In 1975 the voters of Tredyffrin Township approved the adoption of a Home Rule Charter which tailored the structure of our local government to meet the Township’s current and future needs. The Charter became effective in January, 1976, coincidentally and most appropriately the Bicentennial of American Independence.
In the past, I have referenced problems with the Radnor Township’s elected officials. Since becoming president of Radnor’s Board of Commissioners a couple of months ago, John Nagle has continuously made headlines with his behavior, most recently his attempt to control free speech of the citizens. If you follow Radnor Township’s issues, a similiarity begins to surface when compared to the behavior of some of Tredyffrin’s elected officials (most specifically, Supervisors Lamina and Kampf at the last Board of Supervisors meeting.) I thought that this week’s As I See It article (written by a former Radnor Township Commissioner) in the Main Line Surburban offers interesting commentary . . . just substitute Radnor Township with Tredyffrin Township as you read it. Ms. Williams is concerned about Radnor Township’s reputation and the integrity of its elected officials. She speaks to issues concerning government transparency, public notification procedures, citizen free speech rights . . . any of this sound familiar?
As I See It: Public-comment plan is against spirit of Radnor’s home-rule charter
By Jeane B. Williams
On Nov. 2, 1976, the majority of the electors of Radnor Township, voting on that date, approved the adoption of the proposed Home Rule Charter, as it was submitted by the 11 members of the government study commission of the township, in its report dated May 4, 1976. The yes vote indicated that the charter would become effective (official) Jan. 1, 1977, under the conditions specified in the charter.
Listed among the advantages of the provisions of this document is #2: openness and responsiveness of township government.
The charter guarantees:
A. Open public meetings of the Board of Commissioners with opportunity for citizen discussion.
Because it does not state that a form of gag rule (time or term limit on speakers) is permitted to be imposed as a rule, especially on those opposed to the party-line agenda, does not make it acceptable. I would not support any change to the current open dialogue that follows the provisions and spirit of the Home Rule Charter.
B. Availability of advance meeting and agenda notices to interested citizens.
The purpose of this clause was to encourage public dialogue with the electorate.
C. Public notice, public availability and public discussion of proposed ordinances and proposed budgets prior to adoption.
First public notice of the above, when it appears on the agenda sheets the Friday before the Monday meeting, is not adequate study time.
D. Availability of all township records to interested citizens upon request.
The recent redaction of employee names from the salary list is a violation of the spirit and intent of the charter. The employee names are part of the township records and are paid through taxpayer dollars and are therefore public. The electorate should not be required to resort to requesting the names through a Pennsylvania Right to Know document request.
I will be the first to admit that I did not foresee Radnor Township citizens electing persons to office who do not recognize that Radnor Township has maintained its reputation as a desirable family living area. One of the contributing factors is that its public officials (until 2008) have presented and kept a respectable public reputation. If political vigilance has waned, please reread and remember you still have the HRC at your back! There are more do’s than don’ts in it because elected and appointed officials are expected to have integrity to themselves, their families, their neighbors and Radnor Township.
As one of the 11 home-rule charter study commissioners, I have grateful memories of the hours we spent together crafting a document that could be read and understood by men or women on the street, as well as school students, and also reflect the kind of governmental structure would continue to keep Radnor Township a present-day model of William Penn’s Green Country Town.
Jeane B. Williams is a former Radnor Township resident.