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Should the City Oppose a Referendum Petition?

William Chicca of PGPOA at NCPCA

The PGPOA (Prince George’s Property Owner’s Association) representatives came to NCPCA meeting last week to make their case to north College Park residents.

The residents passed a motion against the proposed changes that the PGPOA wants to make to the City’s charter. I also personally felt that the petition has languages that may pose problems to the City, if the referendum passes in November ballot (more on that later).

The residents have every right to make their opinions about the petition, but the whole discussion made me thinking of an important question – should the City of College Park, as  a government entity oppose the PGPOA petition, or any petition, for that matter?

Let’s set aside the details of the petition language for now. The City allows any group of residents to put a referendum question to its Mayor and Council election, provided that group is able to collect signatures of 20% of total registered voters. The subject of putting an issue to referendum was given by the City, thus shouldn’t the City allow any group to campaign for any change they want to the City charter?

I think the City should have taken a neutral role on any referendum petition, instead let the residents debate and decide whether they like it or not.

It’s like a judge allowing a citizen to bring any case to his court as long as that citizen fulfills the procedure to submit that case. Until the case is brought and heard in his court room, he stays away from giving his verdict on the case, nor does he allow his jury to make an opinion in the case.

I saw a “Dear Neighbor” letter from a group of residents opposing the petition, and I thought that was quite informative in convincing many residents to make their minds why the proposed changes are bad for the City.

I also think the residents made a good case in last week’s NCPCA meeting against the Charter amendments.

Personally, I didn’t like the way PGPOA handled the petition business from the beginning. Residents should have been told from the outset that it’s them who are behind those petitions. It took them a few weeks to come forward and solve that mystery. I also think if the referendum passes, it will potentially prohibit the City from collecting revenues / taxes from new developments. Thus, I will most likely vote against the referendum questions, should they appear in November election.

At the same time, I think the City should “officially” stay away from asking residents whether they should sign on a petition or not. They should rather stick to verifying 20% signature rule that they introduced to allow others to change City Charter. At the end, the City should let the residents decide the rest.

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