A few months ago the Cecil County Government voted to add a question to the ballot to amend the Cecil County Charter “to provide that non-elected Board Members, Committee Members, and Employees of State, County and Municipal Agencies, not directly supervised or substantially controlled by the Executive or Council, to be qualified to be County Council Members.”
At first glance, this amendment seems harmless. After all, why would we want to prohibit anyone from participating in a civilian controlled government? That’s the question proponents of this bill would ask in order to gain your support.
But our civilian controlled government is built on checks and balances that prevent any one entity from gaining power over the other. If this Charter Amendment were to pass, union groups and businesses that sell services to the county would in effect become political parties themselves, because they would be able to push their members as candidates and if elected, they would be able to vote on and influence spending (and favor the organizations from which they originate).
Hypothetically speaking, a member of the Teacher’s Union could become part of the Council and vote to increase spending to the Cecil County Public Schools. The June Primary has proven to be a referendum on excessive tax & spend policies, and the people overwhelmingly supported the candidates with the message to trim the fat and lessen corruption in our local government.
Forget the drama between Republicans and Democrats. A measure like this would cut out the middleman and allow the special interest groups to assume direct control.
There have been some cases of conflict of interest, that some see this amendment as solving, such as Councilor Bob Meffley holding his seat while his business (H&B Plumbing) is under contract by the County Government, and the case against Jackie Gregory (who left her job as a substitute teacher to resolve a complaint against her). However, the potential negatives outweigh the positives.
And if we allow this, what is next? Are they going to put forward next an amendment to allow the County Executive to hold outside employment? What’s going to stop them?
No policy is going to be one size fits all, that’s why Democracy exists. But we should be careful of any change that will allow groups to gain indisputable power over others by being larger and more powerful. This is why our federal government has the electoral college to give small states a say in who becomes president, and why Benjamin Franklin described democracy as two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch and liberty as a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.