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As Long as We Remember...

June 15, 2006

The Merry-Go-Round Still Turns

Chris Cavey

Carroll County has a problem called "the lottery winner" syndrome: defined as having too much of a good thing and forgetting about self-control. Through a series of unfortunate events and a few poor choices, Carroll's form of government will remain in the political dark ages of a small stagnate county and will not grow governmentally as it should.

They forgot about procedures in committees, definitions of words like "recommend," and in general basic civics of how a law is passed. Carroll's delegation, which is 100% Republican and loyal to the governor, was caught-up in a wave of bitter partisan politics in Annapolis. Meanwhile the remnant of the Democrat Party in the county took advantage of this small disagreement among Republicans to divide and conquer a few disgruntled but well meaning members of the Grand Old Party.

In 2004 the voters decided a change in Carroll's form of government was needed and voted at referendum to have the Board of Commissioners expanded from three to five members. The ballot language clearly stated that it be from districts instead of at-large. The referendum also established a Redistricting Committee to make recommendations to the county's legislative delegation.

This Redistricting Committee was established and its membership was as bi-partisan as possible for Carroll County. They held five public hearings and accomplished their job, recommending one of two maps to the delegation. The delegation, within its rights, then held a public hearing, deliberated, and rejected the committee's findings, favoring the map not recommended.

Political debate was rampant. Lines were drawn, (pun intended) and the gerrymandering of the Carroll County Civil War began. Commissioners and mayors pontificated about the evils of proper jurisdictional representation; want-a-be commissioners, state senators and delegates decried "the will of the people." All-the-while Democrats were studying the weaknesses in the Carroll Republican mechanism.

In Annapolis the Democrat controlled legislature salivated at the opportunity to take the all-Republican Carroll delegation "down a notch," from their proud state of total county domination. Naturally, they were successful, operating within their own political element of The Maryland General Assembly, being in control of all procedures in making law.

The opportunity for Carroll County citizens to fulfill their referendum desires died at the hands of the Democrat chair of the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee on the last day of session. It seems that although the Carroll delegation got the bill passed in the House and through her Senate committee, she "forgot" to present the bill to the full Senate for passage. Rest in Peace, Republican bill.

Then, our state's attorney general - another Democrat - ruled that it is okay for the Board of Elections to allow candidates to run at-large. He must have forgotten that under the law the Board of Elections has no authority to adopt or enact redistricting plans.

Then, adding insult to injury, a former Democrat delegate, recently immigrated to Carroll County, petitioned a Democrat-appointed judge to choose a redistricting map for the good citizens of Carroll County.

By miracle, in less than a business day, without public notice, without a hearing or opportunity for adverse parties to be heard, the court arbitrarily chooses Carroll's jurisdictional future; a behind closed doors, lightening decision by a judge who forgot that he was part of the judicial branch, not the legislative branch of government.

This decision caused another skirmish of petitions and - in a wink of the judicial eye - everyone is standing in front of the Maryland Court of Appeals, the highest court in our fair state. The justices quickly reminded everyone with their ruling that only the legislature can make a law; the judiciary then can adjudicate that law. In other words, Carroll County will remain as they have been with three commissioners elected at-large.

The lessons learned are these:

First, the disgruntled Republicans in Carroll need to understand they live in a republic, not a democracy. They elect those who make the decisions, and they may or may not be legally or morally bound to accept any committee recommendations.

Partisan politics is the most divisive when one party pits members of the opposite party against each other and encourages them to eat their own. This trick is especially devious when you don't realize you are being divided.

Democrats control the Maryland General Assembly and could care less about Republicans from Carroll County. It is party politics above all else in Annapolis; you just have to deal with that as fact. Carroll is deep Republican red on the political map and known to be Ehrlich Country. You'll get no favors regardless of need.

The legislative branch creates the legislation, the executive branch signs it into law and the judicial branch interprets the law. In ninth grade social studies, I got an "A." Apparently many did not.

Last and most disappointing, the citizens of Carroll County will now spend another four years pondering the direction of their county government due to the fact Democrats know how to play the game even deep inside enemy territory.

Hope Carroll County has better luck next time.

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