I write today regarding the recent public notice of proposed changes to the Lovettsville Town Charter. As a resident of Lovettsville since 2010, I strenuously object to all proposed changes. When taken together they are blatantly and shockingly authoritarian. Specifically:

Change 1: The council is proposing to move the mayor from the executive to the legislative branch and allow the mayor a vote in all matters, and to remove veto power from the mayor.

The mayor’s veto power is a critical check in a governmental system which must seek to balance the legislative power of the council. The only reason to remove such a power is to consolidate unchecked power in the council, ensuring the tyranny of the majority. We have seen the value of the mayor’s veto in the recent past, when council members actions were clearly motivated by personal vendettas and grandstanding rather than by the good of the Town. This is an authoritarian proposition which flies in the face of the democratic principles this commonwealth and this country are founded upon.

Change 2: The council is proposing to remove the power of the Mayor to “recommend to the Council such measures as he may deem necessary for the good of the Town.”

What is the intention of such a change to the Town Charter, if not to silence the Mayor’s voice when it potentially dissents from the opinion of the council’s majority? What purpose does the mayoral office serve, if not to recommend measures for the good of the Town? Is the council so closed-minded as to be unwilling to even be presented with potentially opposing viewpoints?

Change 3: The council is proposing to allow a current council member to be appointed mayor if there is a mayoral vacancy.

It is quite bad enough that the council already has the power to appoint new members to the town council without requiring a general election. Now the majority block on the council wish to further consolidate their gains by appointing one of their own as mayor? Does the majority block on the council fear that someone else who shares their opinions could not win the mayorship through an open election? This change, in combination with the council’s proposed evisceration of the mayor’s powers, can only serve one purpose: to effectively create an open council seat in the event the majority block manages to harass the mayor into resignation. This will allow the majority block to appoint yet another like-minded unelected councilperson while simultaneously giving voting power to the now-pseudo-mayor. This would truly be an authoritarian two-for-one deal.

Change 4: The council is proposing to allow any appointed council member to vote on all financial decisions even if that member has been appointed, not elected.

The council is advocating changing the town charter to, in essence, support taxation without representation. The legislative power of the purse string is paramount in our democracy. For the council to suggest that unelected individuals should have any vote over the expenditure of our tax dollars is anathema. It is authoritarian overreach. It is unpatriotic.

I urge the council to reflect on their true motivations for such suggested changes, and to carefully consider the authoritarian and anti-democratic path they are proposing.

Brian Stearns


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