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County Level Program

GOVERNMENT

COUNTY GOVERNMENT: Promote responsive, efficient and accountable county government.

Statement of Position: The League of Women Voters of Chester County supports a government for Chester County which is more responsive to the needs and desires of the residents with further study of governmental alternatives for Chester County.

Criteria for Structure: 1) Separated legislative-executive structure with a larger governing body than we have at present; 2) Use of a personnel merit system for appointment and promotion, and development of an administrative code clearly defining lines of authority at all levels.

Criteria for Services: 1) Awareness of changing conditions in the county; 2) Efficiency of financing and performing services at the county level; 3) Responsibility for setting and maintaining standards of services.

Criteria for Financing: 1) Economically efficient with careful and frequent review of all methods; 2) Equitable taxes efficiently collected.

Criteria for Amendment (of Home Rule Charter): 1) Flexibility of amendment is desirable.

Background: The first consensus on government came in 1973 and dealt with Home Rule and Optional Forms of county government as allowed by Act 62. After the defeat of the county home rule referendum the position was modified. In 1975 a mini-study on budgeting and appointment procedures was done, after which the current wording was adopted.

COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT: Support a full-time professional public health department for Chester County, with continuing review of performance.

Statement of Position: The League of Women Voters of Chester County supports a health department for Chester County in the belief that the county is the most efficient and effective level for public health administration. The Health Department must be well funded, administered and staffed and have full enforcement powers.

In order to attain the maximum level of efficiency and effectiveness, the League of Women Voters believes that:

1) A staff sufficient to carry out all programs must be retained.

2) The Department must be given primary enforcement powers in all codes, laws and ordinances relating to those functions under its jurisdiction.

3) Laboratory facilities sufficient to service all divisions must be maintained.

4) The Department’s annual budget, approved by the County Commissioners, should be sufficient to enable the Department to qualify for state matching funds at a level consistent with county needs and resources.

5) A strong program of public health education must be pursued including, but not limited to, disease control/prevention and environmental health issues.

6) Support for a Solid Waste Coordinator for Chester County.

7) Support the role of the Health Department as an advocate for public health and safety regarding environmental health issues, especially in the areas of water, air, use of hazardous materials and solid waste.

Background: League members became active participants in “Citizens for a County Health Department” in 1964, which led to a successful county referendum in 1966 and the creation of a county health department in 1968. Our first position was adopted in 1972. The Leagues worked to prevent a referendum to abolish the health department in 1976 (the question did not make it to the ballot). In 1977 the present wording was adopted to reflect changes which had been made and goals which had been achieved. The item dealing with the Solid Waste Coordinator was added in 1981. In 1993 the environmental health statement was added (after review of our positions by the Health Department) to reflect the fact that about half of the Department’s budget is spent on these matters.

COUNTY LIBRARY SYSTEM: Support high quality library services for Chester County.

Statement of Position: The League of Women Voters of Chester County supports development of high quality library services in Chester County.

1) All members of the Chester County Library System should work together to provide services accessible to all geographic areas of the county. Libraries would be encouraged to reach out to all segments of the population, and to be responsive to the needs of the communities served.

2) All members of the Chester County Library should be guided by a long-range planning process to promote orderly development and strengthening of the system. Period evaluation and updates would be conducted with input from the library system, responsible government bodies, and the communities served.

3) Recognizing that library service is a legitimate governmental responsibility, financing should be from public monies. The county government should be charged with primary funding of all libraries in the Chester County Library System, supplemented by state funds. Individual libraries may seek additional support from municipal sources.

4) The majority of any library board receiving public funds should be appointed, as appropriate, by government bodies from the areas served. All libraries should publish an annual report of services and a financial statement.

5) The libraries should aim to meet or exceed current and evolving professional standards for operation of a public library system.

Background: The library item was adopted by the West Chester Area League in 1958 and by UML in 1959. When County Council was formed in 1960 (with only two Leagues), their first item was to “work toward establishment of a tax-supported county library system.” SCC inherited this item at their incorporation.

A committee to update the League’s position on libraries was formed following the spring 1997 LWVCC Annual Meeting. The wording of the position dated from 1972, and it was felt that revised wording was needed in order for the League to respond to current and future public policy in this area. The Chester County Library Task Force was appointed by the County Commissioners in 1994 and although the committee did not have the mission of evaluating the conclusions of the Library Task Force, we do support the process of citizen input to public decision making.

DISTRICT JUSTICES: Support programs to decrease the number of incarcerations of summary offenders in Chester County, including but not limited to a program of alternatives to incarceration for summary offenses.

Background: In 1986, acting under the state League judiciary position, Leagues endorsed the findings and report of the PA District Justice Project which had documented excessive and illegal incarcerations of summary offenders by district justices in Chester County. League effort was concentrated on helping establish a program of alternatives to incarceration for summary offenders. The program, which was started in 1988, encourages DJs to 1) treat the causes for the offense (such as drug and alcohol abuse, family problems, etc.) and 2) offers sentencing to community service as an alternative to jail in certain situations.

CONSTABLES: Promote the use of qualified, trained, accountable constables in Chester County.

Statement of Position: Selection of constables, whether by appointment or election, should be by magisterial district, with the numbers for each district determined by the President Judge, based on population and workload.

There should be a written job description for constables. Qualifications for the job should include: minimum age and mandatory retirement age; periodic health assessment; a background check before being permitted to carry a firearm; restrictions on outside employment where conflict of interest is possible; bonding and liability insurance requirements, with constables accepting some responsibility for the cost of both; a requirement to carry suitable identification, but no requirement to wear a uniform.

Training and education should be mandatory for constables and should include: training in the use of firearms; education in appropriate legal areas, human behavior and ethics.

Constables should be accountable to the Court of Common Pleas for duties performed, expenses incurred and fees charged. They should be permitted to receive cash only when adequate proof of payment is obtained, and should receive only those checks and money orders made payable to a district justice court.

Background: Following a two-year study of the state district justice system, the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania issued a position statement in support of a unified court system, including constables. Building on that position, the Chester County Leagues voted in 1989 to study the use of constables in the county, including methods of selection, qualifications and training, and accountability and oversight.

NATURAL RESOURCES

LAND USE: Support comprehensive planning that incorporates the preservation of agriculture, open space, and natural and historic resources while promoting orderly management of growth and development in Chester County.

Statement of Position:

1) A comprehensive land use plan should be developed and administered by the county with participation by local municipalities.

2) Although local municipalities have autonomy in their land use planning and development, some degree of power should be extended to the county and state levels.

3) Municipalities should develop plans for agriculture, open space and recreation, and natural and historical resources based on local needs, and such plans should be coordinated with the county plan.

4) Professional planning services should be available to all municipalities regardless of their ability to pay.

5) Training in land use planning and growth management should be required for supervisors, council members and planning commission members.

6) Costs of specific public improvements caused by development, e.g. road improvements, traffic signals, school facilities, police and fire protection, should be shared by the developer, property owner and taxpayer depending upon the benefits derived. Impact fees, escrow agreements and municipal bonds are all appropriate mechanisms for achieving this goal.

7) Impact on the environment should be controlled by local ordinances, regional planning and state regulations.

8) Recreation and open space land should be in public ownership when feasible. Incentives to private owners, especially farmers, to preserve open space should be used when appropriate. Local municipalities should be encouraged to use zoning for the acquisition of open space and recreation lands, and to preserve agricultural lands.

9) The primary purpose of open space acquisition should be to protect sensitive and scenic areas. However, the recreational use of the land may be considered.

Background: The position on Open Space and Recreation was adopted in 1981 and updated in 1985 to support The Chester County Comprehensive Plan. A separate position on Land Use grew out of a two-year study in 1988-1990 prompted by rapid but sometimes uncoordinated growth in the county. In 1997, the League undertook a one-year study to combine and update the two positions into a comprehensive Land Use position.

SOLID WASTE: Support adequate and safe solid waste management and disposal in Chester County.

Background: Initially this position was adopted by UML. CCC and SCC concurred in 1982. The present wording, which deleted emphasis on recycling, was adopted in 1986, the feeling being that the new wording did not discourage support for other options.

ENERGY: Examine the stated positions of LWVUS on Energy in order to relate them to current issues, including local conditions.

Background: LWVUS has strong positions on natural resources, which are published in Where We Stand. Those positions dealing with air and energy are especially germane to today’s energy crisis, even though they were adopted years ago. The LWVPA position on transportation promotes energy-efficient and environmentally sound systems.

The role of non-renewable energy sources such as coal and oil in global warming and air pollution, and the replacement of those by renewable sources such as wind, solar, etc., on a cost-benefits basis will be considered. Energy conservation and the unsolved issue of nuclear waste will be addressed.

Priorities are to be established and partners found for joint action in lobbying and education. The extent of awareness on the part of the public and of governmental groups will be considered in forming a plan of action. Major efforts, first at member education, and then at public education, via the media and public meetings are planned.

SOCIAL POLICY

HOUSING: Support measures to achieve an adequate, diversified supply of and equal access to low and moderate income housing in Chester County.

Background: This position was adopted in 1984.

JUVENILE JUSTICE: Support establishment of shelter care for alleged delinquent and alleged dependent youth in Chester County.

Statement of Position: The League of Women Voters of Chester County supports the immediate establishment of shelter care for alleged delinquent and alleged dependent youth in Chester County, including a staff secure program utilizing both a group home facility and specialized foster care.

Background: This “statement of endorsement” for a shelter care project was passed in November 1984. In 1985 the position statement was edited to remove those items which are now covered under state position.

VOCATIONAL EDUCATION: Support quality vocational education programs that meet the needs of students and employers in Chester County.

Statement of Position: The League of Women Voters of Chester County believes that quality vocational education programs are important both to students and potential employers. It also believes that there should not be a separate Bureau of Vocational Education; more emphasis should be placed on training adults and qualified special education students, rather than scaling down current programs; more effort be made to achieve a positive public perception of the vocational education system; the use of the vocational education facilities be maximized; that the schools aggressively promote their staff and facilities to the general public for day and evening courses for post high school graduates or older undergraduates.

Background: The position was reached in 1988. The county study was initiated by one done originally by LWV of Central Chester County.

HEALTH CARE: Promote quality, equity and accountability in the administration and delivery of health services, including those under managed care.

Statement of Position: The League aims to provide opportunities for better understanding of health care issues, and to promote public and private sector policies that ensure quality, equity and accountability in the administration and delivery of health services, including those under managed care.

Background: A study to evaluate HMO-managed care was adopted in 1996. After surveying HMOs in Chester County, studying published reports, interviewing provider and consumer groups and holding a public forum, the LWVCC, in 1997, co-founded Chester County Citizens for Quality Managed Care, a coalition of health care providers and consumers. In 2000, the coalition broadened its scope to include other health concerns and to involve more organizations. The LWVUS, which has had a health care position since 1993, also began focusing on other health issues which have aroused public attention: Medicare reform, prescription drugs for seniors, the uninsured, long term care, as well as managed care/patients’ rights. The national League priorities, the county coalition’s revised mission, and our local program revision all reflect this broader scope.