BUTLER TWP. – The decision on whether to vote in favor or against Limited Home Rule (LHR) in Butler Township is difficult, and I think its difficult because its a hard concept to understand without getting into significant detail.
Mailers sent out recently by the OHPAC for Responsible Government have attacked LHR on several fronts including the necessity to hire a Law Director, the ability for the trustees to increase the township’s debt limit, and giving trustees more power in the areas of zoning, building code, and in some limited areas of traffic law.
While all of these attacks are true to a certain extent, what OHPAC for Responsible Government has done is paint each of those areas in the worst possible light.
I believe Limited Home Rule should be passed for several reasons.
It is true that LHR puts more power into the hands of the township trustees – and that is exactly as it should be! Otherwise, those powers as they currently exist remain in the hands of county and state officials – not the neighbors Butler Township residents have elected to govern.
Here is what that mailer didn’t tell you – someone already has those powers. The question is not about granting government more power – the question of LHR is who do you want to have that power? Do residents want the Montgomery County Commissioners or the State of Ohio to dictate what happens in Butler Township? Or do they prefer their local elected trustees to control as many areas of law as possible?
Boiling that down to practical matters, who should be setting speed limits on township roads – Montgomery County or the Butler Township Trustees? Shouldn’t township residents, through their elected representatives, get to decide if they want noise and nuisance legislation? Currently, that can’t even be considered.
Passage of LHR gives local officials as much control over local issues as allowed by state law. It is likely that even more local control will be granted in coming years for Limited Home Rule townships according to the Ohio Township Association – those discussions are ongoing in the statehouse. Failure to pass LHR would prevent Butler Township from reaping the benefits of that shift of power in future years.
Local government is the most efficient and most responsive form of government for the average taxpayer. The ability to have a discussion, form groups to shape legislation, and, when necessary, vote out a politician is far more effective at the local level instead of the county, state, or federal level.
Limited Home Rule also gives more power to the people in that it allows residents to place issues before the voters directly through initiative and referendum petitions. That means residents have the ability to overturn decisions made by the township trustees – a right they currently do not have.
It is true that the township will have to hire a Law Director, and that will come with some increase in costs. Those costs are far outweighed by the benefits of a Law Director according to administrators from West Chester and Anderson townships who spoke at a forum attended by about 50 Butler Township residents in August.
Currently, the township is represented by the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office. That’s a bad idea on so many levels it’s laughable that anyone can defend it.
First, there’s no way the Prosecutor’s Office can dedicate enough time to Butler Township to meet all its needs. Second, there is no way that at least an appearance of conflicts of interest don’t exist at times, especially if the township would be pitted against the county. A township the size of Butler Township can afford, and would benefit from, a Law Director.
Limited Home Rule is not a panacea – it isn’t going to stop annexations, and it isn’t going to slow the growth in truck traffic. It does, however, give the township trustees a few more tools to deal with those issues.
Many of the people attacking Limited Home Rule are self-described as very conservative, anti-government when it comes to their political views. That’s why it makes no sense that they are against passage of a measure that brings some power back to the local level – back to where its closest to the people.
Limited Home Rule puts more power where it ought to be – at the local level.
Reach Darrell Wacker at 937-684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.