Calvert voters will decide in November whether county commissioners should be given greater authority to adopt local legislation, under a measure approved Tuesday by the board.
The commissioners voted 4 to 1 to let voters decide whether the county should adopt a Code Home Rule form of county government.
That would give commissioners far greater latitude to enact, amend or repeal local laws. Currently, many local laws must be approved by the Maryland General Assembly, said commissioners President David F. Hale (R-Owings).
"We're sending bills to the legislature that clutter their agenda," said Commissioner Susan Shaw (R-Huntingtown). "This is a way to be more efficient so we don't have to wait for . . . 10 months to deal with mundane issues of this county."
While the commissioners would have broader authority to pass legislation, all laws enacted by them could be subject to public referendum.
"A petition signed by 10 percent of the voters would put a stay on the implementation of the new law, and it would go to a public vote," Hale said.
Commissioner Linda L. Kelley (R-At Large) opposed the motion. She said it would make local government more costly and complicated.
"It removes the checks and balances from the system and puts it all in one body," she said.
She said the real estate transfer tax has been the catalyst of the proposal. Code Home Rule would give county commissioners the power to increase it.
But other commissioners said the change in systems would increase the flexibility in governing a growing region.
"With the growing population, we have to be able to respond in an expedient manner," said Commissioner Gerald W. Clark (R-Lusby).
The board also voted to disband the Code Home Rule Task Force, which was set up last fall to educate the public about the proposal.
"The task force has done its assigned task," said Commissioner Wilson H. Parran (D-At Large). "Now it's in the hands of the citizens."
Panels Have Vacancies
Calvert County is seeking applicants for vacancies on several committees and commissions.
Applicants must be Calvert residents who are registered to vote in the county.
Openings with an Aug. 23 application deadline include:
* two vacancies in the Deputy Sheriff and Correctional Officers Pension Plan Board.
* two vacancies in the Historic District Commission.
* one vacancy in the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Vacancies with a Monday application deadline are on the:
* Agriculture Commission.
* Commission for Women.
* Environmental Commission.
* Tri-County Animal Shelter Board.
Applications are available online at www.co.cal.md.us or at the public libraries.
Park Opens in Charles
Charles County's new Turkey Hill Park officially opened Monday with the county commissioners cutting the ribbon at the La Plata soccer facility.
The new $65,000 park, on Turkey Hill Road just off southbound Route 301, includes a regulation soccer field, two intermediate soccer fields, two smaller soccer fields and parking areas. It was designed and built by the Parks and Grounds Division of the Department of Public Facilities, with support from the department's other divisions.
In an announcement of the park's opening, the commissioners issued a statement thanking "the La Plata Soccer Association for their role in the completion of these athletic fields. They will accommodate the growing demand for practice soccer fields for central Charles County residents."
The park property is leased to the county by the Maryland State Highway Administration.
Hispanic Joins Md. Regents
Adela Acosta, principal of Cesar Chavez Elementary School in Prince George's County, was recently named to the Maryland Board of Regents. She is the first Hispanic member of the governing body for the state's public universities and colleges.
Acosta, 54, is an ardent supporter of President Bush and his No Child Left Behind legislation. As a member of the President's Commission on Excellence in Special Education, she helped write part of the law. This year her Republican bona fides helped lead Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) to name her to the Board of Regents.
Born in Spanish Harlem to Puerto Rican immigrants, Acosta entered first grade at P.S. 122 unable to speak English.
"I remember teachers yelling at me saying, 'What is your name?' They thought if they screamed louder, then I would be able to understand," she said. "It was like teaching me calculus in Japanese when I know neither, you know?"
Despite the language difficulties and a troubled home life, Acosta managed to study and excel at school. That was enough to earn her a scholarship to the University of Kansas, where she received undergraduate and master's degrees in education. She spent years as an educational consultant in Indiana and then Connecticut, advising would-be educators on how to teach blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans.
After a 12-year stint at the U.S. Department of Justice, where she focused on desegregation and issues of multiculturalism, Acosta became the principal of St. Augustine Roman Catholic School in the District. She was the first Hispanic in that role at the school, a barrier Acosta has broken in nearly every position she has held.
Acosta was relieved to return to education. "I've never wanted to be anything else," she said. "I'm a teacher. That's what I am."
After five years at the parochial school, she moved to the Prince George's County public school district as an eighth-grade English teacher. She later became a high school vice principal and, finally, an elementary school principal.
One day in 2001, Acosta received a call from the incoming White House team. Then-President-elect Bush wanted to meet with her and a dozen other educators his first day in office.
Later that month, first lady Laura Bush visited Cesar Chavez Elementary to announce a reading initiative and then invited Acosta to sit with her during one of President Bush's addresses to Congress.
Acosta, a lifelong Democrat, became a Republican. The switch was not motivated by policy or ideology, she said, but by a desire to acknowledge her gratitude to a party that had given her so much.
After Ehrlich met Acosta, he singled her out for praise in last year's State of the State speech.
"Adela? You will never forget her, trust me," he said. "Adela lives No Child Left Behind. No child is left behind at Cesar Chavez."
As Ehrlich's highest-profile Hispanic appointee and the first Hispanic regent, Acosta is acutely aware of her commitments to the Republican Party and multiculturalism.
But sometimes, such as when Ehrlich made headlines in May by calling multiculturalism "crap" and "bunk," it can be difficult to reconcile those allegiances. His remarks, on a conservative talk radio show, took Acosta by surprise.
"I thought to myself, Bobby, hell-o-o? Is anyone there?" she said. "Multiculturalism isn't bunk. Sorry! At least not for me. It's been the root of my ability to embrace America."