Charter Commission Candidate Philosophy:

As a candidate for the charter commission, if I am elected my responsibility will be to work with the other elected commissioners to develop a solid charter for the town when and if the ballot measure passes. I do not believe it is the role of candidates to advocate for any position on the ballot measure itself, whether it be for or against. I trust residents to make a correct and informed decision either way.

Candidates should not be involved with or engaging with issue committees or IECs, period. It is highly unethical, misleading and dishonest.

Questionnaire:

Which Erie neighborhood do you live in? Vista Ridge

Why did you decide to run for Home Rule Commissioner? I believe that candidates for the charter commission must be able to set aside personal politics and agendas to develop a non-partisan charter that will stand the test of time. We are potentially throwing away our existing governance that has been in place for over 140 years, our home rule charter could last as long or longer. This is not the time to bring forward pet projects and special interests. My objective is to serve with other commissioners that share this view, regardless of affiliations, to derive this framework.

How would you explain Home Rule to someone who has never heard of it before? Contrary to what some may say, this is not “Moving out of our parent’s basement.” This is a gross over simplification and those that parrot this statement clearly do not understand the purpose. It is also not a fair assessment to say “We’re the biggest town that isn’t a home rule town.” Home rule largely enables local governments to levy and collect taxes above and beyond what is defined by the state and federal governments. In other towns, this is utilized to tax hotels and dispensaries. As Erie does not have either of these, Home Rule is a solution looking for a problem in some senses. There are numerous towns and cities in the state that yes, are smaller – but have had balanced growth with commercial and residential and derive real benefits. That being said, we do have the ability to clean up ambiguities in our municipal governances and that should be one of the primary goals, for instance – how do you fill a vacancy when someone resigns? Additionally we could eliminate wasteful spending, put additional checks and balances in to place to prevent future bridge scams and add increased transparency.

What do you see as the benefits of Home Rule? This is an opportunity to start fresh. It’s whatever we the residents of Erie make it.

What obstacles, if any, do you foresee with Erie changing from a Statutory form of government to Home Rule? I see no obstacles. Any candidate advocating for or against home rule doesn’t understand their role. I trust the residents to make the best decision, whether the measure passes or fails.

What do you most hope to accomplish with your contribution to writing the Home Rule charter? Ensuring we create a framework that will stand the test of time. If in 70 years from now people are in a room debating what we meant by something we failed.

Home Rule Ideas for Consideration:

  • I’d like to see a town “reboot”. It feels like it’s always the same people, arguing over the same issues. Those that have served in the municipal town government as elected officials and those that serve on the Charter Commission (to potentially include myself if elected) should be barred from running for some set period of time in the new Home Rule government. We need new blood with new ideas to advance the town.
  • I would like to see more control over how the town spends tax payer money and set limits with clear language that would require taking large expenditures beyond the scope of an annual budget to a special approval.
  • The town spends a lot of money on external consultants without batting an eye, this practice should be curtailed.
  • The charter should be in plain English that anyone could pick up and understand clearly what the intent is. This will avoid potential loopholes.
  • The process to fill vacancies through resignation or other reasons on the board/council needs to be codified. If an opening happens within a year of an election the person with the next votes should always be appointed. After a year the board can appoint someone to serve until the next election. Unelected officials will only ever be able to have 1 year maximum without an election.
  • There should be more due diligence on candidates. They should be held to the highest standard and should be eligible for government work.
  • Candidates should be required to receive more signatures than our current municipal requirements in order to run for office. 25 for Trustee (or council member depending on what it’s named) and 50 for Mayor.
  • Mayor should move to a 4 year term, but should be a non-voting member of the board or council except when a tie breaker is required.
  • Issue committees and expenditure committees should be far more transparent with stringent reporting requirements to the town and potentially with the state in tracer.
  • Candidates must not serve on issue committees.
  • Candidates must resign from any boards or non-profit groups upon being elected if those groups act within the Town/City and could potentially receive local tax payer dollars. There must be no conflicts of interest.
  • Council meetings should be shorter so residents will pay more attention. This will require town staff to have a much more concise agenda and elected officials to meander less. Executive sessions should only be used for personal matters or potential legal issues involving the town.
  • Budgets should be available for the town to review for the following year in August with a ballot measure to approve the budget in November. If a budget is not passed it will default to the previous year budget with some escalation for inflation. If Home Rule is about people know best then no one should take issue with this.
  • Wards should be considered, potentially just dividing the town into 4, allowing 2 officials from each ward, 1 special ward created for old town and 1 at large position that could come from any ward. (Total trustees/council members – 10) – by dividing the town this way it makes us gerrymander proof in the future.

In summary – Home rule is billed as “the people know best”, yet often ideas suggested just give more power to the town and take away from the people. My suggestions for a charter are centered around the idea that people truly do know best and that governments exist to serve their people and not the other way around. I also understand that political ideologies ebb and flow and that frameworks should be flexible to benefit both side as opposed to trying to push for only one side.