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The Student News Site of Wyoming Valley West High School

The Student News Site of Wyoming Valley West High School

West Side Story

The Student News Site of Wyoming Valley West High School

West Side Story

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Government Study Commission on Ballot in Luzerne County

Joe Soprano / Times Leader

Voters in Luzerne County will decide in the April 23 primary election whether or not the county should review its current government structure and propose changes.

The county council approved a ballot question in a 7-3 vote back in October that will ask voters if a government study commission should be created.

The purpose of the commission will be to examine whether the county’s current form of government should be amended or changed in some way.

The last government study commission was created in 2009 and drew up the home rule charter that currently governs the county, where an eleven-member elected council serves as the county’s legislative body and an appointed manager oversees executive functions.

Should the commission come into existence, several of the potential changes they could make include reducing the number of seats on council or creating electoral districts that would elect a singular councilman, rather than all councilmen being elected at-large by the whole county.

The commission could also decide to not recommend any changes to the county government or return Luzerne County to the three-person county commissioner system in place before 2012.

Returning to the county commissioner system is the least likely option since the old system is linked to numerous corruption scandals that engulfed the county in the 2000s.

Seven individuals will be elected to serve on the officially nonpartisan commission should the referendum pass. Voters will select the seven in the same election as the referendum.

Among the individuals to declare their intent to run for the commission are former county councilmen Matthew Mitchell and Stephen J. Urban, Wyoming Valley Airport Advisory Board member and former Forty Fort borough councilman Ted Ritsick, former county council candidate Vivian Kreidler-Licina and former state senate candidate Tom Bassett.

Progressive advocacy group Action Together NEPA has put forward a seven-person slate for the study commission.  The slate includes the organization’s executive director Alisha Hoffman-Mirilovich and former state representative candidate Vito Malacari, in addition to Mark Shaffer, Andy Wilczak, Fermin Diaz, Claudia Glennan and Cindy Malkemes.

Current WVW School Board member and former county councilman Tim McGinley, who voted against approving the referendum, is considering a run.

If it goes into effect, the commission would have nine months to gather information and an additional nine months to draw up the proposal. Any proposal made by the commission would require a second referendum approved by the county council in order to go into effect. 

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