The process to change the “weighted vote” system of government that we’ve had in Montgomery County for some time now is finally moving forward . There’s been a series of initial public hearings recently (reported on here and here). The biggest opposition seems to be in regards to the county executive. Originally, the plan was to have eight legislative districts, and the executive office was proposed to have tie-breaker voting power as well as veto power. After last night’s Charter Commission meeting, the plan was modified to create nine legislative districts in the county, removing the tie-breaking power for the executive, but leaving veto power in.
To me, the argument for the executive position seems fairly straightforward. Currently, county supervisors essentially act as executives for their areas of oversight. However, the stipend they are paid is less than a part-time job, which makes it necessary for most to work day jobs. The executive position would be a full-time position and would provide direction for county operations on a day-to-day basis. The idea of having a legislature that creates laws separate from an executive that carries them out while providing for checks and balances between the two, is the model of government our country was built on. This system is no different then what we currently have for our cities, towns, states and federal government. It’s hard for me to understand why anyone would think this system would be problematic for the county, but not for any other situation.
The current system of weighted voting is what flies in the face of what most people understand to be a fair representation. If I had a special interest and wanted to influence the vote on a certain issue, it would be much easier to spend my time lobbying the few highly weighted supervisors, rather than having to lobby them all.
The one area that concerns me is how the districts will be drawn. At first, the plan was for three of the eight districts to be completely within city borders. The revised plan with nine districts is to include areas of surrounding towns in these districts.
I’ve always maintained that the City of Amsterdam has specific needs and interests that are unique to the area. In certain cases where the city is affected by county government actions, it’s important to me that the city’s interests are well-represented. I would venture to make the same argument for the towns as well. I’m not so sure it’s the best idea to draw districts that encompass areas with divergent interests. I think it may dilute the people’s ability to lobby for certain issues that pertain to where they live.
I take heart however because the county executive, who I assume is going to be elected by a county-wide election, is certainly going to have to pay particular attention to city issues in order to get elected. That’s because the city has roughly 37% of the county’s population and will most likely account for a similar percentage of a popular vote.
I think the proposed changes to the county government system are sensible and hopefully we will be able to vote on enacting them this November.