Is Tioga County TRULY Free?

Lessons Learned From The Closure Of A Local High School

Bill Collier


The people and communities of Tioga County can and should be free. Currently, they’re not as free as we like to think we are: they are tangled up in “diktat” out of DC and Harrisburg. Most people do not realize this, but very little real decision-making power is in the hands of individuals and local governments: the State and Federal governments have almost total control over our daily lives in lots of hidden ways.

Almost every local decision has to be approved not by the People who should be in charge but by faceless, nameless “officials” from Harrisburg or Washington. If we, the citizens of our local communities, have to call up Harrisburg and Washington every time we want to do something local, well, then how we we say we are “free” or even that we have a democratic and republican form of self-government?

The current debate in Tioga County about the Southern Tioga School District’s “need” to shut down one of the High Schools is a glaring example of local people being severely impacted in a very negative way by the “diktat” from “above”. The repairs needed, for instance, at the North Penn High School might be well within our ability to finance, but state and federal requirements force the School District to pay for many MORE additional “repairs” which are not needed.  They compel the District to bring these structures up to a code that didn’t exist when the school was built and which (again) doesn’t make anyone safer.  These central planners force the District to pay for the most costly labor to get the work done. They don’t even ALLOW local people to volunteer to help make the repairs (after all, we would be taking a UNION job)!

This glaring example of Harrisburg and DC dictating to local people and communities in Tioga County in a manner that causes REAL harm to real people is not, by any means, isolated.

(Note: there are some local decisions that have contributed to the cost problem for the Southern Tioga School District, but even with those costs, the chief obstacle to keeping all current High Schools in the District open is State and Federal in its origin).

The real question is “who’s in charge?”

If less than 75% of ALL the things that effect us at the individual to local level are NOT decided by private people, private entities (businesses and organizations), and local governments that are controlled by the People, then we cannot claim to have a democratic and republican form of self-government. Private and local control is the key indicator of real freedom: if they are lacking, then freedom is lacking.

What then do we do?

First, we have to embrace freedom of participation in local decision-making processes; we have to insist that this be the benchmark of true freedom in a democratic republic. If we cannot directly control, through our participation, the things that affect our lives at the individual to local level, then there is no way we can really claim to truly be free!

Second, we have to demand that LOCAL elected officials pledge themselves to LOCAL freedom by officially demanding that Harrisburg and Washington get their nose out of OUR local business!

Local officials can use whatever legal remedies they have, including petitioning state and federal governments to back off. Elected delegates to federal and state office can also be leaned on to support these petitions and to propose bills that protect local freedom by the People.

This isn’t a “left-right” thing; it isn’t a “republican-democrat” thing- it is about individual freedom being guaranteed through participation in local decision-making through private entities and “people-powered local government”.  Currently, DC is run by democrats and Harrisburg is run by republicans, yet the net effect is still the same, central planning hemming in the power of the people at the local level from making independent decisions that are best for them and not the state or federal entities that distantly make the decisions for them.

Local freedom by the People is the ideal this nation was founded on.  Just getting from here to there is a process, but the first step towards fixing a problem is acknowledging that you have one.

The debacle of local people being FORCED to close one of their High Schools because of unwieldy state and federal rules and regulations should be enough to convince us that we have a problem- local freedom has been virtually eliminated!


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