Charting a course for charter writing Carroll County: Drafting committee should not include opponents of home rule.

March 28, 1997

AIDED BY favorable early spring weather in its petition drive, proponents of charter government have delivered a strong message to the County Commissioners: A responsible, good-faith document must be drafted for voter referendum by 1998.

Despite an inauspicious start and initially apathetic responses, petition drive organizers have presented a stack of more than 4,800 signatures, which is 1,000 more than the minimum required by law. While the county Board of Elections must verify the validity of the names and dates of signing, the thick cushion of extra signatures is evidence that the charter-drafting process will move forward.

The three commissioners will not have to look far for potential members of the charter-drafting committee, which they must appoint. The petition organizers gave them names of 24 residents willing and qualified to serve on the drafting panel. All of them are ardent supporters of charter home rule.

Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Richard T. Yates strongly oppose charter government as too costly and too inaccessible to constituents. To further their self-serving interests, they propose appointing charter opponents to the draft committee.

That would be a serious mistake, even if the majority were charter advocates. A few skeptics perhaps, but not dedicated opponents. It would obstruct productive, expeditious work in crafting a document, promoting the idea that the committee could not agree on a charter proposal. It would be an arrogant rebuke to responsible citizens who have signed in favor of getting the charter question on the ballot.

The draft committee should not be a debating club, arguing whether charter is good or bad. The committee's job must be to present the best form of charter for the voters' decision. The public debate on the concept and specifics will rage outside the committee. And no voter should consider the final draft charter as a document bearing the county's official approval.

The committee can study the 1992 draft charter that lost at the polls, and improve upon its presumed flaws. The petitions cannot specify details of charter: that is left to the appointed draft committee. That is why committee members must work in concert so voters will have an honest choice in the referendum.

Pub Date: 3/28/97

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