The Bible reports that Job had to contend with boils and dead camels. Montgomery County's voters have the equivalent electoral pestilence: recurring ballot questions drummed up by Robin Ficker. This year there is a companion question, courtesy of the Montgomery County Civic Federation, that is a recipe for more political mischief.
For the seventh time since 1976, Ficker is pushing a ballot question (Question A) that would impose a rigid cap on property tax increases. The county charter limits increases in property tax revenue increases to the increase in the Consumer Price Index for the prior year unless a "super majority" -- seven of the nine council members -- vote to lift the cap. This little-used safety valve is in place to sustain important public services during recessions when income tax receipts -- the county's other principal source of revenue -- do not keep up with population growth and the need for services.
It is fiscally irresponsible to hogtie the government so that it is unable to meet our obligations for homeland security, public education, environmental protection and transportation improvements or to help our most vulnerable families. Montgomery should not replicate the sad experience of Prince George's County and the many local governments in other states, where vital programs and services have been seriously impaired by rigid tax caps.
Ficker's Question B would limit the county executive and County Council members to three consecutive terms in office. Montgomery County voters have exercised a time-tested and effective way of retiring deserving officials: elections. Term limits suggest voters are too dumb to distinguish weeds from flowers and to remove them.
Question C would require that all nine council members be elected from single-member districts and take away the power of every voter to help elect or defeat a majority of the council and hold it collectively accountable for its performance. Currently, each person votes for five of the nine council members -- one from a single-member district and four members from the county at large. At-large members are especially attentive to countywide interests while district members protect local interests. This balances local and countywide interests.
Question C's proponents claim single-member districts might reduce the cost of campaigns and the influence of developers in elections. This is delusional, as demonstrated by the last election in Loudoun County. The only survivor of a developer-financed campaign was the sole at-large member.
Some of these issues may be complex, but the right response is as simple as A, B, C: Vote against all three.
Wagner, Nix and Hanson chair the Vote No Coalition. Wagner is executive director of Community Ministry of Montgomery County. Nix is former president of the Montgomery County NAACP and a former school board member. Hanson is a former chairman of the Montgomery County Planning Board.