It's time to implement the charter on filling Council vacancies
probably less controversial. (Prince George's County has the latter system and a Laurel area seat has already been filled with a stand-apart special election won by Tom Dernoga.)
Unless the current Council introduces and succeeds in enacting such an ordinance before the new Council is elected, we're going to be stuck with the current system (where such vacancies are filled by the relevant party's Central Committee for as long as four years). Any suggested ordinance could have the Central Committee fill the vacancy only until the special election occurred.
I served on the last Charter Review Commission (which supported the vacancy-filling ordinance process that is now permissible) and remember testimony coming from the current Democratic Central Committee in opposition to such a charter amendment. It would diminish their power. Too bad.
This was the rationale provided in the Commission's report for the suggested amendment (which, as Question A, was supported so strongly by the voters):
"The Charter provides that the elected central committee of the vacating Councilmember's political party fills vacant Council positions. The Commission recommends filling a Council vacancy through a special election provided that such election can be held at the next scheduled general election. Such scheduling would minimize costs associated with holding a special election. The Commission recommends that the central committee continue to fill a Council vacancy until the special election or, if the vacancy occurs after the ballot deadline for a general election, until the end of the Council term.
The Commission's recommendation requires passage of an ordinance to enact a special election, rather than a provision directly in the Charter. This approach is suggested based upon legal advice from the Office of Law. Article XXI-A of the Maryland Constitution and the Express Powers Act prohibits the establishment of special election in a county charter."
The aforementioned legal problem is why the charter itself doesn't specify the vacancy-filling method and why it leaves such method for the Council to specify by ordinance.
I encourage readers to contact their Council member and urge them to introduce the necessary implementing legislation as soon as possible. To reiterate: Unless such an ordinance is enacted and signed before the new Council takes office, it won't affect them and we'll be stuck for up to four years with the choice of whoever's on the relevant Central Committee with any vacancies that may occur. Urge those Council members to do it for the sake of democracy and representative government.