Op Ed - Creation of a County-Wide Recall Charter Provision

from County Commissioner Ron Beaty
Op Ed by County Commissioner Ron Beaty

Restructuring our Cape Cod regional government has been a major topic of ongoing civic discourse for quite some time now. However, since the beginning, one major and vital component has been missing from this whole civil equation and political process: creation of a countywide recall charter provision.

From Bourne and Falmouth all the way down to Truro and Provincetown, every Cape Cod town charter contains a recall provision. Our neighboring county, Plymouth, a few years ago tried to adopt a new home rule charter; it also possessed a recall mechanism for the removal of elected public officials guilty of malfeasance. The Barnstable County Home Rule Charter does not.

The original 1988 enabling legislation sponsored by Tom Cahir and Henri Rauschenbach, among others, did contain a comprehensive recall provision for Cape Cod voters to avail themselves of as part of Article 7. However, for some unknown reason, it was removed before final passage of the legislation. For a quarter century, all that remained to remind anyone that it once existed was the lone word "recall" in the title caption of Article 7 of the charter, without any further explanation afterward.

The full recall provision now needs to be reinstated and officially inserted back into our county charter via a formal charter amendment process. Why?

Various political science and civics books describe the concept of recall as a vehicle enabling the direct application of citizen control over government. It helps to ensure accountability. For this reason, the mechanism of recall should be adopted as a suitable electoral tool that permits the voters to retire regional public officials for reasons they deem just and appropriate. An equitably crafted recall provision helps to ensure that county government officials will first and foremost represent the interests of the Cape Cod citizenry.

The expansive character of the recall authority mirrors its role as the proposed cure for a damaged democracy, whenever such a problem may occur. A sincere desire to tangibly reform the local democratic process whenever the need arises is what rests at the center of the effort to create a relevant recall provision for our county home rule charter. As with our respective Cape municipalities, it will serve only to strengthen the control of the people over the devices and processes of local government, while lessening the power of special interests. The power of a countywide recall provision, for both our executive and legislative branches, can also achieve all of this and more.

Political power is placed directly back into the hands of the people through three types of openly democratic instruments: the initiative, the referendum and the recall. All three of these mechanisms are considered to be tools by which regional electorate can guarantee that county government remains inclusive and transparent. The Barnstable County Home Rule Charter possesses the first two, but it desperately requires the third as well.

As a staunch supporter for adoption of a county charter recall provision, I wish to point to the unmitigated fact that its establishment is solidly grounded in the sovereign power of the people. The role of our each and every one of our county officials is that of a delegate, whose obligation is to provide influence to the views of his or her constituents and not to implement his or her own decrees.

A logically worded and judiciously applied regional recall provision is vitally necessary to maintain a popular government by and for the people and to eradicate any improper control by private interests over our county executive and legislative bodies. Appropriately amending our county charter to recall members of the Board of County Commissioners as well as the Assembly of Delegates will provide the guarantee that we all need for continued fair treatment and transparent functioning on the part of all aspects of our Cape Cod regional government.

Thank you.


Barnstable County Commissioner

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