Charter government would have hidden costs ...Several...

LETTERS

March 01, 1998

Charter government would have hidden costs ...

Several people have written letters to the editor extolling the virtues of charter government for Carroll County.

It seems strange to me that these people moved to Carroll County because they loved Carroll County, yet now they want to change it. If they moved to Carroll because it was different from the locale they came from, why do you think they now want to change our government to the form of government they wanted to leave?

I could care less, because I was elected as a commissioner by the largest vote for that office in 1994. Had we had charter then, I would have been the executive.

Charter will be onerous for the citizens for these reasons: The charter document provides for an executive at $84,000 and five council members at $15,000 each.

The executive and council salaries equal $159,000, against the current combined salaries of three commissioners at $32,500 each and our chief of staff at approximately $80,000, for a total of $178,000. These are the figures the pro-charter people usually cite.

They don't tell you that in charter counties, executive assistants make the same or more as our chief of staff. They don't tell you that the delegation to Annapolis has to set the salaries of the commissioners, which has not been changed for several boards of commissioners.

Look at other counties around us. Howard pays its executive $84,250; council members, $28,900 each; and the president of the council, $29,500.

Baltimore County's executive earns $90,000; its council members, $30,900 each; and the president of the council, $33,900.

Montgomery County's executive, $108,176; council members, $59,639 each; and president of the council, $65,603.

I guess the big question is how long our council members would keep working at $15,000 when neighboring jurisdictions pay so much more.

Finally, if the voters wanted to try charter and found it not to their liking, it's almost impossible to go back. The proponents only needed the signatures of 5 percent of the voters in this county to sign a petition to require that the charter issue be placed on the ballot. But if the people wanted to go back to commissioner form, the charter document prescribes 20 percent of the voters' signatures, or 10,000 signatures.

I would suggest that readers get a copy of the charter proposal before the June 9 special election.

Richard T. Yates

Westminster

The writer is president of the Carroll County Board of Commissioners.

... but should be adopted despite political skulduggery

Thanks for your Feb. 18 editorial, "Big vote in June," which praised the charter board and the special election to be held.

I do wish, though, it would have pointed out the disingenuous way the Carroll County delegation maneuvered to allow the addition of two commissioners on the same ballot.

For those who thought getting charter through a special election was going to be easy, they thought wrong. No one counted on the back-room skulduggery of the county's "power people."

On the special election ballot along with charter will be the issue of adding two commissioners. If we select that costly option, we will be able to witness the spectacle of five commissioners not agreeing and pointing fingers at each other, just as three commissioners did recently over the concurrency management ordinance. We also get to pay more for it.

State Sen. Larry E. Haines and Carroll's Republican Central Committee are pushing for five commissioners.

This happened because the Carroll County delegation, especially Dels. Donald B. Elliott (whose main constituency is Frederick County), Joseph M. Getty and Nancy R. Stocksdale were the backers of House Bill 1170, which required that the five-commissioner albatross be on the ballot.

Here's the kicker: Unless more than 50 percent of us vote for charter, we will revert to the three-commissioner form we want to get rid of. The percentage is based on the turnout, not the number of registered voters.

Not only that, but the commissioners get to select which question appears on the ballot first. That alone could make a big difference. In other words, the deck is stacked, just not in favor of the voters.

Carroll countians constantly need to be reminded that Mr. Elliott, Mr. Getty and Ms. Stocksdale backed this silly notion of five commissioners, which was turned down at a mock vote of members of all Republican clubs in the county about a year ago.

Regardless of the shenanigans, charter still would cost less than three commissioners and a lot less than five commissioners. It also would bring a measure of accountability, responsibility, efficiency and representation, which goodness knows we haven't had in this county in the 27 years I've lived here.

Gene Edwards

Eldersburg

Citizens must participate in zoning hearings

The public meetings of the Westminster City Planning and Zoning Commission are out of control. When proposals are presented to the commission, it is done in this manner:

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