MEDIA ADVISORY, August 25, 2013
County Councilman Matt Drozd will be holding a news conference this afternoon (Sunday August 25 at 3:00 PM) in the Courthouse Court yard to urge the residents of Allegheny County to speak at County Council’s Tuesday night meeting (August 27th at 5:00 PM) in support of his ordinance which will place a referendum on the ballot to give the people of Allegheny County a voice as to whether or not to drill for gas in the County Parks. The Councilman is quoted as saying that “my ordinance to place this subject on the ballot is also about giving the people the opportunity to voice their opinion on any major issue. I am a firm believer that the people should have a say when it comes to any major decision that affect their future and day-to-day lives”. In this particular referendum, our county Parks will greatly benefit by making them world-class parks and the people will also greatly benefit via tax relief similar to the people of Alaska. A draft of the ordnance/referendum is found herein. Hopefully, this will generate the largest turn-out ever of people speaking before Allegheny County Council. In order to speak at Tuesday evening’s meeting, people will have to call the offices of County Council by no later than close of business tomorrow (4:30 PM-Monday, August 26) at 412-364-6525/6491
An Ordinance of the County of Allegheny, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania directing that a referendum question amending Article IV of the Allegheny County Home Rule Charter, pursuant to the Home Rule Charter and Optional Plans Law and Second Class County Charter Law, be placed on the 2014 Primary Election ballot contingent upon the passage of the referendum question.
WHEREAS, the citizens of Allegheny County adopted a Home Rule Charter, effective January 1, 2000, which provided for, among other things, the powers vested within each branch of government; and
WHEREAS, the Allegheny County Council desire to submit a proposed ballot question to the citizens of Allegheny County which, if passed, would either allow for or prevent the exploration for natural gas in the County Parks whichever is approved by a majority of voters; and
WHEREAS, there has been some discussion about the leasing of County park mineral rights specifically Deer Lakes Park as there are plans to drill platforms adjacent to the park; and
WHEREAS, the mere discussion of a proposal to allow a private company to drill for natural gas on County Park land has generated public outcry for and against such proposals; and
WHEREAS, the County retains control of the mineral rights on all County-owned land which encompasses the County parks; and
WHEREAS, the County Council retains the authority over the use of Park lands, Parks have historically been created for the use and enjoyment of the citizens of the County; and
WHEREAS, while there has been no formal discussion or approval for the lease of mineral rights at this time yet many of the citizens of Allegheny County are aware of the possibility and are concerned about using park land for such a controversial activity; and
WHEREAS, if a formal discussion about leasing the mineral rights of the County parks does take place the citizens of Allegheny County and the County Parks as an institution should benefit directly from any revenue generated; and
WHEREAS, County Council accordingly will create a fund in the amount of 1/3 of the revenue generated from any approved mineral exploration on County Park land for the purposes of maintaining and improving the County Parks Allegheny County and for the remainder to be deposited into the General Fund for the purpose of reducing the tax burden on the citizens of Allegheny County; and
WHEREAS, the approval of a ballot question accomplishing these changes would necessitate certain amendments to the Administrative Code; and
WHEREAS, these changes will inure to the benefit of the citizens and taxpayers of Allegheny County by promoting a more open, transparent and participatory government by increasing the opportunity for direct citizen involvement for the use of County Park land for the purposes of mineral exploration.
The Council of the County of Allegheny hereby enacts as follows:
SECTION 1. Incorporation of the Preamble.
The provisions set forth in the preamble to this Ordinance are incorporated by reference in their entirety herein.
SECTION 2. Ballot Question.
Pursuant to the Second Class County Charter Law and the Home Rule Charter and Optional Plans Law, the Allegheny County Board of Elections is directed to place the following question
on the May 17, 2014 Primary Ballot for consideration and approval by the registered electors of the County:
Shall the Allegheny County Home Rule Charter be amended to establish that it shall be the decision of a majority of the voters of Allegheny County whether or not to allow for the exploration and extraction of minerals in, on, or below County Park land?
SECTION 3. Provisional Amendment of the Administrative Code, Powers and duties of the County Council.
If the Board of Election certifies that the ballot question set forth in Section 2 above has been approved by the registered electors of the County, then the Allegheny County Home Rule Charter shall be amended as follows and pursuant to the effective dates established in Section 4 of this Ordinance:
A. Amendment of Article IV, §2 (k):
(k) By ordinance, lease, convey, vacate or abandon, or permit the use of County land, buildings or other real or personal property, except for the exploration and or extraction of minerals from County Park land which will be decided by referendum of the citizens of Allegheny County and shall not be subject to a veto by County Council nor the County Executive for at least two years following its approval or disapproval.
SECTION 4. Effective Dates.
A. The provisions of Section 2 of this Ordinance shall become effective immediately upon the date of final approval.
B. The provisions of Section 3 of this Ordinance shall become effective immediately upon the date of certification of passage of the date of certification of passage of the referendum provided for in Section 2.
SECTION 5. Severability. If any provision of this Ordinance shall be determined to be unlawful, invalid, void or unenforceable, then that provision shall be considered severable from the remaining provisions of this Ordinance which shall be in full force and effect.
SECTION 6. Repealer. Any Resolution or Ordinance or part thereof conflicting with the provisions of this Ordinance is hereby repealed so far as the same affects this Resolution.
PRIMARY SPONSOR: COUNCIL MEMBER DROZD
Enacted in Council, this ___________ day of ________________________, 2013
Council Agenda No. ________________.