Charter Activists Say Petition Is Ready

Next Step Is To Form Board To Write Draft

September 22, 1991|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff writer

The Committee for Charter Government announced last week that it hascollected enough petition signatures to start the process of changing the county's 154-year-old commissioner form of government.

The committee has collected more than 3,800 signatures from the county's 56,729 registered voters, exceeding the 5 percent necessary to requirethe county commissioners to appoint a board to write a charter. The charter would outline the configuration, powers, duties and limitations of county government.

The signatures first must be verified by the county Board of Elections.

Charter government typically involves an executive and a council but can take other forms. Baltimore, Howard, Harford and Anne Arundel counties have charter governments.

The committee acquired the signatures during a six-week period from late July through early September. The committee previously had collected more than 2,000 signatures, but many were invalidated because they lacked required information.

The committee plans to put the charter in front of voters in 1993 as a special ballot question.

It decided against placing the question on the 1992 ballot because it could be overshadowed by thepresidential election, an abortion referendum and other issues, Chairman Charles O. Fisher Sr. said.

For the next year, the committee will focus on educating voters on charter government and its implications, he added.

"It's a good grass-roots opportunity for people tolearn about what government is available to them other than what we have now," Fisher said.

Charter activists contend that the part-time commissioner form of government has become outmoded and has been too unresponsive in addressing issues associated with the county's rapid growth.

Fisher said that the committee will emphasize that charter government allows citizens more participation, affords the possibility for regional representation on a council and does not have to cost any more than the commissioner form.

Charter government would transfer lawmaking power over county matters from the General Assembly in Annapolis to elected officials within Carroll. Now, the commissioners must go through the Carroll state delegation to enact local laws.

It also could provide a separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government. The commissioners fulfillboth roles.

Charter government was defeated by Carroll voters in a 1968 referendum. An attempt to convert to code, a modified version of home rule, was rejected in 1984.

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