Holstein: Why Carroll should say 'no' to charter government

The first agenda item of the new Board of Commissioners at its first open meeting was charter government. Why? Because two county commissioners want to change our form of government. Commissioner Eric Bouchat wants charter because he thinks our commissioner form of government is an outdated concept from English common law. He also thinks we need a county executive like the federal government to make Carroll County more efficient than the commissioner form of government. Results at the county-level argue against him. Commissioner Dennis Frazier wants charter so he can raise taxes. I disagree with him but compliment him for honestly presenting his views.

The excuse for changing to charter government is to avoid having to have county ordinances approved by the Democratic General Assembly. What you are not told is that local county ordinances are routinely approved as a matter of local courtesy. I submitted Public Information Act requests to the county and found that over the past eight years there were 33 pages dealing with county ordinances submitted to the General Assembly. That works out to about four pages per year, hardly a crushing workload. I was unable to find any ordinance rejected by the General Assembly. I believe the justification being offered for charter government is greatly over stated.


The argument is also made that Carroll County needs an executive branch of government to separate law making from law enforcement. Our elected county sheriff is the law-enforcing executive branch in Carroll County.

Charter has been voted down six times already. Exactly what problem is charter supposed to solve? Carroll County has lower crime rates, lower dropout rates, less debt, lower unemployment, less traffic congestion, higher agriculture preservation rates, and more aesthetic beauty than every surrounding charter county.

Every surrounding county that went charter is now run by liberals. Charter governments can raise their own salaries and pass laws that will implement and impose additional fines and fees at the local level.

I do agree charter is more efficient — more efficient at passing more regulations, more efficient at raising taxes, and more efficient issuing directives to urban planners behind closed doors that can screw-up your neighborhood. Remember, the Freedom master plan was changed because the commissioners had the power to work together and direct county planners to change the plan to reflect the views of the people living in the Freedom area.

In fact, charter is so efficient, you can expect to see many new laws passed. For example, in two years, Anne Arundel County proposed 245 new laws under charter government. Recently, their county executive — single-handedly, akin to Obama, using nothing but a phone and pen — very efficiently ended immigration enforcement, making Anne Arundel a sanctuary for illegal immigration. Is that what you want in Carroll?

Charter gives a lot of power, too much power in my opinion, to one person: the county executive. For example, the Frederick County executive forbid department heads from speaking to members of the County Council, according to former County Councilman Kirby Delauter.

Charter will increase cost of government. County executives routinely make six-figure salaries, and hire expensive county administrators and other additional staff. Hey, you can’t expect the county executive to run the county all by himself or herself. There will be higher added costs for long-term heath care benefits and pensions.

Commissioner Richard Weaver said that Carroll County has had a commissioner form of government for over 100 years. The new five commissioner districts are only eight years old and seem to be working well. Why change the form of government without a significant reason to do that? Do you think that the political supporters of charter see themselves as that highly paid county executive or highly paid staff?

Ask yourself one question: If charter is better, why did thousands of people leave Baltimore, Howard, Frederick and Montgomery counties and move to Carroll?

We are fortunate to have a commissioner form of government. Let’s keep it that way. It’s your future at stake. You can help by contacting the commissioners and letting them know you want to keep the commissioner form of government at 410-386-2043 or via email at

Bruce Holstein writes from Taylorsville.