Williamsport residents voted to form a government study commission for the city on Tuesday. The commission will help the city decide if they will adopt a home rule charter.
Fifty-eight percent of the city's voters said “yes” to forming the commission and electing seven commissioners. The commission will look at the current form of government in Williamsport and recommend whether or not to adopt a home rule charter.
In Pennsylvania, home rule municipalities can govern themselves except where specifically limited by state laws.
Currently the city is under a strong mayor form, where the mayor has almost total administrative power. Advocates say that has made people feel disengaged from their government.
Alison Hirsch is an advocate for home rule and one of the newly-elected commissioners. She said a home rule charter would give voters more authority to govern themselves.
“It transfers the power to decide what kind of government we want from the state to the citizens," Hirsch said. "Citizens should be able to determine their own form of government without the limitations that the third-class city code puts on us.”
There are 71 home rule municipalities in Pennsylvania, including the boroughs of State College and Tyrone and cities like Johnstown and Altoona.