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Rothschild: Forums provide reason to oppose charter government

The question of whether Carroll County should move to charter government is only confusing if we allow politicians to throw common sense aside and ignore facts. Adjacent surrounding counties that went to charter have two things in common: More urbanization and a huge shift toward liberal politics.

Watching the pro-charter, dog-and-pony shows put together for the public in Carroll County provides an even stronger reason to oppose charter government. Specifically, I am referring to the pathetic forums that resembled bad infomercials rather than informational sessions. Each of the two charter forums shared the following troubling characteristics.

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First, the forums were staffed entirely with pro-charter so-called “experts.” I say “so-called experts” because one of the “experts” helped create Frederick County’s charter that enabled the county executive to prohibit any of the councilmen and councilwomen from talking to county staff, thus turning the liberal county executive into a dictator. A second so-called “expert” at the forums was a former charter government employee who rambled on aimlessly, ad-infinitum.

Next, it is troubling to note that in both forums, something critical was missing: What was missing (I hear you ask)?

The commissioner that put together the forum did not select any panel members with opposing views. Essentially, the forums were one-sided pro-charter propaganda sessions. Whoever encouraged him to do this should be fired.

A third troubling aspect of these forums was the fact that the organizer(s), whom would presumably want to be your first county executive, completely prohibited citizen comments.

A fourth problem with these forums was the fact that again, panel officials, whom would presumably want to be your first county executive, would only accept written questions they could screen and manipulate to ensure the outcomes they desired. One citizen got extremely angry because the moderator redacted parts of her question, and by doing so, completely changed the context of her question. On her written card, she wanted to know, “Given the fact that Carroll already has the highest quality of life in the state, what would the benefits be of moving to charter government?” The moderator eliminated the premise of the question (which was factually correct), and simply asked, “What are the benefits of charter government?” Clearly, changing the context of the question, and depriving citizens of useful information.

What do all of the above have in common? They all demonstrated abuse of power to (a) stack the panel; (b) suppress opposing views; (c) silence citizens; and (d) manipulate questions and answers to bring about the preconceived outcome one or two commissioners desire.

Ironically, these troubling forums indirectly highlight the benefits of commissioner government. When power is shared, it is more difficult for any one individual to engage in subversive tactics to mislead, manipulate, suppress, or deceive the public.

Perhaps the commissioner that wants charter has good intentions … but, in the 19th century, Sen. Daniel Webster talked about the dangers of politicians with good intentions. He said, “There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters [nonetheless].”

C.S. Lewis made a similar comment about the danger of men with good intentions. He said, “Those who torment us for our own good, will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

The forums arranged by the commissioner spearheading the quest for charter government reflect negatively on his leadership style. When elected officials feel it necessary to stack-the-panel; suppress opposition; deprive citizens of comments; and screen questions, a bright yellow neon warning light should be flashing in every citizen’s mind.

When facts support political policy, there is no need to engage in these kinds of Soviet-style propaganda tactics.

The fact is, the case for charter is very weak, and historically, charter government is the fast track to bigger, more authoritarian leftist government. Perhaps this is why the Republican Central Committee wisely voted 7-0 to oppose charter government at this point in time.

Charter ain’t Smarter.

Richard Rothschild is a retired Carroll County commissioner.

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