Changing a form of government is not something to be done lightly and without careful vetting.
One of these major changes is the Montgomery County Charter Commission's proposal to convert the county's government from a 15-member board of supervisors to a nine-member county legislature.
According to the proposed charter, the nine members would represent the county by districts, each comprising 5,400 to 5,500 residents: three in the city of Amsterdam, one each in the towns of Amsterdam and Florida, and one from each of three districts covering the rest of the county. Also included would be an elected executive and an appointed treasurer. The executive would have veto power over legislative enactments but could be overruled by a two-thirds vote.
A few major questions to ask about the charter: Will it make the county government more efficient? Will taxpayers save money? Will the balance of power among the communities change? How will the needs of the county overall balance with those of the communities?
The idea of changing the county's governance is not new. At least two recent efforts were made: One in 1985 was voted down by the Board of Supervisors, and the other, in 2005, was defeated by the voters. The charter plan revisits the issue.
The supervisors will be able to question the Charter Commission on the latest proposal in an open meeting at 6 p.m. Aug. 7 at the county office building on Broadway in Fonda. A public hearing will be conducted at 6 p.m. Aug. 14 at the office building, followed by the supervisors' vote on whether to send the charter plan to a public vote in November. A link to the commission's final draft is available on the Montgomery County website.
We urge the supervisors to offer the plan for public referendum. Such a major change in governance requires as much.
Once that is done, supporters and opponents can make their cases as to why the charter would or would not benefit the people of the county.