Williams Company’s proposed natural gas pipeline has been a concern to Martic Township residents since we first learned of it last spring.
In the months that followed, nearly a thousand of our residents have expressed their opposition and countless human hours have gone into community meetings, research and education, planning and various attempts to prevent this proposed pipeline. What we have discovered is that this issue goes far beyond one pipeline: This is a systemic problem that takes power away from individuals and communities, who live here and know the land and environment, and puts it in the hands of large corporations, with board members making decisions from over a thousand miles away.
We had hoped that our supervisors would pass an ordinance for our community that would challenge this upside-down system. Because challenging the law would probably include litigation, our supervisors felt they could not jeopardize the township’s coffers, and would not consider the ordinance.
But the unjust and unethical system still needs to be challenged for the sake of our community as well as for communities all over the country that are exploited and sacrificed for the benefit of corporate America.
As we further investigated, we discovered that the Pennsylvania Constitution provides a tool for us to better exercise our community rights. That tool is home rule.
Home rule is a method of local governance that returns to the principle of democracy that this country is founded on: government by the people, for the people. The home rule structure we are pursuing would keep our board of supervisors intact, but would give our community the right to propose initiatives and exercise referendum and recall through a majority vote. This would ensure that our government represents the will of the people, preventing foreign interests from overriding local interests.
The pipeline has shown us that large, outside corporations can come into our community and violate our rights on many levels. Even before the pipeline has been approved, the gas industry has trespassed on our properties, drilled on registered Native American sites and disrupted our peaceful lives. We believe that all American citizens have the right to a government system that protects our health and safety, our environment and our community rights.
Our current Second-Class Township Code does not adequately protect these rights, as we have seen firsthand. Home rule would better enable our supervisors to protect our local concerns and interests, and give the people the power to protect their own rights. Home rule would encourage greater participation in the voting process. Home rule would move us towards a smaller, locally focused government structure.
Home rule is not a new or experimental government structure. It is a well-established system that has been proven effective by numerous municipalities in Pennsylvania. Scores of municipalities in the commonwealth effectively function under this system today.
We are proposing a slate of seven candidates who are committed to pursuing home rule. We have all been deeply involved in Martic Township’s community organizing efforts in response to the pipeline. We believe that home rule is our best way to resist this and future violations of our rights.
We also believe that this is an important step for our township to ensure the safety of our residents, the protection of our forests and farmland, the interests of our Amish neighbors and the rights of all of our citizens.
We are dedicated to protecting our residents and securing the future of Martic Township; home rule is our next step toward achieving these goals. True democracy gives power to the people, not to the highest bidder. Home rule is a step towards that democracy.
n Emily Weinstock-Collins has been a resident of Martic Township for 17 years and is involved with Martic SOUL and local community rights organizing.