In the upcoming election, the citizens of Altoona won't just get to vote for a governor or senator, they'll also decide whether they want to change their current form of local government from Third Class City code to home rule. A home rule designation essentially transfers authority over local matters from a code dictated by state law, to a local charter that's drafted, adopted, and amended by citizens. Keystone Crossroads' Kate Lao Shaffner spoke with Wayne Hippo about what a home rule designation means and how it might help a financially distressed city. Hippo chairs the government study commission elected and tasked with examining home rule as an option for the city and drafting a charter. Hippo says, "Home rule gives you the option to return some power to the local people, as opposed to waiting for Harrisburg to change and adapt to the times."
Altoona's an Act 47 city. It's officially declared financially distressed. Is the home rule designation intended to help with the financial recovery process?
Absolutely. It was one of the recommendations that we explore this possibility. This is a big step in trying to get out of the Act 47. A lot of us weren't happy, maybe a little bit embarrassed that we were in the financial distress situation, even though it was certainly necessary at the time. This is a chance to help us get out of it.
Read the full version of this report at the website of Keystone Crossroads, a new statewide public media initiative reporting on the challenges facing Pennsylvania's cities. WPSU is a participating station.