utility.
WSSC has been in turmoil since the six-member board tried to oust General Manager John R. Griffin and his deputy, P. Michael Errico, by a 4 to 2 vote on Feb. 18. The firing was overturned on a technicality, and the board has since been negotiating a buyout of Griffin's and Errico's contracts. Griffin's runs through October 2005.
In the letter, the council said it was "deeply concerned about the management crisis facing the WSSC and the potential negative impact this situation may have on your 1.6 million customers."
The council recommends that the commission, within the next two to three months, hire a national search firm; set the qualifications for the position; conduct an open application process; and submit a short list of candidates for final selection.
County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) has been pushing to have Henry Arrington, his former campaign chairman, take over the agency on a temporary basis. Both the Prince George's and Montgomery County councils oppose the move.
"We have outlined a workable approach to providing permanent stability to the agency," the letter reads. "We trust you share our commitment to act in the best interests of your customers and our constituents. We urge you to demonstrate that commitment by your willingness to hire a national search firm without delay.
Vice Chairman Samuel H. Dean (D-Mitchellville) and David Harrington (D-Bladensburg), chairman of the council's Transportation, Housing and Environment committee, sent a copy of the letter to Johnson, Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) and Montgomery Council President Steven A. Silverman (D-At Large).
Council Blocks Hendershot
As expected, the County Council voted Friday to add charter amendments to the November ballot that would prohibit council member Thomas R. Hendershot (D-New Carrollton) from running for an at-large seat on the council in 2006 and allow it to maintain the council's power to select a chairman. The amendments will appear on the ballot if a referendum Hendershot is pushing is successful.
To the chagrin of his colleagues, Hendershot floated the idea of creating two at-large seats earlier this year. The idea was one of the recommendations made (but never implemented) by a charter review commission set up by the county several years ago.
CASA to the Rescue
Thanks to Natali Fani, an advocate with CASA of Maryland Inc., potential voters in Prince George's County have a few extra days to register to vote in the upcoming special election to fill the District 2 seat on the County Council.
Fani recently noticed that the county had set Aug. 9 as the final date for voters to register.
Her first thought was that it seemed like an awfully quick turnaround for people like her who were pushing for an increase in voter participation.
Come to find out, she was right.
During its meeting on July 28, the County Council scheduled the special election for Sept. 14. The County Board of Elections then set the Aug. 9 cutoff date for registering.
That would only give residents less than two weeks to register. State law allows registration up to 21 days before an election.
Officials from CASA, which is running a voter registration drive called, "Tu Voto es Tu Voz" (Your Vote is Your Voice), called the state Board of Elections to intervene.
The state then added two weeks to the county's closing date. Residents who meet eligibility requirements have until Aug. 24 to register.
"It's really the time we need to do the voter registration that we want to do," said Kim Propeack of CASA. "There was no way we would have been able to achieve that and we now have two additional weekends to go out to neighborhoods and Metro stations."
CASA started "Tu Voto es Tu Voz" in response to the special election to fill the seat vacated by former Council member Peter A. Shapiro (D-Brentwood), who resigned July 16. CASA hopes to register 200 new voters in the district.
District 2 Candidates
Speaking of the special election, officials at the county Board of Elections said three candidates have officially declared their candidacy with the county.
Candidates have until Aug. 16 to become certified to run for the District 2 seat.
So far, Malinda Miles, a member of the City Council in Mount Rainier, Derrick Posey, an Adelphi resident, and Tommy Priestly, a Mount Rainier resident, have filed.
Among some of the other candidates expected to enter the race are Hyattsville attorney Karren Pope-Onwukwe, who announced her candidacy last month, Amber Waller, a member of the Prince George's County Democratic Central Committee, and William Campos, the Prince George's County Latino affairs liaison.