As a volunteer for the referendum on the recent Frederick city annexations I wish to share a few thoughts with my fellow residents. At least 70 percent of our city voters oppose the proposed development despite the unmatched campaign by the current and former city officials aiming to change our mind.
The annexation controversy highlights the need for direct democracy. The purpose of a referendum is to enable direct democracy when the representative democracy fails to vindicate important public interests.
To fulfill this purpose, referendum provisions should be designed to serve legitimate grass roots initiatives. The existing provisions we have just encountered, however, seem to be designed to block any grass roots initiatives. The requirement of obtaining the signatures of 20 percent of all registered city voters in 45 days is onerous. The state law that establishes this particular requirement for municipal annexations needs to be amended. For comparison, a referendum petition against an act passed by Maryland General Assembly requires 3 percent of the votes that were cast at the last election.
The Frederick City Code also needs to be amended so that an annexation cannot be approved within the six months of the next City election. This would eliminate the expense associated with a special election for a referendum.
Having spent much time with my fellow residents–in the process of collecting signatures, I wish to express my appreciation for their well-informed, helpful and polite participation and for newly formed friendships.