Front Royal updated its town charter for boundaries, “housekeeping” details and its elections. Two changes, vetted at length by citizens and the Front Royal Town Council, were made to move town elections from May to November, and to add the word “only” to “by petition” (to emphasize that we want nonpartisan local elections).
Del. Michael Webert (who also represents Rappahannock County) filed the charter update with the General Assembly as HB2051. When town councilman Shae Parker checked the bill on the General Assembly website, the election section was omitted entirely. Front Royal elections would then default by statute from May to June. The town council repeatedly protested, as did some citizens, this unrequested and arbitrary change to our updated charter.
Eventually, Webert amended the bill to include a section which would permit elections in November but in odd years, claiming concern for state costs of elections held in presidential election years. There is no altered impact on state costs; 75 years of even-numbered years continued into the future is what Front Royal wants. Then, Webert added that the citizens could get on the local ballot by “party nomination and by petition.” This time he claimed that some constituents called wanting another option than “by petition.”
Delegates Todd Gilbert and Beverly Sherwood weren’t helpful at all. Officials continued to write, call and visit in an effort to have the original language of the bill restored. Finally, Front Royal officials had no choice but to ask for the bill to be killed in committee or restored to its original language. Gilbert chose to have it killed in committee. In effect, citizens have been punished by having to wait until 2014, with the changes effective in 2016. Is it legal for delegates to change what a legally created unit of governance requests for their own charter update?