A Good Idea Made Bad CARROLL COUNTY

November 06, 1992

C Proponents of charter government in Carroll County should borrow the slogan of the anti-abortion Vote kNOw Coalition -- "Make them get it right" -- if they really want the county to adopt genuine home rule government.

The charter board that drew up a home rule government proposal for Carroll so botched the job, the result was soundly rejected by voters Tuesday -- for all the wrong reasons.

The charter board made a fundamental mistake when it loaded the proposed charter with baubles that tried to appease as many factions as possible.

For people who feared an elected county executive like those in the state's six most populous counties, the charter board proposed a professional administrator who would be appointed by part-time council members.

For people concerned about rising taxes, the board pinned on a tax cap.

In the end, this mish-mash of a document only served to alienate more countians than it appeased. The charter board made the mistake of trying to be all things to all people, and failed because of it.

Yet Carroll needs a charter if it is to have a responsive and accountable county government. Virtually every day brings examples of why this county needs to update its form of government.

It is also time for Carroll to establish distinct legislative and executive branches. The founders of this country realized that a system of checks and balances among various branches of government ensures the greatest benefit to the greatest number of people. Why reject an idea that has a track record of more than 200 years?

Carroll's citizens also have to decide how much longer they are going to let 188 members of the Maryland General Assembly -- most of whom have no interest in this county -- decide its issues.

Even though the charter was soundly defeated, supporters of the concept should not give up. They need to educate the populace about charter government. Local government offers people an opportunity to have meaningful participation.

Civic-minded groups -- possibly the League of Women Voters -- should hold the equivalent of 1960s "teach-ins" to educate voters about the various forms and options of local government that might better serve them.

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