River Forest to decide on home rule
Updated: December 2, 2012 6:46AM
RIVER FOREST — When River Forest residents vote polls Nov. 6, they will decide whether the village should get home-rule powers.
Village Administrator Eric Palm admitted home rule has been an abstract sell, with so many factors involved.
“When you go to referendum for a specific tax bond issue, there is cause and effect. We say, ‘Give us X dollars, and we will do this,’” Palm said. “Those questions are easier to understand. Home rule is more challenging.”
Towns with populations of more than 25,000 are granted home-rule power. Communities with populations under 25,000 need to be given home-rule authority via referendum. Home rule allows communities to sidestep certain statutes set by the state, such as tax caps. River Forest has said it will abide by tax caps if given home-rule authority.
The village has contended there is not one issue driving its effort. Officials have said the possibility of shifting some of the tax burden from residents to non-residents, with items such as gas and place-of-eating taxes, is one reason for the push.
They also contend home-rule authority would give the village options to more quickly deal with abandoned properties, zoning issues and unscrupulous contractors.
Palm said two-thirds of the community will get educational materials on home rule in their water bills, mailed Nov. 1.
“We have talked about home rule at several board meetings, at the (River Forest Service Club) forum, through different channels.” Palm said. “We hope residents will go and vote based on the educational materials. We just do our job and leave it up to the voters … It is not my role to tell people how to vote.”
Jim Tobin, president and founder of Taxpayers United of America, said talk about controlling the community’s future is common in the nine home-rule referendums his group is fighting in Illinois this election.
“That’s the standard line of baloney they are instructed to give out in their push for unlimited taxing power,” Tobin said. “They are asking residents to give away their vote on future tax increases.”
Home rule questions are on the ballot in four other Chicago area communities –Maywood, Homer Glen, Kenilworth and Westmont. Downstate communities voting on the issue are Edwardsville, Elkville, Harrisburg and Mount Vernon.
Taxpayers United has already distributed 500 anti-home rule fliers in River Forest and intends to pass out more, Tobin said. He said village pensions, some at $93,000 and $85,000 annually, are the real reason for the home-rush push.
“Village Hall is looking to get new tax dollars to fund the gold-plated, lavish pensions,” Tobin said. “They want taxpayers to pay for village employees retiring at a relatively young age when we basically all work until we drop. It is obscene and immoral. Millions and billions are being paid (statewide) for nothing.”