Friday, November 19, 1999
Deerfield broadens its powers
Trustees vote to adopt home rule
BY KEVIN ALDRIDGE
The Cincinnati Enquirer
DEERFIELD TOWNSHIP Trustees took the next step in the township's evolution Wednesday by unanimously adopting a new form of limited self-government, known as home rule.
Under home rule, trustees have limited authority to pass laws in the unincorporated township. Specifically, home rule gives townships' authority to adopt laws including sani tary regulations, starting police departments and forming water and sewer districts.
Home-rule status retains the traditional close ties between citizens and their local government, which is the hallmark of the township form of government, trustees Chairman Tom Raga said. At the same time, it gives Deerfield Township greater opportunities to meet the needs of people and businesses in a rapidly urbanizing community.
Said Trustee Bill Morand: I think this is the right thing for the township at this point. A lot of people have fought for home rule at the state level, and I think it's important that townships utilize it.
The new township model of home rule passed by the state, which went into effect Sept. 20, allows township trustees to adopt the model by a resolution, if the population is more than 15,000.
Residents may rescind the resolution through a ballot initiative.
Townships that adopt home rule can pass ordinances and contract with independent legal counsel and engineers, rather than rely on county resources. Townships also can borrow at the same rate as cities, villages and counties un der the law.
One of the benefits of home rule is it allows townships to compete with cities in some aspects without being like a city, Mr. Morand said. This new form of government will give us the tools to deal with issues surrounding our tremendous growth and serve our residents in the quickest and most efficient manner possible.
In the past, trustees have had little law-making authority under the Ohio Constitution. Many townships complained they were legally handcuffed from enacting specific projects or initiatives.
By becoming a home-rule township, Deerfield will be better able to finance public improvements and meet the demands for expansion of residential and business areas in the township, said Dan Theno, the township's new administrator of development and community relations.
But as with all good things, there are some potential negatives, Mr. Morand said.
There is a scary side to home rule for people who believe in limited government and that is you don't want to empower government too much, Mr. Morand said. Often, too much power can corrupt.
But I don't think that is going to happen here because every tax in the township will still be voted on, he said. Plus, we intend to remain accessible to our residents and committed to addressing their needs.
The limited self-government form of township government was established in Ohio law in 1991. Of Ohio's 1,309 townships, only eight have sought limited self-government, including Hamilton Township (1993), Symmes Township (1996), and Sycamore Township and Delhi Township (1992). Trustees in Union Township (Butler County) also are considering adopting the home-rule form of government.
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