Culleton: With little influence, Carroll should reconsider code home rule

The First Amendment to the Constitution reads as follows: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

President Trump seems to delight in the contradiction of this amendment. He calls the press the enemy of the people. He seeks to ban the immigration of Muslims. When liberals demonstrate he calls them a mob and threatens them with violence.


No wonder that his Saudi Arabian buddies feel free to kidnap, torture and murder a reporter for an American publication. The rest of the world reacts in horror. The president of the United States has as his first concern the possible loss of arms sales. However, his real concern is the loss of a patron of Trump Inc.

The vaunted Trump wealth consists primarily of funds from two sources; money transferred from Donald Trump's late father's estate in ways that avoided payment of taxes (this is under investigation) and money transferred to Trump Inc. from foreign entities, including Russia and Saudi Arabia. As we approach the mid-term elections, the question should not be party affiliation but rather whether the candidate supports Donald Trump.

Indeed, the Trump charm is fading among his faithful. The number of Republican candidates that welcome a Trump visit is lessening. Fox News is no longer covering all his events from end to end. Other programming draws more viewers.

Recent polling shows that a Democratic majority is likely in the House of Representatives. The Senate is probably going to stay Republican. Under these circumstances removal from office of the failed President Trump via impeachment is impossible. Serious criminal charges will most likely be leveled against Donald Trump, but a party line vote in the Senate has ensured a permanent pro-Trump vote in the Supreme Court.

The current prosperity of the nation has been fueled by a massive increase in the annual debt. It is like the family that lives lavishly on borrowed money. Sooner or later the bills must be paid. It will be left to the next administration to clean up the mess.

We here in Carroll County have little influence in these national matters. We can, of course, vote for the Democratic candidate for Congress in the First District since the Republican incumbent has declared his loyalty to Trump. That might attract some attention. But Carroll generally votes Republican. Indeed, most local offices do not even have a Democratic contender.

In Maryland there are three forms of county government — commissioner, code home rule (aka charter) and county executive. All counties surrounding Carroll have gone to the county executive form. Some decades back, when Carroll had three commissioners elected at large, there was a movement to go to code home rule. This would have put more power in the hands of the commissioners.

At that time, Julia Walsh Gouge was the most popular of the three commissioners. There was a movement to go up one step from the commissioner form to code home rule, which would have given Carroll County the same control over local legislation as was enjoyed by the counties with the county executive form of government but left the county government structure the same — three commissioners elected at large.

This did not suit a Republican Club that more or less ran the county through influence over the county delegation to the legislature. So they put on the same ballot as the proposal for home rule a proposal to increase the number of commissioners to five elected by district.

Both proposals passed, but the five elected by district got the most votes. There was a struggle over the district map, but the delegation voted for a map that put Julia Gouge in a district where she had to run against a very popular mayor and her principal supporter on the Board of Commissioners, Mr. Jones, in a gerrymandered district that was dominated by communities far away from his base of strength.

The Republican Club that opposed Gouge and Jones won the day through all this maneuvering and neither Gouge nor Jones has been elected to county office since.

Years have passed and perhaps the time has come to move up from the least powerful form of county government to the code home rule form.

It is too late to get such a change on the 2018 ballot. So Carroll will continue to have the form of government most suitable for small rural counties while it continues to become more suburban in nature.

Newcomers to the county may want to familiarize themselves with all this local history.