The three newly elected Carroll County commissioners conducted public business for the first time Tuesday and went right to work examing the county government staff. That might sound routine, but not in Westminster.
For the past four years the three commissioners rarely could agree. Their deliberations on important county matters -- charter government, affordable housing, police instead of sheriff protection -- produced meager results. Instead, the previous set of commissioners left a backlog of business for their successors.
Only one commissioner, Republican Julia Gouge, has returned. The newcomers are Democrat Elmer C. Lippy and Republican Donald I. Dell. They must improve Carroll's ability to meet what is expected to be strong growth in the 1990s. As former Commissioner J. Jeffrey Griffith described it, "At this point, we have no single vision for where the county's headed."
The success of the new government will depend on its members' ability to tackle such urgent issues as school construction, taxes and long-range planning. It is doubtful that they will be able to meet these pressing demands without increasing Carroll's low property tax rate of $2.35 per $100 of assessed value.
Neither can the county commissioners hold to a work schedule that requires them to meet only two days a week. Already the three have agreed to increase their presence in Westminster to tackle the increasingly complex demands being placed on the local government.
All this indicates that Carroll needs a form of government better suited to such a fast-growing county. The three commissioners cannot legislate on important local matters; that is left to its delegation in Annapolis, which is only in session 90 days a year. There are two better options: code home rule, which is a limited step giving the commissioners slightly more authority, or charter government headed by an executive or county manager and a council.
Our choice is charter government. Although a previous attempt failed, enough county citizens support it now to warrant new attention. It seems the best way for a booming county like Carroll to continue to prosper.