Council and the Mayor shall protect and promote the right of the citizens of the Borough to participate in a positive and constructive manner in the government of the Borough. Subject to and in accordance with the provisions of this Charter, any citizen of the Borough may participate in the government of the Borough by:
Seeking elected office as Mayor or Member of Council and by voting for the elected officials of his or her choice;
Serving on boards, commissions, authorities, committees or other agencies of the Borough;
Attending and being heard at public meetings of Council and other boards, commissions, authorities, committees or agencies of the Borough.
Addressing suggestions to the Council, the Mayor, and others to provide guidance for their actions; and,
Exercising the right of initiative, referendum and recall as provided in this Charter or General Law.
All officers and departments shall make provisions for reasonable access by citizens to all information except pertaining to personnel matters, ongoing investigations and other matters to which access is restricted by General Law.
Council shall appoint citizens to boards, commissions, authorities or other agencies of the Borough, making the greatest possible use of the talents and interests of such citizens, thereby promoting the public interest and welfare of the Borough.
Registered voters of the Borough shall have the following powers:
Initiative - to propose ordinances to Council which are consistent with this Charter and General Law, and to adopt or reject the same at a primary, municipal or general election if Council fails to adopt and the Mayor fails to approve an ordinance so proposed without any change in substance; and
Referendum - to require repeal by Council of any adopted ordinance and, if Council fails to repeal said ordinance, to repeal it at a primary, municipal or general election.
Petition papers circulated for the purpose of an initiative or referendum shall:
Contain the names and addresses of five (5) registered voters of the Borough designated as a Committee of the Petitioners;
Contain or have attached thereto throughout the circulation the full text of the ordinance proposed or sought to be repealed;
Bear the date, signatures, and addresses in ink of registered voters of the Borough equal in number to at least 10% of the number of votes cast for all candidates for the Office of Governor in the last gubernatorial general election in the Borough;
When filed, have attached to it an affidavit executed by the circulator thereof, stating that he or she personally circulated the paper, that all the signatures were affixed in his or her presence, that he or she believes them to be the genuine signatures of the person whose name appears thereon, and that each signer had an opportunity before signing to read the full text of the ordinance proposed or sought to be repealed;
Be filed within 30 days after the date of the first signature;
Be filed with the Borough Manager as one instrument as provided herein.
Procedure after Filing.
Within twenty (20) days after the petition is filed, the Borough Manager shall examine the petition for compliance with the provisions of this Charter and General Law and certify the results of his or her examination to the Committee of Petitioners and the President of Council by registered mail.
If the Borough Manager certifies the petition as valid.
The ordinance proposed shall be introduced at the next regular or special meeting of Council and be subject to the other provisions of Article III of this Charter pertaining to the enactment of ordinances, not inconsistent with the provisions of this Charter.
In the case of an ordinance which has not yet gone into effect and is sought to be repealed, such ordinance shall be immediately suspended from taking effect until:
The referendum petition is withdrawn by the Committee of Petitioners; or
It is repealed by the vote of Council and its repeal is either approved by the Mayor or if vetoed, such veto is overridden by Council in accordance with Section 304(B); or
It is approved or disapproved by the registered voters of the Borough, upon the certification of election results according to the provisions of the Pennsylvania Election Code.
If the Borough Manager determines that the petition is invalid:
He or she shall certify the results of his or her examination to the Committee of Petitioners and the President of Council by registered mail describing the particulars in which it is defective.
The Committee of Petitioners shall have ten (10) days after the date of receipt of such notification to correct the said deficiencies and to file the corrected petition with the Borough Manager.
Within five (5) days after the corrected petition is filed, the Borough Manager shall examine the corrected petition, as aforesaid, and the procedures in the case of an original petition shall be followed.
A petition may only be corrected once, but a new petition may be filed for the same purpose at any future time.
Action on Petition.
Results of Election.
Initiative - If a majority of the registered voters of the Borough voting on a proposed ordinance vote in favor thereof, such ordinance shall become a valid and binding ordinance of the Borough upon certification of election results according to the provisions of the Pennsylvania Election Code.
Referendum - If a majority of the registered voters of the Borough voting to repeal an ordinance vote in favor thereof, such ordinance shall be considered repealed upon certification of the election results according to the provisions of the Pennsylvania Election Code.
Multiple Questions - If two (2) or more questions appear on the ballot at the same election and such questions are in conflict and more than one receives the approval of the voters, the question which receives the largest number of affirmative votes shall prevail over the others.
Limitations on Initiative and Referendum.
[Added 11-3-2015 by referendum]
Statement of Law – A Community Bill of Rights.
Governmental Legitimacy. All legitimate governments in the United States owe their existence to the people of the community that those governments serve, and governments exist to secure and protect the rights of the people and those communities. Any system of government that becomes destructive of those ends is not legitimate, lawful, or constitutional.
Right of Local Community Self-Government. The people of West Chester Borough possess both a collective and individual right to self-government in their local community, a right to a system of government that embodies that right, and the right to a system of government that protects and secures their human, civil, and collective rights.
Right to Assert the Right of Self-Government. The people of West Chester Borough possess the right to use their local government to make law, and the making and enforcement of law by the people through a municipal corporation, or any other institution, shall not eliminate, limit, or reduce their sovereign right to local community self-government.
Rights of Ecosystems and Natural Communities. Ecosystems and natural communities within West Chester Borough possess the right to exist, flourish, and naturally evolve.
Right to Water. All residents, natural communities and ecosystems in West Chester Borough possess a fundamental and inalienable right to sustainably access, use, consume, and preserve water drawn from natural water cycles that provide water necessary to sustain life within the Borough.
Right to Clean Air. All residents, natural communities and ecosystems in West Chester Borough possess a fundamental and inalienable right to breathe air untainted by toxins, carcinogens, particulates, and other substances known to cause harm to health.
Right to Peaceful Enjoyment of Home. Residents of West Chester Borough possess a fundamental and inalienable right to the peaceful enjoyment of their homes, free from interference, intrusion, nuisances, or impediments to access and occupation.
Right to a Sustainable Energy Future. All residents of West Chester Borough possess a right to a sustainable energy future, which includes, but is not limited to, the development, production, and use of energy from renewable fuel sources, and the right to be free from any form of non-sustainable energy extraction and distribution which threatens to cause harm to the people and natural environment of West Chester Borough.
Rights as Self-Executing. All rights secured by this law are inherent, fundamental, and inalienable, and shall be self-executing and enforceable against both private and public actors. Further implementing legislation shall not be required for the Borough, the residents of West Chester Borough, or the ecosystems and natural communities protected by this law, to enforce all of the provisions of this law.
Statements of Law – Prohibitions Necessary to Secure the Bill of Rights.
It shall be unlawful for any corporation, business or government to engage in the extraction of natural gas within West Chester Borough, with the exception of gas wells installed and operating at the time of enactment of this Charter provision, provided that the extraction of gas from those existing wells does not involve any practice or process not previously used for the extraction of gas from those wells.
It shall be unlawful for any corporation, business or government to deposit, store, or transport waste water, "produced" water, "frack" water, brine, or other materials, chemicals, or by-products from the unconventional development of natural gas from shale formations, within, upon, or through, the land, air, or waters of West Chester Borough.
It shall be unlawful for any corporation, business or government to engage in the creation of fossil fuel, nuclear, or other non-sustainable energy production and delivery infrastructures, such as pipelines, processing facilities, compressors, or storage and transportation facilities, within West Chester Borough.
It shall be unlawful for any corporation, business or government to violate the rights recognized and secured by this law.
No permit, license, privilege, charter, or other authorization issued to a corporation or business, by any state or federal entity, that would violate the prohibitions of this law or any rights secured by this law, shall be deemed valid within West Chester Borough.
Any corporation, business or government that violates any provision of this law shall be guilty of an offense and, upon conviction thereof, shall be sentenced to pay the maximum fine allowable under State law for that violation. Each day or portion thereof, and violation of each section of this law, shall count as a separate violation.
The Borough, or any resident of the Borough, may enforce the rights and prohibitions of this law through an action brought in any court possessing jurisdiction over activities occurring within the Borough. In such an action, the Borough or the resident shall be entitled to recover all costs of litigation, including, without limitation, expert and attorney's fees.
Ecosystems and natural communities within the Borough may enforce their rights, and this law's prohibitions, through an action brought by the Borough or residents of the Borough, in any court possessing jurisdiction over activities occurring within the Borough, in the name of the ecosystem or natural community as the real party in interest. Damages shall be measured by the cost of restoring the ecosystem or natural community to its state before the injury, and shall be paid to the Borough to be used exclusively for the full and complete restoration of the ecosystem or natural community.
Enforcement – Corporate Powers.
Corporations and businesses that violate this law, or that seek to violate this law, shall not be deemed to be "persons" to the extent that such treatment would interfere with the rights or prohibitions enumerated by this law, nor shall they possess any other legal rights, powers, privileges, immunities, or duties that would interfere with the rights or prohibitions enumerated by this amendment, the power to assert state or federal preemptive laws in an attempt to overturn this law, or the power to assert that the people of West Chester Borough lack the authority to adopt this law.
All laws adopted by the legislature of the State of Pennsylvania, and rules adopted by any State agency, shall be the law of West Chester Borough only to the extent that they do not violate the rights or prohibitions of this law.
People's Right of Self-Government. Use of courts or the Pennsylvania legislature in attempts to overturn the provisions of this amendment shall require community meetings focused on changes to local governance that would secure the people's right of local community self-government.
State and Federal Constitutional Changes. Though the adoption of this amendment, the people of West Chester Borough call for amendment of the Pennsylvania Constitution and the federal Constitution to recognize a right of local community self-government free from governmental preemption and nullification by corporate "rights."
Severability. The provisions of this amendment are severable. If any court decides that any section, clause, sentence, part, or provision of this amendment is illegal, invalid, or unconstitutional, such decision shall not affect, impair, or invalidate any of the remaining sections, clauses, sentences, parts, or provisions of the amendment. This amendment would have been enacted without the invalid sections.
Repealer. All inconsistent provisions of prior laws adopted by the Borough are hereby repealed, but only to the extent necessary to remedy the inconsistency.