Every one of us learned about American freedoms in school and how our countrymen fought and died for a right to vote for their communities and to protect their land. Unfortunately that right no longer exists. While we can elect government officials from a small list of candidates, those candidates are not bound to work towards our best interests. This is becoming increasingly apparent as government grows larger and larger to accommodate large corporations at the expense of our rights. With the Planning of the Atlantic Sunrise Project we saw two examples of our rights to due process being taken from us.
When we tried to have our day in court against the pipeline company. FERC and other new arms of the government told us we could not do anything more than comment on the physical and economical damage the project would bring to our township. Our own congressmen who is funded by big energy companies told us that “there was nothing we could do” and that we had better “make the best of a bad situation”.
Last year residents researched the pipeline and how it would affect our township. It became apparent that farmers and homeowners and residents outside of the route would be adversely affected by the Line. It would give a Gas company in Tulsa OK permanent control of a 50+ acre strip through the center of Conestoga. Residents educated themselves on and drafted a rights based ordinance that would stop the pipeline. When presented with the facts including the possibility of lawsuits 1700 of 2400 registered voters (70%) petitioned to pass the ordinance. Though they were aware of their constituents wishes the 3 supervisors voted down the ordinance. In one motion the voices of 1700 Conestoga residents were silenced to bring unprecedented change and risk to the Township.
The writers of the PA constitution felt that all power was inherent in the people. The first two sections of the PA Constitution describe our right to possess and protect property and the authority of the community.
Inherent Rights of Mankind
All men are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent and indefeasible rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of acquiring, possessing and protecting property and reputation, and of pursuing their own happiness.
All power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority and instituted for their peace, safety and happiness. For the advancement of these ends they have at all times an inalienable and indefeasible right to alter, reform or abolish their government in such manner as they may think proper.
The writers of the PA constitution felt so strongly about the power of citizens to have a say in government that they created in Article IX of the constitution a way for PA citizens to reclaim their voice should it be taken from them.
Municipalities shall have the right and power to frame and adopt home rule charters. Adoption, amendment or repeal of a home rule charter shall be by referendum. The General Assembly shall provide the procedure by which a home rule charter may be framed and its adoption, amendment or repeal presented to these electors. If the General Assembly does not so provide, a home rule charter or a procedure for framing and presenting a home rule charter may presented to the electors by initiative or by the governing body of the municipality. A municipality which has a home rule charter may exercise any power or perform any function not denied by this Constitution, by its home rule charter or by the General Assembly at any time.
Home rule allows the people in a community to vote on important issues and pass or deny them by majority decision during elections in May or November.
To get home rule in Conestoga the majority of the township will need to vote for it twice. We will need to vote to have the question put on the November ballot and then again in November. If it passes in May a temporary commission of Conestoga residents will create a charter that duplicates the current government of Conestoga and adds the pipeline ordinance and the right of the community to vote on big issues. Everything else will stay the same. The taxes, public services and insurance will still be managed by the same supervisors Conestoga elected before home rule. Our goal is to keep Conestoga unchanged.
If you feel we, as Americans, should have a right to decide what out of state corporations and big government can and can not do to our farmland than we encourage you to educate yourself on the process of home rule and talk with your neighbors about it. The pipeline company has already started spending money to discourage home rule through miss-education. All we ask is you find out the source of the information you hear. Chances are if it is from the gas company or the politicians they support it may not have your best interests at heart. You can learn more about home rule on Wikipedia or The PA Governor’s Center for Local Government Services. If you would like to make a donation you can click here.