When met with silence, Fegley said: “I feel embarrassed that council doesn’t want to help with this. Council being silent on this is really council turning its back on its citizens.”
He said the election board has not explained how it is authorized to keep the proposed ordinance from Allentown voters, in contradiction of the city’s home rule charter. He said the election board has no mandated approval role and its decision is not based on any legal standard.
On June 19, City Council voted 5-1 to table taking action on the clean air ordinance, which was brought before it via petitions signed by 2,175 city voters.
That vote automatically sent the 15-page proposal to the election board to go on the November ballot in Allentown, so city voters could decide if they want it to become law.
On August 27, the election board rejected putting it on the ballot.
It was the second time this year that county election officials rejected ballot initiatives by Allentown residents to have city voters decide if proposals should become new laws.
In February, they ruled that another initiative aimed at stopping the lease of the city’s water and sewer operations would not appear on the May ballot. More than 4,000 residents had signed petitions to get that proposal on the ballot.
Resident David McGuire also said the proposed clean air ordinance should go on the November ballot and also called on council to help residents.
Declaring “we’re being hoodwinked on this,” McGuire asked City Council to request and make public all correspondence between the city and the election board, the state Department of Environmental Resources, Delta Thermo Energy – the company that plans to build the plant that spurred the proposed clean air ordinance -- “and their attorneys and their consultants.”
McGuire said the authors of Allentown’s city charter intentionally included language that allows residents to petition to change laws through referendums and initiatives via elections. “It is there to be used.”
McGuire said residents are being bashed for taking a civic interest. He warned council: “You’re losing support for our political process; you’re turning off citizens. It is so hard to get young people involved and to get citizens in your neighborhood to come out to vote.”
McGuire announced that the election board will meet at 8:30 a.m. Friday. The stated purpose of that meeting is to approve the ballot to be used in the Nov. 5 election “and for general purposes.”
McGuire questioned why the election board is meeting at that time of day.
Fegley said the issue of getting the proposed ordinance back on the November ballot will be discussed at the election board meeting.
No luck bringing proposal back before council
Eichenwald said she and O’Connell wanted to bring the issue up for discussion at Wednesday’s council meeting, but they needed a third signature from one of their other five colleagues on council. They could not get it.
“I find this distressing,” she said, adding City Council meetings should be opportunities for public discussion and public information.
Clarifying what happened after the meeting, O’Connell said he and Eichenwald needed a third signature to bring the proposed air pollution ordinance back onto the floor of council – not just for discussion, but for reconsideration. “We needed three signatures because it was called a repetitive bill – we already introduced it and tabled it. It was repetition.”
“You’ve sided on the side of money,” resident Michele Bowers told the five council members who did not support Eichenwald and O’Connell. “That’s very disappointing.”
Resident Glenn S. Hunsicker said most on council are not representing citizens. He advised them to “vacate your seats and sit behind the mayor; that’s all you’re doing.”
Resident Lou Hershman told council it is not governing; only letting Mayor Ed Pawlowski govern.