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As Long as We Remember...

January 23, 2013

Is Charter Right for Carroll County?

Kevin E. Dayhoff

The decision last November by Frederick County voters to go to a Charter form of government has kept local political junkies preoccupied ever since the election results were announced.


The ballot issue last fall was quite contentious in Frederick County and even the preliminary discussions over exploring such a change in Carroll County has already had a polarizing affect with people taking sides quickly.


Ever since the county was formed in 1837 citizens have tinkered with the county’s form of government.


In 1968 Carroll County voters rejected both Charter government and Code Home Rule. In 1984, Code Home Rule was defeated.


In 1992 Charter government was defeated at the ballot box. In 1998 the voters rejected a referendum to increase the Board of Commissioners to five at-large members and rejected a Charter form of government.


I participated, in vain, in the Carroll County Committee for Charter Government, in the effort to bring a Charter to Carroll County – that was defeated at the polls in 1992.


In the late 1960s, 1980s and early 1990s, many of my close friends and colleagues disagreed with my advocacy for Charter government.


Like most former mayors – who have experienced (municipal) charter government, I strongly believe that Charter is a move in the correct direction for a more cost-effective, efficient and citizen-oriented government.


I bristle that currently local Carroll County decisions are made by people in Annapolis, who do not even know where Carroll County is.


I believe in local control and local decisions. And I am convinced that, in the end, Charter is a cheaper form of government than the anachronistic inefficient and ineffective government we currently have in Carroll County.


According to numerous media accounts including that of Ryan Marshall in the Frederick Gazette, “With the results of Tuesday’s election, Frederick joins Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Dorchester, Harford, Howard, Montgomery, Prince George’s, Talbot and Wicomico counties with charter government…”


And according to a thoughtful opinion written on December 4 by Jackie Jones, of Taneytown, the chair of the Carroll County Democratic Central Committee, “Carroll is now the largest of the remaining six commissioner counties of 24 jurisdictions in the state…”


Although there have been many conspiracy theories put forth over the years as to why other community leaders, who care about the future of Carroll as much as I do, disagreed.


In the end, they were simply concerned that it would cost too much money.


I am well aware of the suggestion that the opposition to Charter was all about those in power “who didn’t want to lose the power that they had…”


In my experience, many of “those in power,” who are accused of selfishly taking care of their personal power base at the expense of the long-range interests of the citizens of Carroll County, are friends of mine. And I sure hope they were being straight with me when they said they were worried that Charter is a step in the direction of expansive and expensive big government.


Moreover, I share their concern. In the end, I worry more about Annapolis making decisions for Carroll County. I prefer the devil I know more that the devil I don’t know, especially since I have become so distrustful of all things Annapolis.


Here’s the thing. If the opposition to Charter government had come from Carroll County Democrats, much of the focus and framing of the issues would have been profoundly different.


Many of those who exercised so much vitriol in criticizing the people who were against Charter, would – on the other hand – had found the Democrats to be great American patriots, if it had been Dems who were opposed to charter.


Critics of the opposition to Charter government in Carroll County will also suggest that much the disagreement stemmed from friction from the Carroll County delegation to Annapolis and the local Carroll County Board of Commissioners.


Again, this is a partisan and personality-driven conspiracy theory. My study of history is that there has been friction between the commissioners and the delegation to Annapolis since the days when all the players were conservative Democrats. The ‘checks and balances’ of the commissioners versus the delegation has been fractious ever since the 15 year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius.


Once again, if the players were Democrats, we would never-ever hear of any disagreement over public policy and pending legislation between the commissioners and delegation.


Now, as much I support Charter for Carroll County, I will tell you this: as long as the critics of those who are opposed to Charter government, are so irresponsible in their criticism, Charter government is a non-starter in Carroll County.


Ever since Frederick chose to go to Charter, the Democrats in Carroll County have begun agitating that Carroll follow.


And that, my friend, is another huge obstacle to any initiative to bring Charter government to Carroll County.


The Carroll County Democrats of today are nothing like the conservative Carroll County Democrats who ruled the county throughout history – up until about 20 years ago.


Today’s Carroll County Democrat is virulently liberal. The Carroll County Democratic Party is perceived, by most of the county, including many Democrats, as the party which advocates a form of big social-welfare government; with a specific preference to high confiscatory taxes, wealth redistribution, big spending, and the politics of victim identification, entitlement, and pandering dependency.


If Carroll County Democrats were really serious about seeing Carroll County go to a Charter form of government, they should not miss this great opportunity to sit down and hush-up. Otherwise, if it is perceived in Carroll County that Charter government is an initiative of the Carroll County Democratic Party, it is dead on arrival.


Been there, done that, – got the T-shirt.


. . . . .I’m just saying. . . . .


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