Thursday, February 21, 2008

Off To The Races

Sorry to everyone for the recent hiatus. As you can probably imagine, the past few weeks have been pretty hectic for the Council, and it’s taken a bit of time to address a number of important issues. As you all surely know by now, Councilmember Marilyn Praisner passed away on February 1st and her Council colleagues (both Councilmembers and staff) have been struggling to deal with this tragic event. My colleagues and I have all made many public statements, and the Council held a tribute with her family and former Councilmembers last week. There’s not much more I can add here that would be new or more fitting, apart to tell you that everyone appreciates the kind words we’re hearing from those who knew or appreciated Marilyn, and everyone is still working to get through a difficult, sad time.

Change is difficult for most people and the Council is certainly no exception—and when you add the spice of politics to the mix, things can become interesting fast. While Councilmembers are coping with the loss of a colleague—and running the gamut of emotions that come with such a loss—there are still a number of administrative things that have to happen—and under county charter, have to happen quickly.

First, we had to figure out how to conduct a special election. That sounds fairly straightforward, and county law lays out some timelines on when such elections are permitted to occur. The problem is, we don’t usually have special elections, and things become even more difficult when one realizes that we as a county don’t actually own or control our voting machines—the State of Maryland does. Further, since we’re already in an election year, we can't really take advantage of other previously scheduled elections! Not only can we not schedule a special election the same day as a previously-scheduled election, but we have to give those same elections a fairly wide berth—as many as 30 days on either side of a previously-scheduled election.

That’s already a fairly inflexible calendar to work with. Now add to it the competing voices of those pushing for an election as quickly as possible—to fill the seat sooner rather than later—and those who would like to go slowly, to give candidates and voters more time to get to know each other. Then there’s the Council’s schedule—much of it defined by law—that requires us to continue working on county budgets and planning board appointments, with little regard to the timing of elections. As is often the case, logistics tend to prevail, and in spite of many of the issues I just identified, we usually end up with a solution that still works pretty well.

In this case, the special primary election will be held Tuesday, April 15, and the special general election will occur a month later, on Tuesday, May 13. More information can be found on the Council’s main page, or by clicking here.

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