Keeping open mind on study

Altoona residents will have an important question on their ballot in the spring primary.

During Wednesday night’s meeting, City Council agreed to ask residents for permission to form a government study commission to consider a home rule style of government, which will give the city leeway that it doesn’t have now under the current form of government.

For instance, it could allow the city to increase the earned income tax while lowering its property tax. And it could allow the city to offer a 401(k) pension plan to new employees, instead of the traditional defined benefit plan that’s more costly.

The study commission, if formed, will consist of seven registered voters who live in Altoona.

The easy answer to the May 21 primary ballot question seems to be yes. Why not study the pros and cons of how a home rule style of government will affect Altoona?

As long as the commission members are open-minded and willing to examine the question fairly, the decision to form the commission should be easy.

The harder decision might come later.

If the government study commission decides that Altoona should change to a home rule charter, its recommendation will go on the ballot for voters to consider. And before voters can make a wise decision, they’ll need to become well versed on the advantages and disadvantages.

As stated in the “Home Rule in Pennsylvania Handbook,” published by the state Department of Community and Economic Development, home rule has proven to be “neither a panacea nor a bane.”

So as for how it will affect Altoona and its future, it seems that a study commission may be in the best position to come up with some conclusions, as long as its members are willing to do some research.

Those interested in running will need to pick up a petition packet in the elections office of the Blair County Courthouse and collect 200 signatures.

For everyone interested in the city’s future, this sounds like a worthwhile task.