Minnich: Form of government isn't the issue

A well-done story on a presentation of the three forms of government for Maryland counties appeared June 13 at the top of page one in the Times.

The issue comes up every few years and gets shelved every time, but it isn’t a matter of if or when change will occur.


It doesn’t make any difference which form we have if more residents don’t get an education, stay informed and vote in every election they can, from state central committee members to orphan’s court to state delegates and senators — and not just the commissioners or council or county executives.

About 70 people turned out to hear well-informed experts give balanced information on each of the options and responded to questions. Here’s hoping more people will pay more attention and participate in future discussions, one of which is set for next Thursday.

Trump wants to be acclaimed dictator and he has followers who would agree to it. That is news.

The usual suspects turned out last week and will be diligent in attempting to drive the dialog — monolog if they get the chance — in an effort to shut the issue down. Those who will be most persistent do not want change. This is the essential idea of being a Carroll County Republican party activist, because it favors insiders and partisans.

The old argument, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is the rationale. Nothing like home-spun wisdom to put a matter to rest. But it that wisdom was solid we’d still be getting around by horse and buggy, which is the era for which the commissioner form was created by the state in the 1800s.

The original idea was for the state to retain political power, with county delegates and senators participating in Annapolis and dispensing the largess of political successes at home.

To many others involved in the political processes at the local level made retaining power at the state level more difficult. It was bad enough that incorporated towns and cities had their own elected local leaders — mayors and council.

But it became obvious — even to conservatives — that it would be useful to have someone in each county have state authority to supervise the grading and maintenance of roads, so roads commissioners were created. Then elected. Their powers were limited, and the county delegates liked it that way.

From Trump came this: The mayor of London is, “a stone-cold loser who reminds me very much of our very dumb and incompetent mayor De Blasio of NYC ..."

Over time, more and more residents of growing counties and regions realized they wanted more say about who made decisions about education, fire and emergency services, infrastructure, and the general well-being.

A few years ago, local conservative partisans were worried that a Democrat might be elected to the three-member board of commissioners, the beginnings of a troublesome trend, so they pushed a vote through to increase the number of commissioners to five, according to districts. They sweetened the deal for voters by saying they would be choosing representation at their neighborhood level.

“Vote for Five,” was the slogan, which was appealing on the face of it, until voters woke up to the fact that previously, they could vote for three leaders, but henceforth would be represented by only one. Any suggestion that voters were manipulated brings the retort, “Voters aren’t stupid.”

At the very least, we’ve had a taste of council representation. The central committee shot itself in the foot, but they still have visions of gerrymandering districts to their benefit; that’s what political operatives do while the rest of us are watching “Wheel of Fortune.”

State central committees want to have influence on whoever is elected to the top local offices. The back-door influence is where the jobs are handed out, the favors repaid, the money raised and distributed for the betterment of the tribe.

So, the form of government is less important than what residents know, their willingness to learn things about needs, wants and costs, their insistence on accountability, the openness and respectful discussions and the ideals of participatory government.

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