Charter debate draws nuts-and-bolts queries More than 60 attend

vote set for tomorrow

May 01, 1998|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

The last debate before Carroll voters go to the polls tomorrow to decide whether to change their form of government was the longest and most esoteric.

All of the big questions about whether to keep Carroll's three-commissioner form of government or follow other counties in the Baltimore metropolitan area and switch to a county executive and county council had been argued.

Last night, the standing-room-only crowd of more than 60 people in Eldersburg asked questions for two hours about matters buried deep within the charter that might provide the framework for the new government.

They wanted to know about subpoena power, ad valorem taxes, budget stabilization accounts, which form of government makes it easier to remove appointed officials, and destruction of campaign signs.

Hampstead Mayor Christopher M. Nevin, one of the authors of the proposed charter, said the subpoena power given the county council for agencies under its control is standard for most governments.

If it appears, for example, that public funds might be being misused, government needs the ability to find out, Nevin said.

Charter opponent Harvey Tegeler, a Republican candidate for county commissioner, criticized the subpoena provision, calling it a "measure of force" and "a very dangerous power" to give people who are not legally trained. Even the state prosecutor doesn't have it, he said.

Frank Crowson, another charter opponent, objected to an ad valorem clause in the charter.

Fairfax, Va., where Crowson once lived, had ad valorem taxes that led to taxes on boats, airplanes, cars and household items such as television sets, he said.

"That kind of scares me," Crowson said.

New Windsor Mayor Jack Gullo Jr., who helped write the proposed charter, said ad valorem is simply a Latin phrase meaning "related to value."

A personal property tax, on the other hand, "is something that should scare everybody," Gullo said. Only the state can impose such a tax, he said.

As for the budget stabilization account, Nevin said it was a rainy-day fund that would grow to 7 percent of county revenues and would only be used in a fiscal emergency of the kind that occurred in Maryland in the early 1990s.

Tegeler derided the fund as "one more opportunity to fill one more coffer."

Crowson said the question of how to remove appointed officials is more a people problem than a form-of-government problem.

Nevin and Gullo disagreed. The charter "does give far greater control" over appointed officials, Nevin said.

Pub Date: 5/01/98

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