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 Home Rule Should Mean Home Rule

While having coffee with my friend Peregrina at the Dunkin Donuts in Dryden, we began discussing “home rule.”  As many Dryden residents know, the Town has invoked “home rule” as the basis for its recent ban on hydraulic fracturing, a claim that is still under review in the courts.
 
The discussion soon turned to what is the appropriate level of government or geographical grouping to exercise “home rule.”  Why would the best level be the Town or the County?  Then we realized that town and county boundaries are fairly arbitrary, set by geographical accident or the state legislature a long time ago.  As we learned with redistricting, the grouping of people can be changed and which group people are placed in will have a lot to do with how “home rule” really works.  People tend to favor “home rule” when their party rules, sometimes not realizing that power can shift and “home rule” can become very unattractive to them when it does. Take for example people who enjoyed being represented by very liberal Maurice Hinchey who now find themselves in a district with an incumbent Republican Congressman, Tom Reed, which has a thirty thousand registration advantage for Republicans.
 
Then it occurred to us that “home rule” should best be vested in what it says, the home.  That is, the individual homeowner, each allowed “home rule” by making her or his own choice.  But, as Peregrina pointed out, with the current ban, “home rule” is moved to the entire town level, as exercised by some elected officials, so is not “home rule” at all, but rather “rule over the homes.”
 
If the principle being served with “home rule” is to bring the decisions to the lowest and best possible level, why not the homeowner level?  What is sacred about the town level?  If it is not the home, could this not be the County, the region, or even the entire state?  If the level is to be the “best level,” why isn’t it the one with the best expertise and the time and money to analyze the problem?  If individual freedom is the goal, then the individual homeowner would seem the best level.  But, the town would seem to be neither the lowest or best level.
 
Before we broke up our coffee meeting, we decided that we too favor “home rule,” but not “home rule” for government, rather “home rule” for individuals, making decisions for themselves.  That is true “home rule.”
 
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