Friday, August 19, 2011

Environmental-Rights Referendum Appears Likely for State College Ballot

August 17, 2011 5:02 PM

A referendum focused on local environmental concerns appears likely to be included on the general-election ballot in State College.

The Groundwell PA advocacy group has collected more than enough borough-resident signatures to qualify the referendum for inclusion on the Nov. 8 ballot, Groundswell founder Braden Crooks said this week.

He said the referendum -- if approved by the county elections board -- will ask borough voters to decide whether an environmental bill of rights and a local gas-drilling ban will be incorporated into State College borough's governing charter.

"We want to bring the topic out to the general public as much as we can," said Crooks, a 2011 Penn State graduate in landscape architecture.

To make the referendum eligible for inclusion on the November ballot, Groundswell needed to collect just more than 700 petition signatures by Aug. 8. Crooks said the organization ended up with about 1,000 signatures from borough residents before the deadline.

Groundswell filed the necessary documents -- including proposed wording for the referendum -- with the Centre County elections office earlier this month, he said. Pending a review by the county solicitor, the county elections board is expected to vote within a few weeks on whether to formalize the referendum's place on the ballot.

The elections board also will formalize the wording of the referendum -- provided that it's allowed to appear on the ballot, county elections Director Joyce McKinley said.
First, though, the solicitor's review will examine the validity and legality of the concept and the referendum's proposed wording, she said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, no one had stepped forward to challenge the referendum plan, at least on the county-government level.

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