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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Is a Referendum on Gracedale Legal?

Under Northampton County's Home Rule Charter, any 12 registered voters can try to place a proposed ordinance on the ballot. After that they have 90 days to get 10% of the County's registered voters to sign their petition. And according to The Express Times' Sarah Cassi, a group is trying to have the County's proposed sale of Gracedale placed on the ballot. But is it legal?

According to the express terms of the Home Rule Charter, "The power of initiative and referendum shall not extend to the budget or capital program ... ." While I generally support direct participation in government, and even participated in an initiative back in the late '70s, it seems to me that this does interfere with both the budget and a capital program.

Updated 1:50 PM: Attorney Chris Spadoni, an Assistant County Solicitor assigned to the Voter Registrar, has informed her that the sale or lease of Gracedale is a valid referendum question. His opinion is entitled to a little more weight than mine.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes and it is both legal and needed.

Dave said...

Thing is..everything has a price tag and impacts the budget. How is this any different than wanting a stop sign at a dangerous traffic crossing? It costs money to put the sign up. Apples and oranges you say? Maybe but this is not so clear cut an issue that the electorate should be excluded from the decision making as the quality of care at Gracedale can impact all of us at some point down the road. Let the people have their voices heard. This is America..right?

Dave said...

A clearer mandate for what council's majority wants here would be proven by a referendum vote in support of a sale..no? What would council have to fear from such a vote? Let the will of the people be done here and then we can all proceed along the chosen path.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I understand all that. My question is whether or not this is a capital program. It seems to me that the HRC drafters wanted to provide for the will of the people, but don't want them interfering with budgets or a capital project. I think that's exactly what is happening.

Dave said...

Proving intent is like herding cats. Are we splitting hairs here? This is such a galvanizing issue that I would think council would welcome a show of hands from the electorate. Yes..they are duly elected representatives but this was not an election day issue at the time of their ascension. Why the rush to judgement on Gracedale? An easy target? Why not err on the side of caution here?

Anonymous said...

So who will make the ultimate decision whether or not this is legal? Phil Lauer? Who happens to be the Council Presidents personal attorney!!!! (Yet another questionable situation.)

Bernie O'Hare said...

Nobody is rushing to anything. It is around this time last year that Council suggested we look at our options. A year later, after it becomes clear to a few kooks that the only responsible option is a sale, they seek a referendum in an effort to delay the inevitable, and on a major capital project, substituting their will for that of Council.

The truth is that the best thing that could happen to Gracedale is to sell it. The County is simply unable to afford the costs of the massive pensions and capital outlays that must be made there. The best way to ensure that the quality of care remains good and that Gracedale continue its mission is by privatizing it.

John Stoffa spent a lifetime helping people and he sees there is no choice. It is easy to conjure all kinds of emotional arguments or to cart residents to meetings in wheelchirs, but Council is doing the right thing.

This is not an exercise in democracy; it is an exercise of mob rule for the sake of delay.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, in case you forgot this was your take on 8-20-10 on this matter....

"At the end of last night's meeting, Phil Lauer told Councl what I had suspected - it woulb be perfectly legal to place this issue on the ballot. I'm not entirely convinced bc the power of referdum does not extend to capital projects, and Gracedale strikes me as a capital project. But enabling dirct democracy like this is one of the reasons for Home Rule.

I doubt that five Council members are willing to agree to a referendum because time is of the essence and putting it on the ballot will make a tax increase all but a reality.

But under the Home Rule Charter, any 12 registered voters can petition to get the ball rolling. To get it on the ballot, you'd need 10% of the County's registered voters to sign that petition. So tho thse of who who are unalterably opposed to the sale of Gracedale, where are your leaders?"

Looks like the leaders have stepped up, and since you didn't think they would and they have you know have to put your spin on it.

Anonymous said...

bo you should hope thar neither angle or soffa make a quick turn. you'll get you nose broken

Bernie O'Hare said...

Enabling direct democracy is one of the reasons for home rule. I have participated in the process. My question is whether this is a capital project, and it's the same question I had back in August. It's one of the reasons why I argued against a referendum on open space. That is certanly a capital project. Yes, Phil concluded that a referendum is legal in August, but he was asked that in connection wit the Council placing the matter on the ballot itself.

If you succeed in getting 10% in 90days, I'd like to know the legal argument why this is not a capital project.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"bo you should hope thar neither angle or soffa make a quick turn. you'll get you nose broken"

That's nice. Now what's your legal argument?

Anonymous said...

As was stated earlier, everything can be considered a "capital project" This will be dragged out for years in the courts. Looks like we need another plan in the mean time.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Not necessarily. That decision will be made by the County Solicitor, Karl Longenbach. He might agree with you. Direct democracy is one of the reasons for home rule, but I would like to see that question answeed. I don't think every issue is a capital project. For example, a referendum on transporting Hg in Northampton County has nothing to do with the budget or a capital project. That is an initiative in which I was involved in the early days of home rule. But it seems to me that Gracedale is very much a capital project, and the drafters intended to keep financial decisions for Council. I don't really know.

Anonymous said...

Gracedale could be argued to be a service provided to county residence. The ballot question could be posed as follows:
"Shall Norco continue to provide services at Gracedale."

If the answer is no, then council gets to act on the capital component (real estate sale). If the answer is yes, then council is obligated to continue providing services at Gracedale.

I have no opinion on the matter, just stating how this could be viewed as a service, not a capital project.

Anonymous said...

I believe that if their is a referendum that it need not only ask whether the county should continue to fund gracedale bcause that is not reasonable..It should say do you agree to pay "x" amount in taxes to continue services at Gracedale...If the taxpayers agree that they want to pay another 10% a year to fund gracedale, so be it..However to ask county residents whether or not to keep operating it without mentioning the cost is disingenuous.

Anonymous said...

"However to ask county residents whether or not to keep operating it without mentioning the cost is disingenuous."

My question to that is from who will we get the figures? I personally don't trust the Exec or the Council to be honest with any figures about Gracedale.

Anonymous said...

A referendum that requires the county's elderly to eat dog shit can be passed if written in manner likely to produce that outcome. Most people prefer to say "yes;" not "no." Facts rarely matter. Judicial retentions are routinely approved by the "yes" crowd. If Gracedalians want to block the sale, they should not ask voters if it should be sold. They should ask voters of it should be kept.

Anonymous said...

if spadoni and longenback were not on the public dole they would both starve to death due to their lack of qualifications. get real lawyers not political hacks

Anonymous said...

BOH, so are you suggesting the referendum on Green Futures fund illegal as well?

Lets all face it, a privatized nursing home has every incentive to keep a patient and ignore a family request for a second opinion, copies of medicial reports, etc.

Privatization of a Nursing home is bad news for elderly and their familes.

Taxpayers/Voters should decide and issue so important.

Anonymous said...

You see last night I mentioned this and was taken to task by this Ohare fellow stating I am passing misinformation. I merely wanted clarification for the comment I heard by a friend who works there. This Ohare fellow had the nerve in another forum to refer to a Hispanic member of the Coalition behind this activity as Pancho Villa. This coming from someone by all accounts in his newly posted photo of himself resembles YOGI BEAR. This coming from a fellow by his own admission is the chief speachwriter for Ron "BOO BOO" Angle. I know this might be deleted by YOGI OBEAR so everyone please read and begin referring to him and Angle as YOGI and BOO BOO. Me, I have decided to volunteer to get signatures for the referendum.

Anonymous said...

anon 8:22

boo boo is as unscrupulous and fickle as a easton street whore. sort of like his mancrush yogi

Bernie O'Hare said...

"This Ohare fellow had the nerve in another forum to refer to a Hispanic member of the Coalition behind this activity as Pancho Villa."

You're right. He's the fake Reverend.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"BOH, so are you suggesting the referendum on Green Futures fund illegal as well?"

Absolutely, and I said so at the time.

Anonymous said...

BOH 908. I appreciate your consistency. Home Rule is just that, power to the people. On important issues such as raising taxes to fund open space preservation or selling or saving Gracedale, I would hope the people have a say. While you might disagree with these items being on the ballot, it is the only way I think the people have a true say. Raising taxes is unpopular and some people profess a as a no tax increase moniker…no matter how noble or justified the cause is. For these people a Referendum gives them cover to do the peoples will.

Frank Merchant Bushkill Twsp. said...

Dear Yogi and Boo Boo guy.
I too would like to take the petition around my neck of the woods, how about getting the "fake reverend" "Pancho Villas" contact info and posting it? I would volunteer to take it around Nazareth but I'm sure Yogi has dibs to take up the cause in the Boro. This should be interesting. You know, I can't help but wonder if all the unwavering support of Boo Boo by Yogi hasn't sparked a bit of "We The People" in folks who might have otherwise sat on the sidelines content to be the "silent majority" and allow the "brash minority" to speak for them? Just wondering.

Anonymous said...

Here is the website
all are welcome
and encouraged to join in
Even you Yogi

http://savegracedale.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

Good work folks. Fight the good fight. You have the support of thousands of folks.