AUSTINTOWN Twp. officials raise question on home rule

Trustees are expected to approve a home-rule ordinance Monday.
AUSTINTOWN -- Township officials here say they'll ask the Mahoning County prosecutor if a Pinecrest Avenue man is able to place home rule on the November ballot.
Gary Brant said he and his supporters have collected signatures from about 1,700 township residents on petitions seeking a vote on home rule. He said he expected to present the petitions to the township trustees at 10 a.m. today.
Home rule was unanimously approved by the township trustees in March. The Ohio Revised Code states that the deadline to place home rule on the ballot is 30 days after approval.
Township Administrator Michael Dockry said he will ask the Mahoning County Prosecutor's office if Brant can put home rule on the ballot after the 30-day deadline has passed.
Percentage of signatures
The Ohio Revised Code allows people to place many items on the ballot by collecting signatures from 10 percent of the number of residents of their community who voted in the last gubernatorial election. Dockry said he thinks about 16,000 Austintown residents voted in the last Ohio gubernatorial election; Brant said he feels the number is 11,408.
The Mahoning County Board of Elections could not be reached to confirm either figure Thursday night. The trustees would have to submit Brant's petitions to the board before home rule could be placed on the ballot.
Home rule is a limited form of self-government. Trustees are expected to pass their first home-rule ordinance Monday.
The ordinance would regulate exotic animals in the township.
Brant said he feels township residents should be able to choose their form of government. He added that about 40 or 50 other local residents also collected signatures on the petitions.
"I feel that everyone has the right to vote for what type of government they want," Brant said.
Defeated three times
Home rule was defeated by township voters when it appeared on the ballot in 1992, 1995 and 1997. The margin of defeat in 1997 was less than 10 votes.
Brant said he expects the vote to be close if home rule appears on the November ballot.
Trustee David Ditzler, however, said he is worried that voters in November could be confused by the wording of a home-rule ballot issue. The issue might be written so that a "yes" vote would be a vote to repeal home rule, he said.
"People will be voting yes to vote no," Ditzler said. "It will obviously create a state of confusion."
Ditzler noted that he doesn't think Brant or his supporters will bother to educate residents about the wording of the ballot issue. He added that he doesn't think Brant cares that home rule will benefit the township.
Ditzler also said he doubts Brant's petitions will stop the trustees from approving home-rule ordinances this summer. The trustees are thinking about passing ordinances regulating transient vendors and property maintenance.

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