Referendum Petition for Charter Amendment

Update June 29, 2017

Text of video below:

Hi there-

I’m Patrick McGrady, the Mayor of Aberdeen, and I’m coming to you today with an update on the Petition Drive to bring to referendum the Charter Amendments passed by the Aberdeen City Council on May 8th, 2017.

To get up to date on the changes made and how we got to here, you can go to www.aberdeenpetition.com.

First, let me say how proud I am of the response from our community to push to bring this charter amendment to referendum. Community involvement is the only way that we can achieve the kinds of changes we want to see in Aberdeen– we want a stronger community that’s attractive to families and businesses.

Almost universally, the response that I got from people was surprise that it is legal to change the powers of the elected Mayor and Council between elections, and that the Council would take these steps without asking the voters to approve.

State law establishes how these kinds of changes are to be made, and how a referendum process would work. Specifically, when a charter amendment is adopted by a simple majority vote, the voters of the Town or City have 40 days to collect signatures equal in number to 20% of the registered voters of the town or City.

If these signatures are collected and validated by the City board of elections, then the petition is successful, and the issue is brought to the voters by referendum– the voters can have a say in whether or not the changes take effect.

In Aberdeen’s case, that means 20% of about 10,000 registered voters need to sign a petition.

This is a very high hurdle to achieve on any issue. This was something that I felt obligated to attempt, given that I was elected to stand up for the voters of Aberdeen.

By the 40th day, June 17, 2017, I had received just about 1,178 petitions signed and returned to me– mailed to my house, dropped off on my porch, at my office, and at City Hall 🙂 That’s just about 30 per day!

Some of these, of course, will not be valid registered voters of Aberdeen– some folks who live outside of town limits signed, and some people who haven’t registered to vote yet in Aberdeen signed too.

This is a photocopy of the original petition signatures. Look at this impressive stack. This is your voice being heard, Aberdeen!

To everybody who signed the petition, thank you. Thank you to all of those who circulated the petition in their neighborhoods. And thank you to all of those who called me and wished me well on the effort.

On Saturday, June 27, I mailed the petitions to City Hall at about 4:45PM. After I submitted the originals, another 93 or so came in– that’s a total of about 1271 signatures!

This is short of our legal requirement of 1,990, so this issue will not be placed on the ballot at this time. The Charter Amendment as adopted by 3 members of the Council on May 8 will take effect on June 27, 2017.

However, this number of signatures represents a huge portion of the voters in Aberdeen elections.

In 2015, when I was elected with a total number of 602 votes, only 1788 votes were cast for Mayor.

In that same election, the City Council Candidate who received the most votes got 899 votes.

That number of signatures, 1178, is impressive to me because compared to voting, it’s a lot of work.

People had to get the petition, sign the petition, and return the petition. The intensity of support for this referendum effort is impressive.

So, of the people who voted in the last Aberdeen municipal election, that is, 1799 voters, 1271 signed and returned this petition.

That’s a number of signers equal to 70.65% of the number of voters who voted in the last Aberdeen election.

That’s more than 2 times the number that voted for me.

This issue goes beyond support for me, or support for the Council– it’s bad policy to change the form of government between elections, and Aberdeen voters understand that.

That number of signatures, 1178, is almost 1.5x the number who voted for the highest vote-getting Council Candidate.

It’s clear that the voters of Aberdeen want to have a say in these kinds of changes to the City Charter.

It’s clear that the voters of Aberdeen have a problem with a simple majority of the City Council changing the form of government between elections.

I look forward to working with the City Council to fix the action that was taken on May 8.

Going through this referendum process has also made me aware of a problem that I promise to fix– the process for filing a petition to referendum is confusing, murky, and requires legal expertise to understand.

It took me the first 10 days after May 8, when the Council adopted the Charter Amendment, to put together a petition in a format that would be legally permitted. This delay is unacceptable for future petitioners of the City government.

I promise that the City will produce a template for future petition efforts– it is a fundamental right of the voters of Aberdeen to be able to petition the government, and it’s crucial that the City government makes the process transparent and clear. We will get this done.

On another front, I plan to lobby our state legislature to change state law to permit municipalities to locally control the process of referendums and changes to the form of government.

State law requires a referendum for changes to the State Constitution and County law requires a referendum to change the County Charter.

It’s unreasonable that the kinds of changes to the form of government that were adopted by the City Council on May 8 can be done without a referendum, and if we have to change state law to prevent these kinds of things happening to the other 150+ towns in Maryland, that’s what we will do.

As always, you can call me on my cell phone anytime at 410.357.1234.

So, thanks again to all of you who supported the petition effort, and have a beautiful day!

Update June 12, 2017:

URGENT PETITION DEADLINE: Petitions must be received by 5:00 PM on Saturday, June 17

Dear Neighbor,

This letter serves as an update regarding the May 8 vote by three members of the Aberdeen City Council to significantly change the form of government in Aberdeen, without the voters’ input. I believe the voters in Aberdeen should have a say in making these changes.

The back of this letter shows, in graphical format, the changes to the Aberdeen City Charter.

The three members of the Aberdeen City Council who voted for these changes, Councilwoman Landbeck, Councilman Lindecamp, and Councilman Taylor, have presented a series of explanations for supporting them.

They claim the following:

In our “form of government”, the Mayor should not have authority over the government. So, the three Council members eliminated this authority.

The Mayor shouldn’t be able to prepare the budget and then vote on the budget. So, the three members changed the Charter to have the budget be prepared by the City Manager, who is not elected.

The fact is, the Charter was good enough for the last Mayor– the last changes to the form of government were adopted in 2011. The only difference now is that there’s a new Mayor, with new ideas and a new vision for the City. Whether you like me or not, this is a bad way to govern.

These kinds of things, when changed at the County or State level, require the voters to approve. Why shouldn’t the voters get a say here in Aberdeen?

The reason for the referendum petition drive is that the voters should decide on changes to the structure of the government in between elections. Why have elections if three members of the Council are going to hastily change the government after the election?

In Maryland, State law authorizes municipalities to run their local government with a lot of flexibility. A simple majority of the City Council (in Aberdeen’s instance, 3 votes) can legally do almost anything it wishes. So, the changes on May 8 are likely legal, even though they are wrong from the perspective of good government.

State law also establishes the manner by which a petition drive can be initiated and completed. If we are able to collect 1,990 signatures before Saturday, June 17, there will be a vote held to determine if the voters approve of the changes, or not. This election can be held either immediately (within 40-60 days) or at the time of the next election. This decision is up to the City Council.

If you agree, then please fill out the petition and return it to me immediately. June 17 is the deadline for collecting these petitions.

As usual, please call me if you have questions or concerns. My cell phone number is 410.357.1234.

Very Respectfully,

Patrick McGrady

Mayor, City of Aberdeen

These are the majority of the Changes that Councilwoman Landbeck, Councilman Lindecamp, and Councilman Taylor voted to adopt on May 8. For the total list of changes, you can go to website for the referendum drive at www.aberdeenpetition.com or call me and I will mail you a copy.

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As referenced in my earlier Statement here, the City Council voted to remove the authority of the Mayor without the voter’s say in the matter. This is wrong, and we have the ability to do something about it.

Here is a link to the Petition to put this on the ballot for the voters to decide: Petition to referendum for Charter Amendment Click here to open the PDF, then print and sign and return to Patrick McGrady at 310 W Bel Air Ave Aberdeen, MD 21001 as soon as possible. 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The City Council voted to significantly change the structure of the City government, and for the voters of the City of Aberdeen to have a say in this, we need to collect 1,990 signatures before June 17.

Dear Aberdeen Citizen and Neighbor,

The Constitution of the United States is the framework of our government at the federal level, and the Aberdeen City Charter is our local government’s Constitution.

The City Council on May 8, 2017 voted to change the structure of the City government with three votes. Councilwoman Sandra Landbeck, Councilman Melvin Taylor, and Councilman Timothy Lindecamp voted to remove the authority of the Mayor over the City, in effect making the Mayor position powerless—taking away the power of your vote without any input from you.

The people of Aberdeen voted for the form of government that included the Mayor as the Chief Executive Officer of the City of Aberdeen.

This form of government allows you to call me when there is a problem, and I can address it. In the past year, I have received calls about garbage pickup, potholes, taxes, trash stickers, and sewer backups. That’s what I signed up for. That’s why we elect a Mayor.

The City Council voted on May 8, 2017 to remove this authority and they don’t want you to get a say in the matter. It seems crazy to me to change the form of government without the voter’s consent.

Well, I was elected to stand up for you, whether you voted for me or not, and I believe the voters should have a say when we change the City Constitution.

Changing the form of government like this is something that is done in third-world countries, not in America. The voters deserve a say in their government.

For the voters to have a say on this matter, we need to collect signatures on the attached petition. If we can collect 1,990 signatures (20% of the registered voters of the City of Aberdeen) by June 17, then we can put this to a vote on the ballot—so the voters can decide about their government.

It is crucial that we work together to get all the registered voters that we know to sign the petition to get this put on the ballot.

Over the next few weeks, with your help, we will be going door-to-door to collect the signatures needed to get this on the ballot. If you want to help, please email at patrick@patrickmcgrady.com or call anytime at 410.357.1234.

Please print and sign the petition and return it to me immediately. If you have questions, you can call me at 410.357.1234. We need to work together to collect 1,990 signatures by June 17.

Very Respectfully,

Patrick McGrady
Mayor, City of Aberdeen
Cell phone: 410.357.1234

P.S. The voters deserve a say in their government. Please sign the petition enclosed and return to me so we can get a ballot referendum on this radical change in government before June 17, 2017.