- The Reign of Kane Falls (Mainly...)
- The Audacity of Dopes
- Kathy Kane: Resistance is Futile!
- Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton Dances Cheek-to-Cheek with Convicted Commissioner Bonner.
- Did you hear the one about Steve Urban?
- Joe Paterno 1926-2012
- Goodnight Sweet Prince
- Wilkes-Barre Prepares as Susquehanna River Rises To Dangerous Levels
- Tattooed Man Blames Needle Phobia for Assault on Cop
- Emergency responder dies after crash
- 369 jobs are set for Humboldt
- Knights get third straight crown
- Rotunda was place to be election night after county site crashes
- DRC grads tout program success
- Frontier honors fallen soldiers
- Kingston Twp. woman drowns in pool
- Bids for Sterling solicited
- Ex-county Judge Dalessandro dies at 86
- Scholarship winners recognized by LIU
- Hazleton rejects customer-specific parking zones
- Bednar proves she's no pushover
- Biden praises Jewish leaders
- Crash on Route 115 claims 2 lives
- Group makes sure flags will be flying
Clean Up Corruption Now
Coal Region Voice
Not Cease From Exploration
Circumlocution for Dummies
A Big Fat Slob
The Lu Lac Political Letter
Scranton Public Policy Examiner
Luzerne County Railroad Blog
|“How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Home Rule Charter”|
The mysterious concept known as the “home rule charter” has been blinking around the Luzerne County radar screen for several years now. Occasionally, we like to pester folks on either side of this initiative to give us a workable explanation of what “home rule” actually means. The responses have been underwhelming. Someone told us it had something to do with baseball. Or maybe it had something to do with the Magna Carta. When the smug “iPhone-guy” on the adjacent bar stool offered to look it up on Wikipedia, we quickly changed the subject.
“Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?”
Home rule supporters promise to deliver “sweeping change” to the structure of local government. The Luzerne County courthouse needs sweeping like Abe Lincoln needs to change his seats at the theater. Of course, the idea of “change” has been hopelessly downgraded ever since the Hawaiian-American guy trumped the old guy (and the weird Eskimo woman) in the last presidential election.(1) Change means different strokes for different folks. But when the number of local officials headed for jail exceeds the number of major leaguers who have pitched a perfect game, maybe change is a good idea.
But nobody said it was going to be easy. With such a complicated mess, a simple plan might be wishful thinking.
Thankfully, intrepid Times-Leader reporter Mark Guydish(2) took the home rule plunge for us. Mark waded through the history of the various home rule agendas and emerged with a sharp, readable account:
“The Home Rule Charter being hammered out by the Government Study Commission is either a giant step toward reforming a county government steeped in corruption or a pointless reshuffling of the deck without setting up effective checks and balances to wipe out the chronic abuse of power exposed by multiple federal corruption arrests since January 2009.”
“Meet the New Boss. Same as the Old Boss”
Home rule would replace the three county commissioners and various “row officers” with professional managers and elected, part-time council members. An architect of a previous attempt at a county charter reboot, Wilkes University professor Tom Baldino, skeptically compared the new proposal to a school board, telling the Times-Leader: “Show me there's no corruption in school boards.”
Ouch! And then he slapped the reporter on the back and let out a hardy laugh.(3)
The Luzerne County Government Study Commission has spent a year in a bunker (living solely on Cheez-Its® and Jolly Ranchers®) while fine-tuning the ballot question that will decide the fate of home rule this November.
One quick and dirty take on home rule paints a picture of county government with a measure of independence from the folks in Harrisburg. The subtext says this is a good thing, a step towards a more democratic democracy. The counter-argument is we have a representative democracy for a reason and many believe a bit of a firewall between voters and legislation is a good thing.
The situation resembles the “states rights” arguments that are invoked when a state legislation decides something the feds might frown upon. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing usually rests on where you stand about a particular issue.