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Carroll should follow Frederick's lead and move to Charter government

Some years back, Carroll County Republicans, lacking serious competition from the county's Democratic Party, divided into what I consider two factions — a pro-growth group and the slow-growth group.

The pro-growth faction dominated the legislative delegation, while the slow-growthers dominated the Board of County Commissioners. But the pro-growthers dominated the primary process.

So to break up the monopoly of the slow-growthers in county government, they pushed through the five commissioner system, and created a district map that made it difficult for the incumbent commissioners at the time to win.

Many of those who voted for five commissioners thought that they would have the opportunity to vote for all five.

They didn't read the fine print, as each resident only gets to vote for the member in his or her district.

These days, there are three forms of county government in Maryland: commissioners, commissioners with Home Rule, and Charter government.

It seems to me that those in Carroll County who tend to be pro-growth have always opposed the last two forms. I would guess it's because those forms tend to transfer power from the legislative delegation to county government.

Now — under the legislative redistricting that comes into play with the next election — the majority of the county delegation will consist of noncounty residents, and the reason to oppose Home Rule seems less valid.

A vote for Home Rule should be popular all around. But the minds of politicians act in strange ways.

Charter is a different matter. If you query county residents on the question of residential growth, I would guess most will want to limit it. They recognize that the quality of our county living deteriorates when farmland gets converted to housing developments.

And those who crunch the numbers recognize that, as the ratio of industry and farmland to residences becomes less favorable, either their taxes go up, or education deteriorates, or both.

Half the county budget goes toward schooling, and residential property (particularly new residential property) generates more in school expense than it produces in taxes.

A county executive — which we could have under Charter government — would run countywide, and could draw slow-growth votes from all sections of the county. The right candidate could even draw Democratic votes as well. It would be less likely for a fringe candidate to win.

Charter government will put a county executive in the government as a counterbalance to a County Council.

As a result, truly ridiculous proposals — such as, in my opinion, spending money on a futile fight against the new septic tank regulations — would get vetoed.

As I see it, the current Board of Commissioners —which could become a County Council under Charter government — is pretty much on the pro-growth side of the equation most of the time, with one exception. I would offer that exception, Haven Shoemaker, as a potential county executive candidate.

The timing of either a vote for Charter government — or Home Rule, take your pick — is game changing.

It needs to be on the general election ballot, not the primary, and preferably in a presidential election year when voter participation is usually at its highest.

During this past election cycle, neighboring Frederick County approved Charter government, and it will move toward that form. With that vote, all the counties bordering on Carroll are charter counties.

Only Carroll clings to the commissioner form.

It's time for our change as well.

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