In troubled times, it’s our job to keep it that way by voting “Against” Montgomery ballot Questions B and D.
Question B, proposed by Robin Ficker, would place an inflexible cap on county property taxes. Why is that a bad idea? Consider the strain the novel coronavirus has put on public services and how it has crippled our local economy.
County law already requires a unanimous vote by the nine-member County Council to exceed the charter’s existing property tax cap. Passage of Question B would put us in a fiscal straitjacket — unable to respond to crises such as the coronavirus and sustain critical county services, including education and public safety. It would adversely affect our ability to grow businesses and jobs. It is imprudent and unnecessary.
Question D would establish nine single-member districts, eliminating the existing four at-large seats. Currently, each voter in Montgomery County may vote for five council members, one in his or her district and four at-large. This means every resident has five council members — a majority of the nine-member council — to hear our voices and represent our interests. Question D would limit each voter to only one council member.
This same structure was in place in Prince George’s County years ago and led to parochialism and vote-trading. As a result, Prince George’s added at-large members to provide the valuable countywide perspective Montgomery County already has — and which Question D seeks to eliminate.
We have formed a bipartisan coalition of community leaders to oppose ballot Questions B and D because we know these measures will undermine the ability of our present and future leaders to work for the long-term interest of the county as a whole. Arbitrary financial restraints — on top of already existing safeguards to limit property tax increases — will not allow county leaders to respond to real crises and dramatically changing circumstances. Exclusive use of single-member districts could allow narrow interests to paralyze the council’s ability to act for the good of the county as a whole.
The ethical principle of doing no harm is at the core of good citizenship. We urge Montgomery County voters to study carefully the ballot issues before voting and reject those that threaten our future and the future of our children and grandchildren.
We are asking county citizens to vote “Against” Questions B and D. It is essential to the county’s future that these proposed amendments to our County Charter be defeated.