Last night’s was an interesting and informative Wicomico County Republican Club meeting to be sure, as County Council president Gail Bartkovich filled us in on some of the ins and outs of county government as it stands now.
As always we began with the Lord’s Prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, and my reading of the previous month’s minutes, with a treasurer’s report added for good measure. But Bartkovich began with some good red meat, announcing the elected school board resolution will be discussed once again – she also detailed how she came to be aware of the changes Delegate Conway proposed in a last-second meeting before the hearing. They were also getting input from the local NAACP regarding both the school board issue and redistricting in a future face-to-face meeting.
The key point of Gail’s discussion, though, settled on the creation of a Charter Review Committee. Required by charter on a decennial basis, Bartkovich announced that 25 county residents (some who had served on the previous committee a decade ago) were volunteering their time and talents – of that group, about 15 to 17 would be selected and the County Council would appoint the committee’s chair, with the committee then deciding on a vice-chair. The selection process would occur next month, with the first meeting (open to the public, by the way) to be held sometime in October and most likely at Council chambers. The series of public meeting would lead to recommendations, which would be voted on by County Council. They would vote whether to present the question to the public at the 2014 General Election.
Bartkovich also suggested a number of changes which could be made based on her Council experience and questions the group had run into since the Charter underwent its last radical change in 2004 when the executive form of government was adopted.
After answering questions on the number of signatures required for a referendum – presumably asked because the questioner was interested in matching the county’s requirement to the more lenient state one – and the difference between “shall” and “may” insofar as the usage of property taxes go (not in the Charter) Bartkovich spoke briefly about the personnel situation in the county. Simply put, the question was raised whether early retirement was really saving the county money as various positions needed to be refilled and salary requests were not necessarily less than those of the people being replaced who presumably were paid more. “We are still not getting all the information,” Bartkovich explained. Council vice-president Joe Holloway piped in that early retirements were causing a “brain drain” among county personnel.
In his Central Committee report, County Chair Dave Parker spoke about a number of topics: his regular Sunday articles in the Daily Times, to which he stated “you can judge a man by his enemies,” our participation in the recent Wicomico Farm and Home Show, and the WCRC Crab Feast coming this Saturday (rain or shine.)
He also pointed out the upcoming redistricting hearing on September 10th at Salisbury University, saying “we need to get people involved.”
Shawn Jester noted the Lower Shore Young Republicans were working on their next meeting, which will occur in November.
A broad report on the doings of Congressman Andy Harris was presented by local liaison Mark McIver. After presenting an item for the Crab Feast’s silent auction, McIver detailed some local items Harris is working on:
- Dredging projects for the Wicomico River and in west Ocean City
- FAA compliance for helivac service in Somerset County
- maintaining the current state of Assateague Island (insofar as accessibility to the public goes) in cooperation with Virginia’s Second District Congressman Scott Rigell
- Also with Rigell, promotion of Wallops Island’s NASA facility – Andy chairs the subcommittee which deals with NASA
- A possible testing facility in Worcester County
McIver also brought up the recent protest in front of the Congressman’s office, with Salisbury mayor Jim Ireton participating as a “union school teacher.” He thought better of Harris’s PAC-14 interview which was taped recently.
After a series of speakers alluded to internal club business, Delegate Charles Otto took a moment to speak. Referring to our continuing budget crisis, Otto wrapped up the meeting by noting “we need to grow revenues by putting people back to work” and that the Democrats will have “no excuses” not to act. Yet Maryland is “dysfunction(al) and not responsive to citizens.”
The next meeting will be September 26, with State Senator Rich Colburn giving a preview of the upcoming Special Session.