A guest post.
Luzerne County Home Rule
Gort has been writing about the Luzerne County Government Study Commission (GSC) since it was created by a referendum last November. I've been advocating for the separation of executive and legislative responsibilities in the new charter in the comments here, on Facebook, to my fellow LCCC students, to anyone who will listen at blogger meetups and elsewhere around the intertubes.
Everyone I have conversed with is in agreement that we need an executive, who would be elected at large and charged with vetoing or approving new policy that has been passed by the legislative body. Despite this consensus, the commission is "hell bent" on another idea that would be a slap in the face to all who believe in checks and balances.
Our current three-Commissioner-system is a consolidation of power because they are both the legislative and executive branches. If two or more of them agree they can do just about anything that does not violate Pennsylvania's law. Most of this system was set up by Harrisburg over 175 years ago and does not reflect the best thinking of our time, or even their time.
Counties, school boards and other local governments with similar consolidations of power also have persistent problems with corruption. The only way to alter this course is a fundamental change in our system, not a quick fix personal change. I am all about throwing out the bums but if we fail to strike at the root of the problem we will continue to fill our most important government positions with a disproportionate amount of bums.
Charmaine H. Maynard informed "Separation of Powers for LC", a new Facebook Page, that the commission is going with an appointed manager. This would be similar to how a school board picks their own executive, instead of voters, who is then a rubber stamp for the board or quickly out of a job. Insignia would not have been able to swindle 7 figures from our school districts if they had execs who would not be updating the resume if they decided to grow a spine. The immediate past President of LCCC asserts this as well in his allegations against their board. Conahan and Chiveralla would not have been able to privatize our juvenile detention system. That would take authorization from at least the executive.
Another way the commission is being used to consolidate power is to limit what the voters can accomplish with a referendum. According to this well written letter to the editor, voters will not be able to approve or deny expenditures for capital projects which is another common sense way we could have stopped the crooked judges and other problems. It is a means to increase the power of the people both directly by allowing them more direct control over their county and by increasing the opportunities for more of the electorate to become educated and involved.
No one system is perfect but the one we've been rocking fails in theory and practice and needs to be replaced, not augmented. As Gort has written, the 2003 charter, though I disagree with much of it, accomplished the very basic goal of some real checks and balances. If they wanted to help the people then their work was already done.
They will listen to popular demand so come out to the meetings held every Wednesday evening at the Stettler Learning Center at Wyoming Seminary in Kingston at 7 PM because they have a time for citizen comments. You could also leave a comment on the GSC Website, email them, Facebook them or join the Separation of Powers page here.
Austin Smith Ford
4 hours ago