When five isn't greater than three A more up-to-date government, not more commissioners, is the answer.

January 24, 1996

STATE DEL. Donald B. Elliott thinks Carroll citizens would have a more representative government if the current board of county commissioners were increased to five members from its current make-up of three. A larger board is not the answer, however. Rather than tinkering with this outdated clunker, it's time to trade it in for a new model.

A complete restructuring is the only way Carroll residents can create a responsive and efficient form of county government that can deal with the problems of a fast-growing population that is part of the metropolitan area.

A county commission may have worked when Carroll was a slow-growing agricultural community. But it is increasingly clear that a three-member commission can't grapple with the day-to-day duties of government as well as plan for the future.

Mr. Elliott's proposal is a response to that frustration. But his proposal would merely replace a three-headed executive branch with a five-headed creature. Gaining a consensus among five members is no easier than with three. Neither would charting a long-term vision become simpler with a larger board. Often, Carroll government seems pulled in various directions by three individuals pursuing their own agendas. Imagine what that would be like with five commissioners.

Carroll voters must think in terms of modernizing their government. Although they rejected charter government in 1994, they need to reopen this issue.

A charter that calls for an elected county executive and County Council is clearly the best structure for creating a responsive and nimble local government.

Having one person responsible for running the day-to-day affairs of government and a council to develop policy mirrors the classical form of American governance. Why reinvent the wheel? The American system that the funding fathers designed for this nation has stood the test of time.

By adopting a charter, Carroll's citizens would have a government form that could move their jurisdiction forward. Forced to juggle difficult issues regarding the schools, roads, waste disposal and economic development, the do-it-all commissioner form is clearly becoming overwhelmed.

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