Mayor Patrick McGrady Statement on Charter Amendment Petition Drive
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Mayor Patrick McGrady Statement on Charter Amendment Petition Drive

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 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!

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