Charter is defended, warned against


With a floor-to-ceiling American flag as a backdrop, a charter supporter and an opponent detailed what Carroll's government would be like if the proposed charter is adopted.

"Charter is not to be feared. It is as old as the Constitution of the United States," supporter Charles O. Fisher Sr. said Wednesday night during a forum televised on local access Channel 19 from the station's East Main Street studio.

The event was sponsored by the East Carroll Republican Club, the North Carroll Democratic Club and the Carroll Communications Guild.

"Let me dispel one thought: Charter is not strange, is not new to this county," said Mr. Fisher, a Westminster attorney who helped write the charter document that is on the Nov. 3 ballot.

Carroll's eight municipalities are governed by charters, he said.

If the proposed charter is adopted, Carroll would be governed by a five-member County Council elected by districts and an executive appointed by the council to handle daily government business.

The charter, which would give the county home rule, includes a tax cap and would give voters the power to bring most laws to referendum.

Opponent Richard T. Yates of Eldersburg said charter will make county government more political. He predicted the County Council would become "a gang of five."

The current commissioner form of government provides extra checks and balances because Carroll's state legislators must approve any laws the commissioners propose, he said. All county laws are passed in Annapolis.

Mr. Yates, who also helped write the charter but then voted against it, said Carroll should have an elected county executive. "The people of this county have the intelligence to choose their own leaders," he said.

He likened the County Council to the Carroll school board and said the council would end up paying the appointed executive a salary similar to the salary the school board negotiated for the school superintendent.

Superintendent R. Edward Shilling receives $104,626 a year.

"An elected executive has his own political constituency," Mr. Fisher said, and he or she would be at "loggerheads" with the council.

Mr. Yates, who has run unsuccessfully for school board and commissioner positions in the past six years, said the charter should have included term limits for council members.

Commissioners currently do not have term limits, Mr. Fisher said. If residents are dissatisfied with their council members, they could vote them out, he said.

Mr. Yates also said the $7,500 salary proposed for council members is "a sucker salary" and "a pittance."

The commissioners receive $30,000 each and meet during the day. A County Council would meet at night, which means a wider variety of people would be eligible to serve, Mr. Fisher said.

The forum will be rebroadcast at 12:30 p.m. tomorrow.

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