Monday, January 3, 2011

City Council: Home Rule Charter Up for Debate

Click here to read a copy of Easton's Home Rule Charter, passed in 2007
Click here to download Dennis Lieb's article "Home Rule Charter and a 
Citizen Bill of Rights" from The West Word's Winter 2010 issue.

Posted by: Noël Jones

Ed Sieger of the Express-Times reports that Easton's Home Rule Charter has been in effect now three years since inception and is therefore up for reconsideration. Councilman Roger Ruggles is a strong supporter of the charter, while other members, including Mayor Panto have various concerns and want to tweak the language and parameters of the document.

Sieger does a good job of outlining these various concerns, but one tenet of the charter that goes unmentioned in the article is its most important element to self-governance: the people's right to referendum. In other words, if citizens care enough about something to want to circulate a petition and  put a new measure on the ballot to be voted on by the public, we currently have the power to do that under Home Rule Charter. It will be very important for the public to keep an eye on the city council agenda in coming weeks and be ready to show up and speak up to defend our right to referendum if necessary.


Anonymous said...

I agree with the Mayor, the Charter, any Charter, is only as good as the personalities involved. We currently have a good group of elected officials who get along really well.

I agree that we should never give up the right for Initiative and Referendum but there nay be a need for some changes, albeit very minor ones that were mentioned. One large item seems to be the sticking point of the Mayor as Council Chair. Personally I haven't seen it as a problem or a benefit again because of personalities. The current Mayor seems to be a team player and you could get someone who is more dictatorial. It will be interesting to see how it is vetted.

noel jones said...

Good points.

Anonymous said...

The Mayor needs to chair council meetings.

Easton became a city in 1880 (approx) and for the next 90 years operated under the commission form. The Mayor chaired all those council meeetings until 1972. The first charter study in 1960 or 61 suggested a council manager form of government where the mayor would continue to chair council. The second charter study recommended the strong mayor form which followed Atown and Bethlehem. Council elected its own president.
Easton was blessed with continuous fighting and costs because of this stupid, very stupid, system. We are a little town with little resources and big taxes. We need less departmentalization. Let the Mayor continue to chair the meetings. That is what you do in small communities. Easton is small and needs to get out of the Atown Bethl leagues.

tunsie said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
tunsie said...

I love U noel.....tunsie

noel jones said...

tunsie--I'm sorry but i had to delete your comment--please stick to the topic and don't make personal attacks--that's not what this forum is for.

there are many moving parts to this issue--for instance--before home rule charter, we have 5 at-large council seats and now we have 7, including 3 neighborhood reps and 4 at large positions--better or worse? what do readers think?

Anonymous said...

I would disagree with the comment that Easton is a small town. That is simply not true especially when you consider that the average size community in PA is less than 10,000 population. Easton is an urban center and needs a leader that provides vision and direction. Right now we have that and when you don't you change leaders. That's whats great about this country.

small town resident said...

I will use a moniker to identify myself. I wrote the words "small town". I refer to our community as small in terms of its wealth. We are not able to operate like large cities in the commonwealth-Allentown, Bethlehem, Reading, Lancaster, York, Harrisburg, Erie. We have to find a government form that works for our size. My complaint was that the strong mayor form of government was not workable in our community because we are too small to adequately afford its departmentalization. One can debate our leadership, but my comment is directed at why our charter form is appropriate for a small community of our size.

small town resident said...

This definition of "urban center" accommodates "small town"

"An urban area is characterized by higher population density and vast human features in comparison to areas surrounding it. Urban areas may be cities, towns or conurbations, but the term is not commonly extended to rural settlements such as villages and hamlets."

noel jones said...

small town resident--thanks for using a moniker! i hope everyone who wants to be anonymous will start doing that more, so that readers can more easily follow each "voice" in these good debates.

Anonymous said...

"We are not able to operate like large cities in the commonwealth-Allentown, Bethlehem, Reading, Lancaster, York, Harrisburg, Erie."

Really? Then why is it that Easton is better financially and has ot raised real estate taxes when Bethlehem is $8 millionin the red, Reading filed Act 47 as well as Harrisburg with York apparently not doing much better.

Cities are identified by their mayor in many instances. Their mayor is their front door and often times company's will look at the local government leadership to determine the value of loacting their jobs there.

Easton needs it identity and cannot exist in a vacuum. As for the charter, there are many parts I may not like either, but it seems to be working very well.

small town resident said...

My point is not about finances. It is about structure. One of the cities on that list has a million dollar recreation budget and seven employees. That is different from our smaller budget and one or two employees. YOu can legitimately create a department and hire a departmental director when you have a budget of that size. Easton cannot compare. By the way only two of the cities listed are financially distressed. Harrisburg is distressed because of a bad investment in an incinerator plant. I would not say that Easton is better financially. Yes, our head is above water, but our taxes and fees are very high. So will be Bethlehem in the future. As far as relocations, Bethlehem is getting much more than most of the Lehigh Valley. Is that because of the Mayor or the state of their finances or their low tax rates?

noel jones said...

Anon 11:12 please make me very happy and take a moniker today--and say "this is Anon 11:12" so that we can more easily follow this debate. you will still be completely anonymous but we will be able to follow your points and counterpoints more easily.

besides, you can develop fans along that way--let's say you call yourself JamesBond for instance. if someone gets to know your "voice" and the moniker attached to it, and thinks you often make interesting points, then when they are in a hurry and can't read all the comments on a long thread like this, they will see your moniker and say, "let me check what JamesBond has to say."

you can have readers that follow your comments without ever knowing who you are, and it makes the discussion much easier to follow.

please consider it!