Mayors want voters to get chance to consider charter government Commissioners are asked to appoint board to study proposal for '98 ballot

April 26, 1996|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

The county's mayors asked for legal help yesterday to find a way for voters in the 1998 election to decide if Carroll should switch to an executive-County Council form of government.

County Attorney George Lahey said he would provide the information to the mayors within a week.

Hampstead Mayor Christopher M. Nevin had hoped for more.

"Would you be willing to appoint a charter board" to conduct hearings and work out details for getting the measure on the ballot, Mr. Nevin asked at yesterday's quarterly meeting with the County Commissioners.

"If [the mayors are] unanimous" in making the request, Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown said.

If the mayors come back with a unanimous request, the commissioners might not be united in their desire to accept it.

Commissioner Richard T. Yates said his preference would be for "the citizens to tell me [they want charter government] through a petition drive," as occurred in 1992.

To make that happen in 1998, 10,000 of the county's 70,607 registered voters would have to sign the petition.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell wondered why the mayors were pressing the issue. "Government is no better than the people you elect," he said. "The commissioner form of government still works in Carroll."

Manchester Mayor Elmer Lippy, a former county commissioner, is not so sure. "I am concerned by the lack of harmony" between the commissioners and the county's representatives in the General Assembly, Mr. Lippy said. In addition, the county needs a more streamlined form of government to deal with rapid growth, he said.

The county has nearly 15,000 more registered voters than when charter government was on the ballot in 1992.

But the 1992 loss is not a true indication of residents' wishes, supporters of charter government say, because the 1992 proposal called for a county executive to be elected by the County Council.

It is essential that the executive be elected by the people, said Mr. Nevin, who voted against the 1992 proposal. He would vote against it again in 1998, he said, if the proposal called for the council to select the executive.

Mr. Nevin doubts that will happen, however. He said he believes most of the mayors feel as he does. "I am hopeful" that a majority of mayors and their councils will ask the commissioners to appoint a charter board, he said.

Mr. Nevin had hoped that would happen yesterday. But Mount Airy Mayor Gerald R. Johnson Jr. suggested the mayors discuss the matter privately first.

"Once we find out legally what we have to do, we can plan an attack based on what the majority wants to do," Mr. Johnson said.

Pub Date: 4/26/96

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