The process begins for GSC

The Concord Township Government Study Commission is not yet in a position to make any permanent decisions on the content of a home rule charter, but members now know what questions need answering.

What will the governing body be called? How many members? Will the members serve at-large or by ward?

Those were the questions explained to the study commission members by Joe Boyle of the Pennsylvania Economy League. PEL is serving as a consultant for the commission, to guide them through the process of drafting the charter.

Commissioners voted in August to recommend making Concord a home rule charter township, instead of remaining a township of the second class. The charter would be, in essence, a constitution for the township, with Concord no longer regulated by the Second Class Township Code, Boyle said.

Commission Chairman James Gray said the goal is to have the charter written by the end of January so it may be reviewed publicly, and then placed on the April primary ballot for voters to accept or reject.

As for drafting the charter, Boyle said, the PEL would guide the process, but decisions are the GSC’s. “The responsibility is yours,” he said.

A long and informal round-table discussion among the six commission members present during the Sept. 3 meeting followed Boyle’s comments. The bulk of the discussion centered on how representatives on a governing body would be elected.

Gray said there was not yet any consensus among the GSC members.

Some, such as Matt Houtmann, Diane Bohr and Joshua Twersky, said they favor representatives’ being chosen at-large, as are supervisors currently. Each supervisor serves the entire township.

Gray, Bob Tribit and Rosemary Fiumara said they lean toward a hybrid type of representation of seven people, with three members’ serving at-large and one person from each of four different wards. The breakdown of those wards would be part of the charter.

A seventh member of the commission, Andrew Briner, was not present.

Bohr said that having at-large representation allows all voters to vote for all representatives.

Twersky agreed, adding that ward representation could lead to representatives “horse-trading” on issues, a situation where one representative would vote the way another representative wants on one issue in a tit-for-tat exchange, the other way on another issue.

Gray said he likes the idea of ward representation because the representative chosen would be responsible to the voters in his or her area, and that residents could hold that person accountable. He said the representative “would be beholden” to those voters.

Tribit added that a hybrid form of representation would still allow voters to vote for a majority of representatives, their own ward rep and three at-large.

“The reason we’re here,” Gray said, “is that the township has grown…and that many people feel disenfranchised.”

He thinks additional elected representatives would help reduce that feeling.

All members said seven representatives seemed to be the best. The current board of supervisors has five members, but commissioners think more are needed because of the growth of the township. Boyle said there’s no magic number, but most charter townships have either five, seven or nine members. He added that 11 is too unwieldy a number.

A charter would also set the length of term for the elected representatives and could also establish term limits and recall procedures.

Boyle also said that once a charter is officially enacted, its provisions may only be changed by referendum, not by ordinance.

About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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