What is Home Rule

(and why we need it)

Home Rule will give the citizens of Conestoga the right to vote on big decisions that will impact our community instead of relying on three supervisors to make a decision for us. Everything else in our township and current government structure will stay the same.

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 the 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.

Big Corporate Government
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 told us that there was nothing beyond commenting that we could do and that we had better make the best of a bad situation.

Local Township Government
Last year residents researched the pipeline and how it would affect our township. It became apparent that farmers, 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 continuous line of land through the center of Conestoga. Residents hired council and drafted a rights based ordinance that could challenge the pipeline. When presented with the facts, including the possibility of lawsuits 1700 of 2300 registered voters (70%) petitioned to pass the ordinance. Though they were aware of their constituent’s wishes, the three 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 by lowering property values, a decreased tax base, an industrial designation and the need for permission from Tulsa for any cross-township projects.

Home rule municipalities allow the people in a community to vote on important issues and pass or deny them by majority decision during elections in May or November.

Home Rule in Conestoga
To get Home Rule in Conestoga the majority of the township will need to vote for it twice. We will need to vote on May 19 to have it put on the ballot in November, and again on November 3 to adopt it. If it passes in May a temporary 7 person Government Study Commission of Conestoga residents will create a charter that duplicates the current government of Conestoga and examine options to challenge the pipeine 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 supervisors that Conestoga elected before Home Rule. Our goal is to keep Conestoga unchanged.

Timing
No permission has been granted to build the pipeline, and likely won’t be until the end of the year. Our efforts have significantly delayed their progress. This gives us time to move to block the pipeline once Home Rule is in place. Pro-pipeline people would like you to believe this is a “done deal” but without formal permission the pipeline right now is only talk and positioning.

Summary
If you feel we, as Americans, should have a right to decide what out of state corporations and big government can and cannot do to our Township then 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 misinformation. 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 of health, safety, and welfare at heart.

If there was ever a time for Conestoga to come together and vote for Home Rule to preserve our township it would be right now. We would like to see the pipeline stopped, but in the end, it is up to the voters of Conestoga to decide. We will stand behind whatever decision the community makes. We are just working to give the Township the right to make it.

Home Rule and the PA Constitution (for the history buffs)
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 rights of the people in the community;

Inherent Rights of Mankind
Section 1.
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.

Political Powers
Section 2.
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.

 

Home Rule
Section 2.
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 be 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.

Currently there are more than 70 Home Rule municipalities in PA.
Click here to view them.