Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Home Rule dissenters allege advocacy in postcard mailer, ask Commissioners to take action

During public comment at Wednesday's Commissioners meeting, a member of the Government Study Commission (GSC) rose to ask for the Commissioners' intervention.

James Bednar, who is among the three members of the GSC who voted "no" on recommending a ballot question regarding Home Rule, alleged that a postcard the group is spending County money to produce and send to every household in the County, contains language that crosses the line between education and advocacy.

In a letter Bednar presented to the Commissioners on behalf of the minority members of the GSC, of which NewsLanc has obtained a copy, they point out that the draft mailer uses value-laden statements such as, "Greater Citizen Access and Involvement, Better Money Management, Enhanced Administrative Effectiveness and Efficiency... and Strengthens and preserves the rights and powers of local municipalities."

"All such claims," said Bednar, "are subjective in nature." He went on to assert on behalf of the minority that the Charter does not mention that the Home Rule will likely "lead to higher taxes and bigger government for our citizens."

Bednar also complained that the GSC majority denied requests from the three dissenting members to remove them from photographs of the group as a whole and claimed that the majority uses language which "stat[es] in a misleading and prejudicial manner that all Government Study Commission members are recommending that Lancaster County should be governed by a Home Rule Charter."

What the postcard mailer says is, "This citizens' Commission recommended that Lancaster County should (emphasis in original) be governed by a Home Rule Charter." Bednar and the other dissenting members, Gregory Sahd and Jim Huber, want it to be noted that the decision was not unanimous.

Commissioner Chairman Dennis Stuckey acknowledged the concern, saying "We'll look into it" and agreed with his fellow Republican Commissioner Scott Martin that "it cannot cross that threshold between education and advocacy."

At issue is whether the postcard mailer has gone to print yet. Stuckey said that that is something the Board of Commissioners will have to look into. Attempts to contact the Government Study Commission mid-day Wednesday were not immediately successful.

NewsLanc will seek comment from the majority members of the Government Study Commission and attempt to determine whether the disputed postcard has gone to print yet.

The postcard, intended to alert Lancaster Countians about the upcoming ballot question regarding Home Rule, was produced under the GSC's $50,000 for "public education."