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Carroll County Republican committee opposes charter government; Democratic committee has no stance —  yet

Carroll County Republican committee opposes charter government; Democratic committee has no stance —  yet
From left, Office of General Counsel for Baltimore City Chief Solicitor Victor Tervala, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Planning Robert McCord, and Maryland Association of Counties Legal and Policy Counsel Leslie Knapp Jr. discuss forms of government at a June 11 forum. (Mary Grace Keller/Carroll County Times)

With the possibility of charter government floating before the county commissioners, the Carroll County Republican Central Committee has taken a stance against changing the form of government, while the Democratic Central Committee is waiting to make its call.

Carroll County commissioners hosted a forum June 11 in which three professionals shared their knowledge of the three forms of county government available in Maryland: charter, code home rule and commission. A week later, the Republican Central Committee established its position on the topic.

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The Republican committee voted on June 18 to publicize its support of the commission form of government after a “lively discussion,” according to a news release. Richard Rothschild, a voting committee member and a former county commissioner, said the vote was 7-0, with two voting members not present.

“The Carroll County, MD Republican Central Committee supports our current form of five commissioner government and does not support changing our form of government at this time,” the release states.

To form a charter government, a group of appointed citizens would write a charter to be publicized and then voted upon in a countywide election. A charter may be governed by a county executive and a county council, thus separating the executive and legislative powers.

“Carroll County leads all of the surrounding counties in quality of life. We see no reason to change a winning formula,” committee Chairman Dave Brauning Jr. said in the release.

“I think citizens that come to Carroll County want less government, not more government,” Rothschild said. Historically, charter government leads to “bigger, more authoritarian government,” he said.

Critics of charter government say the county executive can become too powerful, while proponents such as Commissioner Eric Bouchat believe it would give the county independence from the Maryland General Assembly. Bouchat, R- District 4, will moderate a town hall Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Reagan Room of the county government building, at 225 N. Center St. in Westminster.

Bouchat requested at the June 20 Board of Commissioners meeting that the board be briefed at a future meeting on how to form a charter writing committee. Bouchat also asked the elections board director to be present so they can provide a timeline. The purpose of the briefing and discussion would be to learn more about the possibility of the shift — that might or might not result in a vote, Bouchat later clarified.

The discussion is tentatively scheduled for the July 18 commissioners’ meeting.

“We are going to make history by writing our own constitution (charter), putting it to vote and ultimately declaring Carroll County independence. I am all about empowering the people,” Bouchat said Tuesday.

The commissioners have not voted on whether to pursue a charter, and because of this the Carroll County Democratic Central Committee has not taken an official stance, according to Chairman Don West.

“I think it’s a little premature,” West said Tuesday. “There’s really nothing to be in favor of or against because nothing’s been proposed.”

But make no mistake, the Democratic committee is paying attention to the possibility.

“It’s probably the most important issue that’s facing Carroll County government right now,” West said. “We’re well engaged with this issue.”

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If the commissioners vote, then the Democratic committee will likely voice an opinion, according to West, but even then, “Ultimately, it’s up to the voters to decide.”

The commissioners could choose to form a charter writing committee, but the citizens can always vote the charter down if they so choose.

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