Don't feed charter a poison pill Carroll County: Elected county executive, no tax cap are essential for a fair vote.

September 09, 1997

THERE'S NO PURPOSE in reprising the draft charter that Carroll voters decisively voted down in 1992. Even though the population has increased, and the makeup of the county has changed somewhat, there's little chance that the 1992 document would find a sufficient shift in voter attitudes to pass in 1998.

But there is growing support for charter government in Carroll, one demonstrated by the demand for a charter referendum by the mayors of all eight municipalities and in the strong petition drive this year that forced the commissioners to appoint a charter-writing committee.

The preferences of the petition-drive organizers and most signers seem to be for an elected county executive and no hobbling tax cap as part of the home-rule charter. Those were controversial elements of the 1992 document that was defeated by a 3-2 margin.

Through five public meetings last month, general sentiment seemed to favor an elected executive and no tax cap. Not that residents don't want to restrain government spending, but they don't want the curb in the charter, given the problems with such restrictions in other counties.

A charter draft of integrity -- one that is both effective and has the broadest support -- will include a county executive elected countywide, and will not mention a tax cap.

Drafters don't need a semester-long seminar on the nuances and ramifications of a possible tax-limit provision, as pushed by committee Chairwoman Carmen A. Amedori.

And they are not required to canvass "a majority" of eligible voters before drafting the document, either. (Ms. Amedori's apparent aim is to prevent a special election on the draft charter, by dragging out the charter committee's work until it is too late.)

The public meetings, and media coverage, have helped to educate the public on the basics of charter governmnt. Further public discussion and decisions will depend on the specifics included in the draft. That is all the more reason for the committee to act in a timely manner to get the draft before the citizenry, and not to force a "poison pill" on the document, such as the one that helped pre-determine the death of the flawed proposal of '92.

Pub Date: 9/09/97

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