Charter draft

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The idea of charter government for Cape Girardeau County isn't generating much debate. No one, or no group, is actively promoting the idea. And there is little feedback on the idea, pro or con, whenever it comes up in news reports.

One reason for this may be the fact that there isn't anything -- yet -- to react to. The process for moving toward charter government in Missouri requires several steps. Getting to the point where county residents could read -- and react to -- a proposed charter is midway through the process.

Four Missouri counties -- Jefferson, Jackson, St. Charles, St. Louis -- have adopted charter government. Several other counties have voted against the idea. Each of these counties drafted charters that were similar in some respects and different in others. Each county is free to approach charter government in its own way. There is no cookie-cutter charter.

For discussions to begin in earnest, most folks would like to see a charter draft.

How would charter government differ from what we have right now? Generally, charter counties replace three-member commissions with a larger governing group. They switch from day-to-day management by the commission to a hired county executive. But what shape all of this would take in Cape Girardeau County would depend on what our own drafters come up with.

To start, either the county commission can call for an election asking voters if they want to consider a charter. If the answer is yes, circuit judges appoint a 14-member panel to write the draft charter. That document is put before county voters. Or, a petition drive, without a vote, can start the drafting process.

Before substantial debate among county residents can take place, there needs to be a draft. Without a draft, there's not much to discuss.

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