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O’Hara Council Considering Potential Changes to Home Rule Charter

The O’Hara council is expected to discuss potential changes to the township’s self-government charter in May.

A referendum could be placed on the November general election ballot, which would affect how vacant council seats are filled. Another referendum under consideration would repeal references to gender in the charter.

A council workshop meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on May 4. Members could schedule a public hearing and vote to go ahead with both referendums at their May 11 voting meeting.

Allegheny County requires ordinance approval for the question to be placed on the ballot, attorney Dan Garfinkel said.

Specifically, if approved, a question on the fall ballot would ask voters to amend the charter to remove the political affiliation requirement for appointments to vacant council positions.

Currently, the board must fill a vacancy with a person from the same political party as the one who resigned.

The council has been approached by some residents who have suggested that available positions should be open to all applicants in order to appoint the most qualified person, members said.

Councilor John Denny said he believed council was generally on board with moving forward with the changes.

Another board member, Greg Caprara, questioned whether the rule change would disqualify voters who vote by party.

Longtime resident Tom Portante spoke out against the change, saying it weakens voter power.

“I think it’s wrong because voters had chosen in the primary to appoint a fellow citizen to represent that party,” Portante said. “This citizen was then duly elected by the registered voters in this district to represent them on the council.

“When naming a successor, you must rely on the expressed wishes of the electorate to make your choice.”

The charter amendment assumes that the judgment of six council members is superior to that of voters in a particular district, he said.

“This is directly contrary to the principles of representative democracy,” Portante said.

A second referendum, if approved, would change the home rule charter to be gender neutral. In this case, all references to “it” would be replaced by “the manager” or “the adviser”.

Tawnya Panizzi is editor of Tribune-Review. You can contact Tawnya at 724-226-7726, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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Teresa R. Cabrera

The author Teresa R. Cabrera