Voters to decide referendum on how local government operates


Voters in Williamsport will soon decide whether they should re-examine how the city's government is run.

It's part of two referendum questions on Tuesday's ballot.

Alison Hirsch has a message for her fellow voters in Williamsport.

"Don't be afraid of change. Don't be afraid of discussing change. We may end up just staying the same. But at least we will have gone through the process,” Hirsch said.

She's referring to the two referendums.

The first is from city council.

It asks voters to decide if they want a group to study the city's current government and come back with recommendations to improve it.

The second is similar, but it's asking voters to decide who should be in charge of re-examining the current system.

It consists of a mayor and seven council members.

"We can propose, with Home Rule charter, basically it's wide open. We can fit what local needs we find to the government that we propose,” Margaret Tupper, of Williamsport, said.

Hirsch says Home Rule transfers the authority for how the government is organized from the state to the residents.

"It could be a mayor who's just a member of council, but presides over council meetings. Or it could be a mayor who's as strong as we have now, but there could be greater checks and balances on the mayor,” Hirsch said.

Other options include a city manager, or a mayor who is a member of city council.

Some members believe the current system isn't necessarily fair.

"The mayor has had all the ideas. It gets dictated to us. I'm sorry, I pay taxes. I'd like to have a voice in how my taxes are spent. We've had some off projects that have come through here that involve tax money,” Tupper said.

The referendum needs more yes's than no’s to pass.

If that happens, the commission will present their ideas to the voters in about a year.

At that time, they can decide how they want their government to operate moving forward.

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