Home rule group starts proceedings for election

Another option for city government structure will be available for Williamsport’s registered voters this fall.

Groups supporting Williamsport Citizens for Home Rule have initiated proceedings to place a referendum on the Nov. 7 ballot, according to Alison Hirsch, a spokeswoman for organization.

If approved by the voters of the city, the referendum would create a government study commission to look at the form of government of the city, she said.

The referendum asks whether voters want a seven-member study commission to develop a charter unique to the city’s needs over a period of 18 months, Hirsch said.

Any registered voter of the city is eligible to serve as a study commissioner, she said.

This is separate from the city’s optional charter question and whether voters want to elect charter commissioners, according to Forrest K. Lehman, director of Lycoming County Voter Services.

“It is important to make sure the public differentiates between the optional charter commission question the city has put forth and the home rule study commission question, both of which are separate,” Lehman said.

The home rule group has filed the petition containing the required number of signatures to put a home rule question on the ballot Nov. 7, and the question pertains to the home rule study question and whether the voters want to elect study commissioners.

The process for running for study commissioner was effective Tuesday and runs through Aug. 29, Lehman said.

Meanwhile, people who want to run for charter commissioner may do so the week of Aug. 21 through Sept. 22.

“These are non-partisan offices, any registered voter can run for these offices regardless of their party affiliation,” Lehman said. “Theoretically, someone with a county or city office can run for this and run for both,” he said.

Home rule government essentially transfers authority for determining a municipalities form of government from the state to the citizens, Hirsch said. Decisions would be based on input from town halls and other meetings, she said.

“Home rule could redefine the powers of the mayor and council, potentially establish a city manager, do away with some elected positions such as controller and treasurer, and give neighborhoods such as Newberry and those in the East End more say with their own representatives on council,” Hirsch said.

Today, 75 municipalities across the state adopted home rule government, including Altoona, a third-class city with a population of 46,000, which passed home rule in 2014, she said. Carlisle, a borough of 19,000, adopted it in 2015, she said.