Haines opposes a third question in referendum Attorney general asked to offer a solution

November 02, 1997|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The leader of Carroll's General Assembly delegation says voters should have only two options for changing the county's form of government on the ballot in the next election.

Those options would be yes-or-no choices of a charter government with an elected executive and county council, or expanding the current board of three commissioners to five.

But Commissioner Richard T. Yates wants a third choice on the ballot: retaining the three-member board.

'No government?'

"It is conceivable that all three initiatives would be voted down," said Sen. Larry E. Haines, leader of Carroll's legislative delegation. "If they all fail, do we have no government?"

Yates' proposal is unnecessary, said Haines, because if the charter and expansion initiatives both failed, Carroll would automatically continue with its three-commissioner government.

"Two government questions are enough for the voters," Haines said. "If both fail, we still have the current form."

Bigger panel backed

Haines, along with the other members of the county's delegation to Annapolis, supported a proposal expanding the board of commissioners from three members to five.

But Yates contends that the public does not understand the political intricacies and voters might think they must change the current three-commissioner system.

"People do not know that they have a choice," said Yates. "Without all three options, we are not allowing people to make the proper decision."

Haines has asked the attorney general for a ruling on Yates' proposal and expects an answer in time for the delegation's meeting with the commissioners Tuesday.

New Windsor Mayor Jack A. Gullo Jr., one of nine members of a panel appointed last spring to write a charter, said placing three issues on the ballot is "a wasted effort and counterproductive." He expects Yates' request to be denied.

"You can't have that kind of question on the ballot," Gullo said. "This is a referendum, not a poll. You have to give the voters credit."

When a vote will take place depends on the charter commission and the commissioners. The nine-member charter board, which is meeting weekly, has only a few more hurdles to clear before completing an initial draft.

Gullo and Hampstead Mayor Christopher M. Nevin, vice chairman of the board, have volunteered to write the draft. They expect to have it completed by Thanksgiving.

'Start cranking it out'

"We are getting down to the end," Nevin said. "We just have to start cranking it out at our computers."

One intense day of writing would be sufficient, Gullo said. The board has used as guidelines charters from surrounding counties and the proposed Carroll charter that failed at the polls five years ago.

"We have adopted text that is already written and that will make the writing go quickly," Gullo said.

The County Commissioners must publish the document twice within 30 days of its delivery. Then, they have 90 days to schedule a special election -- estimated to cost $106,000 -- unless a general election falls within the time frame.

Haines opposes a special election, which he calls too costly and time consuming.

"The November election is the proper ballot," Haines said.

Pub Date: 11/02/97

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