Growth critic launches Web site Ex-planning official offers 'Joe's Place' as charter issue forum

January 08, 1998|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

Former county planning commission Vice Chairman Joseph H. Mettle, who cited health reasons and growing frustration at unchecked residential growth when he resigned 10 months ago, is hoping to accomplish on the Internet what he could not as a member of the development review panel.

He wants to slow Carroll's growth and hold elected officials more accountable.

With the help of slow-growth activist Gene Edwards, Mettle has developed a World Wide Web site he hopes will spur Carroll residents to choose a charter form of government, with a county executive and county council, instead of the current three-member Board of County Commissioners.

Mettle said he hopes residents will find the Web site a useful source of information about the proposed change to charter government that will be on the ballot this year. His "Joe's Place" site made its debut Monday and is available via the Carroll County public library's Web site.

"Many people are trying to misrepresent charter and shoot it down," Mettle said. Carroll's three County Commissioners and its General Assembly delegation would lose much of their authority if voters approved a charter government, he said.

A citizens' committee appointed to write a charter is expected to vote tonight on a final document.

"I'm trying to be ready when they give this to the people," Mettle said in explaining why the site was launched this week. Until the issue is decided on the November ballot or in a special election before then, Mettle plans to offer letters and opinions on his site that would publicize charter government and encourage its approval.

He also will urge residents to send questions about charter via electronic mail, which he and others will attempt to answer on the Web site.

Mettle, who helped in a petition drive to get charter government on the ballot this year, expects the first question to be one he said he heard often during that drive: "If I sign this, is it a way of getting rid of the three commissioners in office?"

"I've been known to exaggerate," Mettle says, "but I'd have to say truly that 80 percent of the people [who signed the petition] asked me that question.

"And, of course, the answer is yes."

But getting rid of the commissioners is not his chief goal, Mettle says.

"The issue is accountability," Mettle says. "These three commissioners are at loggerheads all the time. When things go wrong, they can always point to the other two as the culprits. But with a county executive, people have one person they can

blame" if government policies are not to their liking.

Mettle chose the Carroll County public library as the Internet provider for his Web site because he felt it would be more accessible to the public that way.

Those who have Internet access can reach the page at

Mettle, 63, said using the Internet to publicize and support charter government is natural for him after having worked for years as a computer specialist for the federal government.

Mettle said doctors have told him the back problems he suffered while a member of the planning commission were in large part caused by tension. He sought to halt residential growth in south Carroll until adequate facilities were in place to support it, but was often outvoted on the eight-member oversight panel.

Pub Date: 1/08/98

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