Mt. Vernon Register-News

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June 27, 2012

Petition to revoke home rule presented

The signed petition was presented to the mayor’s office on Tuesday

MT. VERNON — — Steven Casper, Sr., wants the residents of Mt. Vernon to vote against the “home rule” established during the 1980’s.

Casper said the home rule allows the city council to raise taxes without first asking the residents if they agree to the hikes. He said when the home rule was first voted in, residents did not know they would lose their future rights to vote on tax hikes.

“They don’t ask us if we [the people] want those taxes,” Casper said. “We want to reclaim our rights to vote on local taxes. I don’t like it that they don’t ask us. Ultimate power ultimately corrupts.”

According to information provided by the City Clerk’s office and the office of the Mayor, the Municipal and Service Occupation Tax, commonly referred to as the Home Rule Tax, is “a legal system for defining the powers which local government may exercise. Home rule gives an individual local government - a county, city or village - the authority to determine for itself what powers it may exercise, subject to specified constitutional and statutory limitations.”

Home rule allows individual local governments the authority to determine what powers they need and what revenue resources they can tap, to provide services demanded by their residents, information states.

Casper and three other Mt. Vernon residents organized a petition, which collected 1,031 signatures from registered voters, to revoke the home rule.

“I don’t know why somebody did not do this before now,” he said. “[We] just don’t like the idea the city has the ultimate power to raise taxes for whatever they want, whenever they want.”

The petition was presented to the City Clerk’s office Tuesday. Mayor Mary Jane Chesley said the petition will be reviewed by the city council to make sure it met all legal requirements before it will can put on the ballot for a vote by Mt. Vernon residents.

Chesley was part of the city council when home rule was established Jan. 6, 1986, when it was established for financing a sewer treatment plant. She said home rule has allowed the city to prosper. The money from the one-half percent sales tax has been used for improvement in infrastructure and for projects such as the Rolland W. Lewis Industrial Park.

“The public wanted us to do these things,” she said.

Chesley added that projects like Continental Tire the Americas or Magnum Steel would “probably not have happened” without home rule.

The petition required about 365 before it could be brought to the city, Casper said. He added the petition would not have been necessary if the city council had decided to do this on their own.

“Home rule turns leaders into rulers and we prefer democracy,” he said. “At the local level we really ought to have a say about the way we fund our town.”

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