Cecil County Soap Operas: Commish Discuss Re-write of Charter History; ARCA Activist for Plan. Panel; Dog Poo and More
It will be a soap opera day in Elkton on Tuesday when the Cecil County Commissioners discuss re-writing recent election history to try to un-do voters’ approval of charter government, re-appoint a controversial anti-growth activist to the planning commission, and debate doggie doo and other political poop.
It will no doubt be some “only in Cecil County” moments when the Cecil County commissioners hold a 9 a.m. worksession, at which they will discuss a proposal by Commissioner Diana Broomell (R-4) to seek a ballot referendum to approve a ‘code home rule” form of government on the 2012 election ballot—the same ballot on which county voters will be asked to elect the county’s first-ever county executive under a new charter form of government approved by voters overwhelmingly in the 2010 election.
Call it hope springs eternal, re-writing history, or never giving up on an agenda. Or just call it a prescription for abject voter confusion.
The charter form of government approved by voters last November by an overwhelming margin provides for converting the current 5-member, part-time county commissioner form of government to a full-time County Executive with 5 part-time County Council members. Charter provides enhanced local government legislative authority without having to go back to the state legislature for approval of even routine local government initiatives.
But Broomell opposed charter and is looking to promote the code home rule alternative, which would retain five county commissioners but allow greater local powers under state law than the commissioner form of government.
Also firmly opposing charter government last year were state Del. Michael Smigiel and Sen. E.J. Pipkin, both R-36th Dist, who placed expensive newspaper ads and circulated glossy flyers in the last election to try to kill charter government, which takes away much of the power of the state delegation to control local county government.
Broomell has usually voted in tandem with two other commissioners—James Mullin (R-1) and Michael Dunn (R-3)—who are firmly aligned with the Smipkins. But Mullin had voted to allow the charter issue to go to a referendum, thus putting him into a politically difficult position if charter is to be challenged now.
Meanwhile, the Cecil County Patriots—the local ‘tea party’ organization—are organizing their members to oppose the re-appointment of Owen Thorne as a member of the county planning commission. He won a controversial appointment to fill out the unexpired term of Joe Januscz a few months ago but he is now up for a full-term appointment.
Thorne has been a leader of the anti-growth Appleton Regional Community Alliance (ARCA) that has repeatedly sued the county over land and water issues, including the three -year lawsuit against the sale of some county water and sewer facilities to the private Artesian firm. That lawsuit cost county taxpayers over $203,000 in legal fees so far.
The Patriots are organizing via email and Facebook to show up at the 2 p.m. regular Commissioners’ meeting, at which Thorne’s name is expected to be put up for re-appointment.
Then there is the 1 p.m. dog poo meeting, at which the commissioners are scheduled to discuss revisions to the county’s animal ordinance, a two-year endeavor that has been mired in controversy this year after most of the members and leadership resigned from the panel. Regional animal advocates have been messaging on online groups to oppose changes recently made to a consensus plan put out to public hearing last February. The latest changes were made by two activists without leadership titles on what is left of the panel.
At a mini-meeting a week ago, the activists sat with Mullin and at times patted him and each other on the arm when Commissioner Tari Moore (R-2) asked salient questions, especially about the costs of some of the government mandates the duo wants to impose, according to sources.
With apologies to the closing line of the classic movie “Chinatown,” all we can say is: “It’s Cecil County, Jake.”