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PGPOA Referendum Petitions – How the Council Should Vote?

A sample of PGPOA petition paper - Source: College Park Board of Election Supervisors

In tomorrow night’s regular Council meeting, the City Council will vote on two referendum petitions that Prince George’s Property Owners’ Association (PGPOA) submitted to the City recently.

According to City Charter, the Council last month referred the petitions to the Board of Election supervisors (BOES) to get them verified. The BOES looked into all of these petition signatures and found that they did not conform to the standard set in the Charter. The City’s attorney also chimed in with her own opinions saying the petitions were “legally insufficient”.

You can read the background of this petition saga in my previous post here.

At stake in tomorrow night’s vote is the fate of several thousand signatures that ordinary citizens put on the petition paper. It appears that whoever designed the petition paper did not carefully look into the City charter about the required format of such petitions.

That said, can we hold the ordinary residents responsible for the omission of their district numbers, when there was no space or column on the petition paper they could write on? Also, how things would have been different if these residents did not willfully write their district numbers, even when the petition papers had a space for a district number? I wish our City code was a bit more clear to distinguish between these two scenarios.

Interestingly, I came across a similar case in New Mexico, where the Supreme Court judges debated the ambiguity of their own election law. Last month, the Court okayed the petitions despite the lack of district number on petition papers.

Please let me know how the Council should vote at tomorrow’s Council meeting.

Regardless, I do think the PGPOA petitions themselves are either unnecessary or they may potentially harm the City in long run. If enacted, the City may not be able to provide an expanded quality service through potential new revenues it may generate from new developments and new businesses. But this is  a subject that I’d like to keep separate from the issue of validating petition signatures.

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2 Comments to “PGPOA Referendum Petitions – How the Council Should Vote?”

  1. By Onward, May 8, 2012 @ 7:40 am

    The lack of a district number isn’t the only problem with the PGPOA petitions — it’s only the start. The City Attorney also said that City Charter amendments must include only one subject, but the PGPOA “rent control” amendment is based on two subjects. The city attorney also mentioned their second “Tea Party style” amendment that would permanently freeze property tax revenues at 2011 amounts is problematic, since it transfers the Council’s ability to set tax rates to the voters and so is an unreasonable limit on the Council’s powers that are granted by Maryland state law.

    It seems like you’re trying too hard to be objective here and some important details are getting overlooked. If their amendments are of questionable legality, then they should be REJECTED, no questions asked. If they want to fight it out in court, then Bring It On !

    Why should we bend over backwards trying to accomodate questionable charter amendments that come from an extremist, anti-College Park group of landlords like PGPOA ? Most of them don’t even live in College Park and wouldn’t care if their Tea Party freeze on property tax revenues winds up crushing our future. What does THAT have to do with rent control anyway ??? Why aren’t they pushing for the same freezes on property tax revenues in the cities where THEY live ?? College Park has the 28th highest tax rates in the county and that seems to have more to do with their long standing grudge against the City Council than any crusade against high taxes.

  2. By Fazlul Kabir, May 8, 2012 @ 10:50 am

    Hi OnWard, You raised some important points, but the way I read the Charter V. section C5.1B, the Mayor and Council should only look into the reason given in the Board of Election Supervisor’s report. That report only talks about the formatting issue.

    Upon receiving the report of the Supervisors of Elections, the Mayor and Council shall then comply with the applicable provisions of Article 23A of the Annotated Code of Maryland (1957 Edition, as amended), titled “Corporations — Municipal,” subtitle “Charter Amendments.