More commissioners, more confusion Carroll County: State delegation bill aims to derail true effort for charter government.

March 17, 1997

THE CARROLL COUNTY legislative delegation has done it again. Despite a lack of unanimity on the issue, Del. Donald B. Elliott is pushing a "delegation" bill to revamp the county government, with five county commissioners to be elected at-large.

The proposal would add considerable cost to county government (whose commissioners are already the highest paid in Maryland) without noticeable improvement or real change to the system.

Its main purpose is to confuse and sidetrack a grass-roots efforts on behalf of charter government, a more accountable and more representative form of governance for a growing jurisdiction of 145,000 residents. A petition drive, to get the commissioners to appoint a charter-drafting board, is near its signature goal.

The Elliott bill is also opposed by Carroll's three incumbent commissioners, who are also no friends of the charter movement. In fact, the bill's "delegation" and "local" status is another rebuke to the commissioners by the state legislators, a continuation of last year's hostilities.

Mr. Elliott, who looks to Frederick County voters for his election, claims to be expressing the voice of Carroll citizens in pressing this delegation bill. Last year, those Carroll voices told him to draft legislation for election of five county commissioners by district.

His bill would put the five-commissioner plan up for voter approval in the 1998 general election. But there's been no groundswell for an expansion of the number of commissioners for Carroll County. Neither has there been a public outcry about lack of participation by the three commissioners on county boards or at community meetings -- Mr. Ellicott's rationale, in part, for a bigger board.

The only way that five commissioners would provide expanded citizen representation would be through election by districts. But that wouldn't resolve the lack of direct executive accountability that is a big flaw in the collective commissioner form of government.

Why not make a substantive, positive change in Carroll's form of government and elect five county council members by district -- and a county executive, like the other metropolitan counties in Maryland?

That would give Carroll County voters a chance to make a real choice.

Pub Date: 3/17/97

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