Carroll needs charter government CARROLL COUNTY

October 06, 1992

Twenty-four years ago, the citizens of Carroll County had the opportunity to adopt a charter. They decided to stay with the commission form of government. Next month, they have another chance to take control of their local government. They should not pass it up.

Carroll County is no longer a rural place where local government plays a peripheral role in daily life. Government, whether people like it or not, looms larger in counties as they become more suburban. The need for schools, social services, public safety and public health increases. Carroll has nearly doubled its population in two decades. It is the second fastest-growing jurisdiction in the Baltimore metropolitan area, the fifth fastest in Maryland. That trend is likely to continue.

Local government has to plan for and control this growth. The current commission form of government can barely keep up with the changes, let alone anticipate them. Without a charter, the General Assembly gets to decide many of the top issues facing the county. Given the multitude of problems facing the state, local issues are likely to receive only superficial consideration in Annapolis.

Moreover, if the county's delegation to the State House does not want to deal with an issue, the citizens have little recourse but to wait until the next session or the next election. Carroll's delegation has a history of thwarting local initiatives -- from the important, such as creation of a county "rainy day" fund, to the inconsequential, such as prohibiting carnivals to use live animals as prizes.

A charter government, if properly designed, can make local government more responsive and accountable. A part-time commission government that mixes legislative and executive functions blurs lines of responsibility.

The proposed charter attempts to deal with some of the problems. Flaws in the charter can be corrected by voters later.

Opponents of home rule argue that a charter form of government will bring more bureaucracy and higher taxes. But it is the size of a county's population that influences the size of government; preserving a board of commissioners may do nothing to halt the growth of Carroll's government. In the meantime, Carroll citizens will not have the accountable and responsible leaders they deserve.

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