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Another home rule horror story . . .

     Bridgeview, IL, has one of the highest rates of debt around Chicago because of a mayor and council’s home rule powers that give virtually unlimited power to tax, to regulate, and to incur debt — and taxpayers are feeling the burden.

     Using home rule powers, the mayor decided to build a 20,000-seat stadium that would put Bridgeview on the map. Instead, the community has been left with more than $230 million in debt because of the stadium — and the debt keeps increasing.
Illinois
     It started for Bridgeview residents with a seemingly innocuous vote for home rule — “Trust your local leaders” — in 2002 which lead to a trail of politicians’ broken promises, risky gambles, and sweetheart deals. Since opening in 2006, the stadium has come up millions of dollars short of making its huge debt payments. The yearly shortfalls are sometimes as big as the town's annual police budget, and they've helped sink the southwest suburb's credit rating to among the Chicago area's worst.

     The big borrowing created a torrent of cash that, in part, went to companies tied to high-level government officials, the town leaders' political supporters, and even companies linked to the mayor's family. Plus, campaign contributions from those profiting from the stadium have helped bankroll a rarely challenged local political machine.

     "It's hard to see how it could have turned out much worse than it did," said H. Woods Bowman, a state lawmaker and county financial officer who taught government finance at DePaul University until his death in 2015.

     Bridgeview's story is a sobering reminder for taxpayers that the Illinois version of home rule gives politicians and their beneficiaries — lawyers, developers, bankers, government workers, and the political class — almost unlimited power to borrow and tax without voter approval. Worse, even after the politicians quit or are kicked out of office, generations of taxpayers are left paying the bills.

     After ten bond sales to borrow even more money since 2003—most recently one in 2015 for $16 million to resolve debt shortfalls from previous bond sales—Bridgeview taxpayers are now on the hook for $241.2 million in long-term debt.

     Politicians’ home rule promises to enhance community life and lower property taxes are like the love letters in the sand Pat Boone sang about a few decades ago (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8MCUXitxbTA) — and Bridgeview taxpayers are singing about today: “You made a vow that you would ever be true, but somehow that vow meant nothing to you. How pols laugh when we cry each time we see the tide wash pols’ promises from the sand.”
(excerpted in part from the Chicago Tribune)

Home rule trust us

Taxpayers United of America stands against home rule . . .

     “Home Rule” is one of the most financially devastating schemes Illinois politicians have ever come up with, according to Jim Tobin, President of Taxpayers United of America (TUA).

     “Home Rule means, literally, Home Rule Unlimited Taxing Power,” said Tobin. “A Home Rule municipality can create just about any tax under the sun, and raise taxes without limit. A Home Rule Community can raise property taxes without voter approval. It can create new taxes on businesses, services, groceries, gasoline and even parking without voter approval. Local politicians can protect their salaries and lavish, gold-plated pensions, and even increase their own benefits without voter approval.

     “Illinoisans are fleeing the state in record numbers to get out from under the ‘tax and spenders. and these bureaucrats still don’t get it. Instead of shrinking spending to match shrinking populations, they continually look for ways to make up ‘lost revenue.’”

Citizens take back control over local government

     The Illinois version of so-called Home Rule has been rejected or repealed in more than 206 communities that have defeated Home Rule referenda since 1980, including 14 in elections since 2014.

     The Illinois version of so-called Home Rule strips citizens of control over local politicians’ power to tax, to regulate, and to incur debt. Unlike Home Rule in other states, the Illinois version denies citizens the right to have a local charter or constitution to protect taxpayers from abuse or incompetence by office holders and from the hazard of easy access to public funds for developers, lawyers, bankers, and government workers.

Home rule refendum results
Eleven reasons for opposing the Illinois version of home rule . . .

     What some politicians call “home rule” in Illinois is a law that allows local politicians to do pretty much as they please and tax us as much as they please without having to ask us voters for permission to do it. That’s all it means, pure and simple. I don’t think the people want that.

     Keeping home rule out of their community — as more than 200 Illinois cities have voted to do when they had the chance — requires those same politicians to ask us for permission to raise taxes for their programs. I think the people want that.

     I have eleven reasons for voting “NO” to the Illinois version of so-called “home rule:"

     1. It takes away constitutional constraints on local governments' powers to impose taxes in that it gives local politicians a blank check, the power to spend taxpayers’ money with no effective control by the taxpayers. Some politicians argue that they should have the right to do whatever they want — raise taxes, impose new taxes, seize private property with land banks which are like eminent domain on steroids, license and regulate whatever they want — and then, if the voters don’t like it, we can throw them out of office. That is a false and cynical argument which I call the “close the door after the horses are out of the barn” theory. It has at least two major flaws:
First, that theory restricts voters to taking action only after the damage has already been done.
Second, that theory is based on the false assumption that a better candidate will be offered in the primary or by the opposition party at the next election. But how many times have voters been ready to remove someone from office only to find that the alternative is a modern equivalent of Attila the Hun or some village idiot?

     That approach simply does not work. In fact, that false and cynical argument is precisely the kind of approach in the past that has made the work of building a true sense of community — and that is what leadership is all about — more difficult today.HomeRuleSafecrackers

     2. What the politicians call "home rule” violates the dignity of the people. It tells citizens they are too stupid to decide how their tax dollars are to be spent. They are not too stupid to earn the money and pay their taxes, but they are too stupid to have a voice and choice in how that money will be spent. No real leader would want or tolerate that insult to the people of his or her community.

     3. It leaves the elderly who are on fixed incomes and those who are on the lower end of the income scale vulnerable to economic hardship because of the loose spending whims of a few active and aggressive politicians.

     4. It is based on an arrogant attitude that assumes certain politicians know better what is best for the community than the members of the community themselves. Politicians are the doctors who have given us the medicine that made us sick in the first place with legislation that has driven businesses and jobs out of Rockford and Illinois. Is it any wonder that I question their prescription which calls for trusting them to tax and spend without effective taxpayer control?

     5. It provides politicians with a temptation to develop a political machine staffed and financed with taxes for alleged community service or development programs which have nothing to do with basic city services. This additional tax drain of private resources drives existing businesses and jobs away from Rockford while discouraging new businesses and jobs from coming in. Such taxes would make it more difficult to pay for basic and essential city services and would crush citizens under an overwhelming and irreversible tax burden.

     6. It fails to guard against unforeseen future developments and potential abuses. This mayor and council may be responsible. Their successors may be irresponsible spendthrifts. It has always been difficult for politicians and their cronies to control themselves when it comes to public funds. I have observed no remarkable recent change in human nature and, therefore, conclude it is in the public interest to guard against abuses. To paraphrase Ben Franklin, "a taxpayer between two politicians is like a fish between two cats." We dare not forget that.

HomeRuleSchoolBus     7. What the politicians call "home rule" goes against the most basic principle on which this nation was founded and which has enabled this nation to achieve its high place among the institutions of humankind — a distrust of government requiring citizen control over its powers. It is in our blood as a people and has been a healthy tradition, one worth keeping. History shows that we serve ourselves best when we trust ourselves least. James Madison's words remind us that we must keep government in check: "There are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachment of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations."

     8. Good leaders do not want or need "home rule." There are two approaches to leadership. The first is true leadership which builds the community through a process of communicating and listening, informing and educating, persuading and compromising. True leadership is more difficult but builds true community because it is based on a love and respect for the people of the community. It seeks to encourage and increase citizen participation in government, not to diminish it. True leadership has no place for coercion and power politics and does not need what politicians call "home rule.”

     Sham leaders, on the other hand, simply decide what they want to do and then proceed to force their ideas on the community through a process of arm twisting and power politics. That process may put bricks and mortar in place, but it also creates deep divisions and leaves scars that destroy the very community the would-be leaders are trying to build.  Sham leadership results from mistrust, disrespect, and even contempt for the people of the community — as in requiring ordinary citizens to gather 10,000 signatures on petitions to put the “home rule” repeal referendum on the ballot while the privileged political class and special interests just ram a “home rule” referendum through the city council. Edwin Markham, the turn-of-the-century working class poet, pointed out their folly well:
“We are all blind until we see
    that is the human plan
nothing is worth the making
    if it does not make the man (woman).
Why build these cities glorious
    if man (woman) unbuilded goes?
In vain we build the world
    unless the builder also grows.”

     9. What the politicians call “home rule” is not necessary for making Rockford more attractive to businesses outside the community. On the contrary, the unrestricted taxing power it provides is a negative factor discouraging businesses from expanding or locating new facilities here. Basic marketing principles call for defining and playing up product differences. Rockford is a big small town, close enough to one of the world’s largest cities to allow easy access to all that city offers, yet far enough away to be independent and allow for an intimate, personal lifestyle. That is what makes it different. The current frenzied rush to imitate other cities will not sell Rockford to businesses and bring in more jobs. Solving our city’s school and crime problems and emphasizing our unique qualities, including vigilant taxpayer control of government, will.

     10. It is counterproductive of the desired end, the well-being of the community, because it attacks the heart of community spirit itself — participation. At a time when businesses and organizations are learning and applying the important knowledge that achievement in productivity and pride are directly related to the level of participation by the people involved, what the politicians call “home rule” takes us a step away from full citizen involvement in community decisions. Some say the people are not interested enough to attend the hearings that are held on community issues. What they fail to realize is that we are too busy to attend meetings to listen to politicians tell us what they have already decided they are going to do. We are not too busy to attend meetings if the politicians want to ask us what to do. There is a major difference.

     11.  Finally, reliable independent community organizations and responsible individuals within our community have concluded that the only unique power granted by what the politicians call “home rule” is the power to tax without consulting taxpayers. There is no other necessary governing power granted that is not available without their “home rule.” Regulation of nuisance businesses, fighting neighborhood blight, fighting crime, qualifying for state and federal grants, economic redevelopment, and other city actions politicians are trying to make voters believe are lost without “home rule” are powers granted to cities without it. The ultimate power “home rule” provides is unrestricted taxation.

     I have lived in Rockford since 1952 and have grown to love the city and the people who have made Rockford the great city it is. The people of Rockford are kind and generous and creative and intelligent and trustworthy. We do not need self-proclaimed, all-knowing caretakers to dictate our future and direct our lives. What we do need are leaders who love and respect us, who are humble enough to listen to us, and wise enough to tap and set free the city’s vast reservoir of human talent available to solve community problems. A solid step in that direction is to vote No on “home rule.” — by John Gile, reprinted from A Different Drummer with permission)

Illinois Version of Home Rule • What You Should Know

The following timeless information was published
during Rockford's successful repeal of home rule in 1983.

Following is information for citizens and educators who want to know more about the Illinois version of so-called home rule, why it's so controversial, and what concerned citizens can do about it.John Gile, 815.968.6601, mailbox@jgcunited.com

The Central Issue: What's Wrong With The Illinois Version Of So-Called Home Rule
Illinois Citizens Deserve To Have The Same Rights As Citizens Of Other States
What July 4th Means: "Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed."
"General Background For The Principle Of Constitutional Government"
"Additional General Background From The National League Of Cities"

 

The Central Issue What's Wrong With The Illinois Version Of So-Called Home Rule

Illinois' Version Of So-Called Home Rule Is A Flawed Law: We Must Fix It Or Nix It
(Edited excerpt from an article by John Gile published in the Voice,
a publication of the Rockford Chamber of Commerce)

The stormy history of so-called home rule in Illinois makes one point very clear: the law is flawed.

Flaws in the Illinois version of so-called home rule have been evident in citizens' responses since its inception in 1970. Rockford is not unique in rejecting it.

—Eighty-three cities have rejected home rule when they had a chance to do so.
—Eleven counties have rejected it.
—Repeal movements have sprung up in 32 cities where home rule was imposed without the consent or approval of the citizens when the city population exceeded 25,000.
—Only 12 percent of Illinois municipalities live under home rule, mostly Chicago collar county cities.

In March, 2006, home rule was rejected by voters in four communities:

—Rockton voters rejected it by a margin of 89% to 11%.
—Broadview voters rejected it by a margin of 77% to 23%.
—Lakeview voters rejected it by a margin of 77% to 23%.
—Harvard voters rejected it by a margin of 73% to 27%.

Citizen rejection of so-called home rule would not be so common and so-called home rule would not be so controversial if it were not seriously flawed.

Its major flaw is that the Illinois version of so-called home rule denies citizens the right to control local government with a city charter or constitution. Other states allow or even mandate that citizens establish a local charter or constitution to control local government before home rule powers are granted. Citizens of Illinois deserve to have the same rights as the citizens of other states.

Illinois bypasses the people of the community and puts all the power of local government into the hands of politicians. That's why students of government and political science have described the Illinois version of so-called home rule as the most uncontrolled form of government anywhere in the United States of America. It is government by personality instead of government by principle.

It even takes away citizens' right to vote on vital city issues and limits citizens' voice in government to mayoral and council elections.

Without the controls of a local charter or constitution and with citizens stripped of their right to vote on city issues, so-called home rule empowers politicians to:
1. Raise taxes without citizen permission.
2. Impose new taxes in the form of fees, licenses, and regulations.
3. Expedite seizures of private property.
4. Give city property to private interests without competitive bidding.
5. Take greater control over citizens' lives, livelihoods, property, and liberty.
6. And on and on . . . "...Powers and functions of home rule units shall be construed liberally." (Illinois Constitution)

Constitutions are designed to safeguard citizens from government excesses. Our nation's founders gave birth to the United States of America by calling a Constitutional Convention at which the powers of the federal government were defined and restricted, with other powers reserved to the states and the citizens.

When territories became states, their first actions were to hold constitutional conventions to do the same.

In states other than Illinois, the same constitutional process is followed to pass power from the state to Illinoislocal government. Because Illinois left that crucial provision out, home rule government in Illinois is like a car with no brakes and a steering wheel that works only once every four years.

Article 7, Section 6 of the 1970 Illinois Constitution stipulates that "a Home Rule unit may exercise ANY POWER and perform ANY FUNCTION pertaining to its government and affairs" -- all without asking for the permission or approval of the citizens whose lives are affected and the taxpayers who must pay the bills.

Citizens seeking to limit their local government's power to tax, to regulate, and to incur debt, have no choice but to reject the Illinois version of so-called home rule.

Illinois Citizens Deserve To Have The Same Rights As Citizens Of States

And we need to fix home rule so Illinois citizens can have the same rights as citizens of other states. Other states allow or even mandate that citizens establish a local charter or constitution to control local government before home rule powers are granted.

Home rule can be fixed with a simple constitutional amendment to give us the best of both worlds. It reads: "Nothing in this Constitution or its home rule provisions shall be construed so as to constrain or prohibit citizens of home rule communities or communities eligible to become home rule communities from creating by referendum a community charter or constitution in which the citizens of the community define and restrict the powers and procedures of their home rule governing body. Those powers and procedures include defining and restricting the power to tax, to regulate, and to incur debt, specifying what decisions and actions their elected representatives may exercise by virtue of holding office and which decisions and actions must be presented to the community for approval and ratification in a referendum open to all eligible voters in the community. Such local charter or constitution shall govern in any conflict with home rule provisions or other sections of the Illinois Constitution."

In the meantime, citizens can cut through the home rule hoopla by asking themselves these questions:

1. Are you qualified to tell your local government how much of your money you want them to take from you and how you want them to spend it?
2. Are you qualified to tell your local government how much control over your property you want them to have?
3. Are you qualified to tell your local government how much control over your liberty and livelihood you want them to have?

If you answered yes to those questions, you are qualified to rule your own home free of any encroachment under the guise of Illinois' so-called home rule.

Home rule? We must fix it -- or nix it. Those are our only options.
Other states allow or even mandate that citizens establish a local charter or constitution to control local government before home rule powers are granted.
Citizens of Illinois deserve to have the same rights as the citizens of other states.

(Copyright 2006 by John Gile, Citizen-Journalist, Rockford, Illinois.
All rights reserved. Permission Requests: 815/968-6601.)

 

 

What July 4th Means

"Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed."


In April, 2006, I asked the editorial board of the Rockford Register Star to endorse fixing the Illinois version of so-called home rule so citizens of Illinois can have the same rights as the citizens of other states. Editorial board members asked me to provide examples of other states' home rule provisions. Examples follow.

Recently I was asked to address a group of business leaders about Illinois' flawed version of so-called home rule. Included in the group were brilliant young business leaders whose ignorance of basic government was alarming. Many did not know the difference between an article of the constitution and a state statute or city ordinance. For that reason, "General Background For The Principle Of Constitutional Government" and "Additional General Background From The National League Of Cities" are included here, also.

In brief, a constitution is a set of enduring principles and rules citizens of a community formulate to control the actions of politicians and protect citizens' rights from government encroachment. Statutes and ordinances are laws politicians pass to apply a constitution's principles and rules to specific situations.

Examples of various states' home rule conditions
vis-a-vis local charters or constitutions

Alaska:

It is important to note that incorporation of a home rule city requires petitioners to prepare a charter, which is the equivalent of a local government constitution.

California:

Article XI, section 3(a) of the California Constitution authorizes the adoption of a city charter and provides such a charter has the force and effect of state law. Article XI, section 5(a), the "home rule" provision, affirmatively grants to charter cities supremacy over "municipal affairs." ...The home rule provision of the California Constitution authorizes a charter city to exercise plenary authority over municipal affairs, free from any constraint imposed by the general law and subject only to constitutional limitations. See Cal. Const. art. XI ง 5(a); Ex Parte Braun, 141 Cal. 204, 209, 74 P. 780 (1902); Bishop v. City of San Jose, 1 Cal. 3d 56, 61, 81 Cal. Rptr. 465 (1969), Committee of Seven Thousand v. Super. Ct. (City of Irvine), 45 Cal.3d 491 (1988).

Colorado:

The Charter is not a grant of power to the city; it is a limit on powers granted to the city by the Colorado Constitution as determined by the citizens.

Maine:

In May, 1970, Maine joined the ranks of over 40 other states which provide municipal home rule. Maine has non self-executing, constitutional home rule. That is, municipal home rule has been granted in general terms by the Maine Constitution, but the specific meaning of the home rule grant has been spelled out in an implementing statute. Hence, the philosophy of home rule is contained in the Constitution, and its meaning has been defined by the Maine Legislature.

The grant of home rule to municipalities has two components. First, all towns and cities are authorized to alter or amend their charters "on all matters, not prohibited by Constitution or law, which are local and municipal in character." Second, any town or city may, through ordinance or by-law, "exercise any power or function which the legislature has power to confer upon it, which is not denied either expressly or by clear implication, and exercise any power or function granted to the municipality by the Constitution, general law or charter."

Michigan:

The constitution of the State of Michigan gives local governments the right to design a form of government in the same way the federal constitution gives authority to operate to the states. Mt. Pleasant has been an incorporated municipality (first a village, then a city) for over 100 years. It is governed by a charter that was last amended by a vote of the citizens in 1976. A city's charter is like a local constitution, which spells out the basic form of government and lists the authority and responsibilities of all the players.

Minnesota:

Minnesota's two basic types of cities are home rule charter cities (operating under a local charter) and statutory cities (operating under the statutory city code). I Distinction between home rule cities and statutory cities The major difference between home rule cities and statutory cities in Minnesota is the kind of enabling legislation from which they gain their authority. Statutory cities derive their powers from Chapter 412 of Minnesota Statutes. Home rule cities obtain their powers from a home rule charter. The distinction between home rule cities and statutory cities is one of organization and powers, and is not based on differences in population, size, location or any other physical feature.

Minn. Const. art. XII, ยง 4.
Minn. Stat. ยงยง 410.04-410.33.
The Minnesota Constitution permits the Legislature to establish home rule charter cities, counties, and other units of local government. State law enacted under this constitutional authority authorizes cities to adopt home rule charters. Home rule charter cities can exercise any powers in their locally adopted charters as long as they do not conflict with state laws. Conversely, charter provisions can specifically restrict the powers of a city. Consequently, voters in home rule cities have more control over their city's powers.

State law provides that if a charter is silent on a matter that is addressed for statutory cities by Chapter 412 or other general law, and general law does not prohibit the city charter from addressing the matter or expressly provide that a city charter prevails over general law on the matter, then the home rule charter city can apply the general law on the matter. Charters, therefore, are of interest to statutory cities when they encounter special problems that cannot be solved under general city laws. If a statutory city finds itself in such a situation, it can either request the Legislature to change the city code or adopt a special law applying to that specific city, or it can become a home rule city with a home rule charter that specifies its powers. The voters must approve the charter in a local election.

II. The home rule charter
Home rule charters are, in effect, local constitutions. State laws give cities a wide range of discretion in the contents of a charter when one is adopted. The charter may provide for any form of municipal government, as long as it is consistent with state laws that apply uniformly to all cities in Minnesota.

Missouri:

Any city having more than five thousand inhabitants or any other incorporated city as may be provided by law may frame and adopt a charter for its own government.

Ohio:

All local governments in Ohio can be classified as either home rule or non-home rule, according to the authority given them by the Constitution and legislation in the Ohio Revised Code. All municipalities, and counties that have adopted a charter, are home rule. All other local governments are non-home rule. Non-home rule governments can only provide those services and perform those acts as specifically authorized by law. Home rule governments can perform all functions not specifically prohibited by law...

Optional plan statutory forms of government are not commonly used, probably because the charter form is made available by the Ohio Constitution. With the charter, the municipality may develop any form of government that its voters approve. The charter allows the municipality to "fine-tune" its form of government, instead of adopting one of the prescribed plans. The charter has been used extensively in Ohio to enhance the home rule authority of municipalities.

Adoption of a charter is a two-step process. First, the issue of whether or not a charter commission should be elected is voted on by the people. Included with this issue is provision to elect 15 charter commissioners, who are elected if the issue passes. This issue may be placed on the ballot if petitioned for by 10% of the voters. If the charter commission is elected and formed, they have one year to prepare a proposed charter and submit it to a vote of the people. If it is adopted it becomes the basic framework for that municipality's government.

Pennsylvania:

Municipalities shall have the right and power to frame and adopt home rule charters. Adoption, amendment or repeal of a home rule charter shall be by referendum. The General Assembly shall provide the procedure by which a home rule charter may be framed and its adoption, amendment or repeal presented to these electors. If the General Assembly does not so provide, a home rule charter or a procedure for framing and presenting a home rule charter may be presented to the electors by initiative or by the governing body of the municipality. A municipality which has a home rule charter may exercise any power or perform any function not denied by this Constitution, by its home rule charter or by the General Assembly at any time.

South Dakota:

Interest in home rule has grown during the twentieth century, particularly during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. By 1990, 48 states authorized home rule for municipalities, by constitutional or statutory provisions or both, and 36 states authorized home rule for counties, again by constitutional or statutory provisions or a combination of both. Constitutional or statutory authorization for home rule does not mean that all counties and municipalities in a state will operate under home rule. Generally, the county or municipal government and its voters must propose and approve the adoption of a home rule charter before the provisions of home rule take effect for the individual local government unit. The 1962 amendment authorized home rule for municipalities (but not counties) and specified the methods to be used in adopting a municipal home rule charter.

Texas:

The City Charter is considered the fundamental law of a Home Rule municipality and is sometimes referred to as the local constitution. The City Charter describes city boundaries, provides for the form of government establishes the number of representatives on the City Council and defines the terms of office and how the City Council will be elected. The City Charter also describes the powers of the City Council and officers appointed by the City Council. (Arlington, Texas, based on Texas Home Rule amendment to the State Constitution on January 17, 1920)

General Background For The Principle Of Constitutional Government, Also Known As Government Of The People, By The People, And For The People (From an Ohio document):

Sources Of State Authority
The People

On this continent in the 1700s there was conceived the new concept that all governmental authority is derived from the people. Throughout the prior history of humankind, the people were granted those rights that the governmental rulers wished to give them. Following are some examples of early writings that portray this new concept.

Declaration of Independence, July 6, 1776

"... Governments ... derive(ing) their just powers from the consent of the governed, ...."

Articles of Confederation, 1777

"...the free inhabitants of each of these states, ... , shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of free citizens in the several states; ..."

Northwest Ordinance of 1787

This ordinance guaranteed freedom of mode of worship or religious sentiment, benefits of writs of habeas corpus and trial by jury, bail, proportionate representation, judicial proceedings according to the course of common law, and the right to not be deprived of property without just compensation.

Constitution of the United States, 1789

"We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

The U.S. Constitution defines the power delegated to the U.S. Government. All other power is reserved to the states or retained by the people.

The first 10 amendments to the Constitution, effective in 1791 and known as the Bill of Rights, outline some of the limits of law. The ninth amendment states that "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

In addition, the tenth amendment states that "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited to it by the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people."

First Ohio Constitution, 1802

Preamble : "We, the people ...."

Article VIII, Section 28, says that "To guard against the transgression of high powers, which we have delegated, we declare, that all powers not hereby delegated remain with the people." The present Ohio Constitution, 1851, contains similar language in Article I, Section 20.

Thomas Jefferson,1820

"I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education."

Constitutions

Constitutions and other related documents are used in this country to define which powers are delegated to the national government, which are reserved by the states and which are retained by the people. The most important of these documents are listed below, along with some of their effects upon local government.

Articles of Confederation, 1777

This provided the authority for the issuance of an ordinance for the governance of the "western lands" ceded by New York, Virginia, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

The Northwest Ordinance of 1787

This document superseded the previous ordinance and provided the first organizational structure for what eventually became five states in the district northwest of the Ohio River. The ordinance established a Governor, Secretary, Court and Magistrates.

It provided that counties and townships could be established in those areas where Indian rights had expired.

It provided that, when the population of the district reached 5,000, representatives to a general assembly could be elected from counties and townships, one for every 500 free male inhabitants until the number of representatives reached 25. A representative must own 200 acres of land and a voter 50 acres.

The first General Assembly of the district met in Cincinnati in 1799. The second met in Chillicothe in 1801 and 1802.

The ordinance provided for the establishment of five original states, which could be implemented when the population of the state reached 60,000. In 1802, Congress authorized the formation of a state government for Ohio.

The Northwest Ordinance was probably the most important document in shaping territorial boundaries and governmental structures in the Northwest Territory.

Constitution of the United States, 1789

The Constitution provided for the admittance by Congress of new states.

Additional General Background From The National League Of Cities:

The Constitution of the United States of America does not mention local governments. Local governments are created by and regulated by the states. This means that to speak about cities or other forms of local government in the United States is to speak about fifty different legal and political situations.

The states outline the powers of municipal governments in charters. There may be: special or specific charters; general or classified charters (in which the rules may apply to a class of cities, often grouped by population size); or home rule charters. The state municipal leagues can provide information about the form of charter provided in state constitutions.

A city charter is the basic document that defines the organization, powers, functions and essential procedures of the city government. It is comparable to the State Constitution and to the Constitution of the United States.
The charter is, therefore, the most important single legal document of any city.

All that is necessary to fix Illinois' flawed law is a constitutional amendment specifying that "Nothing in this Constitution or its home rule provisions shall be construed so as to constrain or prohibit citizens of home rule communities or communities eligible to become home rule communities from creating by referendum a community charter or constitution in which the citizens of the community define and restrict the powers and procedures of their home rule governing body."

Links For Additional Information On City Charters:

National League of Cities
http://www.nlc.org/home
1301 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Suite 550 ญ Washington, DC 20004
Phone: 202-626-3000; Fax: 202-626-3043; e-mail:
info@nlc.org

National Civic League
http://www.ncl.org
Model City Charter info --
http://www1.icma.org/pm/8503/gates.htm
1445 Market St. Suite 300 Denver, CO 80202
Phone: 303-571-4343; Fax: 303-571-4404; e-mail:
ncl@ncl.org

A sample city charter (San Jose, CA):
http://www.sanjoseca.gov/clerk/charter.asp

(Copyright 2006 by John Gile, Citizen-Journalist, Rockford, Illinois. All rights reserved. Permission Requests: 815/968-6601.)

 

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•The following pages were created during our successful campaign to keep so-called home rule out of Rockford despite proponents' efforts to circumvent the normal petition process and bulldoze a home rule referendum through the city council. The council voted 9 to 5 against the referendum January 9, 2006.

PAGE 1 -- "Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg." Abe Lincoln
PAGE 2 -- "Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone." Thomas Jefferson
PAGE 3 -- "They may call their so-called home rule 'government of the people.' And they may call it 'government for the people' whom they deem incapable of governing themselves. But they can never call it 'government by the people.'"
PAGE 4 -- The Illinois version of so-called home rule: A veteran's reflection on Veteran's Day, 2005.
PAGE 5 -- Bulldozers In City Hall
PAGE 6 -- Government 101: Answering Bogus Questions; Legitimate Questions For Creative Thinkers.
PAGE 7 -- "The greatest voice is the voice of the people." Robert F. Kennedy
PAGE 8 -- Home rule exposes a double standard at city hall: tough rules for ordinary citizens, preferred treatment for the privileged
PAGE 9 -- If the city falls, can the county be far behind?
PAGE 10 -- League of Women What?
PAGE 11 -- "Through its home rule system, Illinois gives the broadest and most liberal authority to cities and counties of any state in the nation." James Banovetz
Page 12 -- "Truth and Openness in Government: Looking Beyond Home Rule."
Page 13 -- "Accountability in Government: Home Rule Questions Rockford Citizens Want Answered Now."
Page 14 -- "Leadership for Excellence in Rockford: Debunking the Springfield Myth."
Page 15 -- "Illinois' Flawed Law: Fix It Or Nix It."

 

Page 1

"Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg." — Abe Lincoln

ROCKFORD -- Local politicians and special interest groups agitating for so-called "home rule" powers at city hall call to mind a story about Abe Lincoln talking politics with old friends from Illinois who visited him at the White House.

Lincoln wanted to make a point about words and asked his friends, "How many legs would a dog have if you called a tail a leg?"

"Five," they answered.

"No," Lincoln said, “the dog would still have only four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg."

Lincoln might make the same point to those who call stripping citizens of control over their local government "home rule." Their so-called home rule would give Rockford politicians free reign to tax and spend and impose regulations – without asking the citizens for permission.

The Illinois version of so-called home rule is a carry over of the machine style politics practiced by Chicago's first Mayor Daley. The 1970 Constitution that created home rule powers was written under his influence and reflects his lust for power. That's why the Illinois version of so-called home rule gives politicians virtually unlimited power to tax, to regulate, and to incur debt.

Rockford citizens voted to take back control over their local government by repealing home rule in a 1983 referendum, forcing the city council to ask for permission to levy taxes and imposing controls on city government activities.

Because Illinois home rule prohibits creation of city charters or local constitutions in which citizens could specify what home rule powers they want local politicians to have and what powers they do not want them to have, no compromise providing us with the best of both worlds is available today.

Allowing that compromise would require a constitutional amendment such as:

"Nothing in this Constitution or its home rule provisions shall be construed as to constrain or prohibit citizens of home rule communities or communities eligible to become home rule communities from creating by referendum a community charter or constitution in which the citizens of the community define and restrict the powers and procedures of their home rule governing body. Those powers and procedures include defining and restricting the power to tax, to regulate, and to incur debt, specifying what decisions and actions their elected representatives may exercise by virtue of holding office and which decisions and actions must be presented to the community for approval and ratification in a referendum open to all eligible voters in the community. Such local charter or constitution shall govern in any conflict with home rule provisions or other sections of the Illinois Constitution."

Until such an amendment is passed, so-called home rule in Illinois leaves citizens at the mercy of local government and encourages abuse by concentrating power in the hands of a small group of politicians. It is much easier for community exploiters and profiteers to fool or manipulate a small group of politicians than it is to fool or manipulate the whole community.

Rockford citizens have generously supported tax referendums since repealing home rule, including the recent jail tax which provides ample resources for law enforcement to clean up gang graffiti problems and crack down on crack houses.

Other community problems preoccupying public-spirited citizens are symptoms of poor leadership so-called home rule cannot cure. Boarded up houses and blighted areas stem largely from unrestricted urban sprawl fostered by local politicians who allow developers to pour concrete and blacktop on acre after acre of precious farmland. Little regard is given to the environment, to the needs of future generations, or to the costly strain on city and school district resources caused by urban sprawl. So-called home rule cannot cure avarice or bad judgment, but the unrestricted power it gives local politicians can make the consequences even more devastating.

"Home rule" is a misnomer because it takes away citizen's power to control local government. The Winnebago Country Taxpayers' Association is fighting any return to so-called home rule in Rockford. So is a new group called Citizens for Government of the People, by the People, and for the People who want to fix home rule in Illinois. Lincoln would like that. (Copyright 2005 by John Gile, Citizen-Journalist, Rockford, Illinois. All rights reserved. Permission Requests: 815/968-6601.)

Page 2

"Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone." Thomas Jefferson

"There are those who fear and distrust the people and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the 'higher classes,' and there are those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them the safest and most honest, if not always the wisest repository of the public interest... Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone." Thomas Jefferson

Our nation is founded on the principle that human rights come from the hand of God, not from the state, and that legitimate government derives its powers from the consent of the governed. We establish constitutions to control government and safeguard our rights and liberty.

The Illinois version of so-called home rule violates that fundamental principle. It bypasses the people of the community and puts all of the power of local government into the hands of politicians.

Our nation's founders gave birth to the United States of America by calling a Constitutional Convention at which the powers of the federal government were defined and restricted, with other powers reserved to the states and the citizens. When each territory became a state, its first act was to hold a constitutional convention at which the powers of the state government were defined and restricted.

Many states assign powers of local government to the citizens by allowing or mandating local citizens to create a home rule constitution or charter in which the citizens define what home rule powers they want local politicians to have and what powers they do not want them to have. The 1970 Illinois Constitution denies citizens that right. We can fix that flaw and have the best of both worlds by amending the Illinois version of so-called home rule to allow citizens to create a home rule constitution or charter.

History has taught us and Americans have always recognized that unrestrained government is a disaster waiting to happen. We realize that we need government to accomplish things we cannot do alone, but we also realize that living with government is like living with a pit bull that has never been fully domesticated. It can be a wonderful pet, but then suddenly turn and bite off the owner's hand or attack an innocent neighbor or child. We need to keep it on a leash and use a muzzle.

In Illinois, so-called home rule puts the leash and muzzle on the people instead of on the dogs of government. Amending the Illinois version of so-called home rule by allowing citizens to create home rule constitutions or charters will fix that. (Copyright 2005 by John Gile, Citizen-Journalist, Rockford, Illinois. All rights reserved. Permission Requests: 815/968-6601.)

Page 3

"They may call Illinois' so-called home rule 'government of the people.' And they may call it 'government for the people' whom they deem incapable of governing themselves. But they can never call it 'government by the people.'"

Students of government and political science have described the Illinois version of so-called home rule as the most uncontrolled form of government anywhere in the United States of America. Article 7, Section 6 of the 1970 Illinois Constitution explains why.

It stipulates that "a Home Rule unit may exercise ANY POWER and perform ANY FUNCTION pertaining to its government and affairs" -- all without asking for the permission or approval of the citizens whose lives are affected and the taxpayers who must pay the bills.

So-called home rule strips citizens of the right to vote on community issues. Everything is decided by the politicians in power -- who can tax, regulate, and incur debt with no checks and balances to control them. Even if voters throw them out of office at the next election, the citizens remain liable for all damages done.

Like the citizens in wide-open frontier towns who cowered under the control of paid gunslingers, citizens of so-called home role communities in Illinois cower under the control of politicians. No man, woman, child, or anyone's property is safe from politicians' whims in Illinois' so-called home rule communities.

For Example, So-Called Home Rule Cities Can . . .

So-called home rule cities can -- without asking citizens for permission -- raise property taxes and incur debt beyond statutory limits.

So-called home rule cities can -- without asking citizens for permission -- broaden the use of eminent domain powers, license (tax) installation and maintenance of burglar or fire alarms, revise zoning regulations, expedite seizure of private property, regulate property maintenance, and on and on.

So-called home rule cities can -- without asking citizens for permission -- buy and sell land, make taxpayers liable for non-referendum general obligation bonds for private loans, issue revenue bonds to finance projects not specified in state statutes and at higher interest rates, use ordinary bank loans which may not be allowed under statutory law without so-called home rule, secure Industrial Revenue Bonds not subject to outside competition, adopt investment policies not restricted by state statutes, provide subsidies or credits to private businesses, and on and on.

So-called home rule cities can -- without asking citizens for permission -- issue and make taxpayers liable for bonds used to develop private shopping centers or to build or expand a civic center, and on and on.

So-called home rule cities can -- without asking citizens for permission -- issue sales tax rebates to favored businesses, circumvent state mandates regarding budget and appropriation ordinances, and on and on.

And On And On . . .

So-called home rule cities can -- without asking citizens for permission -- license (tax) and regulate cable, liquor, utilities, land use, public transit, mobile homes, vendors, nursing homes, tow trucks, and on and on.

So-called home rule cities can -- without asking citizens for permission -- impose fines greater than statutory limits, license (tax) and regulate cats, license (tax) vending machines, impose fees on trucks, set juvenile curfews, abridge citizens' rights to bear arms, and on and on.

So-called home rule cities can -- without asking citizens for permission -- impose beyond any state restrictions real estate transfer and exit taxes, hotel/motel taxes, utility taxes, property taxes, amusement taxes, new motor vehicle taxes, gasoline taxes, food and beverage taxes, liquor taxes, mobile home taxes, cigarette taxes, storage of flammable liquids taxes, retail sales taxes, and on and on.

So-called home rule cities can -- without asking citizens for permission -- reorganize the police department, reorganize the fire department, change Police and Fire Commission powers, hire a personnel director and personnel board instead of having a Police and Fire Commission, give Police and Fire Commissioners more authority over personnel including demotions, and on and on.

So-called home rule cities can -- without asking citizens for permission -- do just about anything politicians and their coterie decide they want to do because Article 7, Section 6 mandates that the "powers and functions of home rule units shall be construed liberally."

Politicians may call Illinois' so-called home rule "government of the people." And they may call it "government for the people"
whom they deem incapable of governing themselves. But they can never call it "government by the people."

"The challenge to our liberties," Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas reminded us, "comes frequently not from those who consciously seek to destroy our system of government, but from men and women of goodwill, good men and women who allow their proper concerns to blind them to the fact that what they propose to accomplish involves an impairment of liberty . . . Their motives are often commendable. What we must remember, however, is that preservation of liberties does not depend on motives. A suppression of liberty has the same effect whether the suppressor be a reformer or an outlaw. Each surrender of liberty to the demands of the moment makes easier another, larger surrender." (Copyright 2005 by John Gile, Citizen-Journalist, Rockford, Illinois.
All rights reserved. Permission Requests: 815/968-6601.)

Page 4

The Illinois version of so-called home rule: A veteran's reflection on Veteran's Day, 2005.

ROCKFORD -- I am awestruck at the prospect of "home rule" gatherings where gullible followers of the "home rule" proponents actually celebrate giving up their right to vote. Brave men and women have died to give us that right. I have seen people in other parts of the world who envy our right to vote. This very hour, brave American men and women are putting their lives on the line to secure that right for others.

But in Rockford, our so-called leaders are hosting celebrations for citizens who happily surrender their right to vote on city issues in exchange for a glass of wine and a piece of cheese.

(Copyright 2005 by John Gile, Citizen-Journalist, Rockford, Illinois. All rights reserved. Permission Requests: 815/968-6601.)

Page 5

Bulldozers at City Hall

Now there's a movement afoot to bulldoze a resolution through the city council putting a home rule referendum on the ballot in March. I have no problem with presenting the issue to the electorate. Giving private citizens more say in city government was the essence of the repeal in 1983 and is the essence of my focus today.

Putting home rule on the March ballot with a simple city council resolution is a different matter, though. When private citizens called for a vote on home rule in 1983, we had to spend thousands of dollars and thousands of volunteer worker hours getting signatures on petitions to put the issue on the ballot. It would seem only fair that home rule proponents be held to the same standard.

Running it through the city council would only deepen the division proponents have created in the community and would give citizens the impression that city council members are mere puppets on the strings of behind the scenes power brokers.

In a Rockford Register Star report, Chris Green cited an analogy from a speech I delivered on problems with the Illinois version of so-called home rule:

"When pondering whether to restore home rule in Rockford, John Gile wants you to remember an incident that happened in Chicago in March, 2003, when city construction crews, under the cover of darkness, tore up the runway at Meigs Field, effectively closing the lakefront airport.

"Who gave the crews the right to do so? Not the voting public. Not the Federal Aviation Administration. Certainly not the hundreds of pilots who flew in and out of the airport. The airport was closed for good on orders from Mayor Richard Daley. That's the kind of power, Gile said, a select few politicians will have if the public votes to restore home rule in Rockford."

The bulldozer makes a good symbol for the Illinois version of so-called home rule, but I'm not sure it's the symbol proponents want for the start of their campaign. (The council voted 9 to 5 against the referendum resolution January 9, 2006.)

(Copyright 2005 by John Gile, Citizen-Journalist, Rockford, Illinois. All rights reserved. Permission Requests: 815/968-6601.)

Page 6

Government 101

There's a fundamental principle that explains why so many otherwise intelligent people fail to think in depth on complex problems. They settle for the first answer that comes to mind, an answer which is obvious, easy, and wrong — because they ask the wrong question. The principle is, "An intelligent person knows when the wrong answer has been given to a question. A creative person knows when the wrong question is being asked."

Answering Bogus Questions

Advocates of the Illinois version of so-called home rule muddy the issue for themselves and others when they try to put challengers on the defensive with bogus questions. Here are some examples:

"Don't you believe in representative government?"

Of course we believe in representative government. We also believe in free speech, but that doesn't mean we think it's okay for someone to yell, "Fire!" in a crowded theater. In other words, there are limits. And the problem with the Illinois version of so-called home rule is that it prohibits creation of city charters or local constitutions in which citizens could specify and limit the powers of local government. The real question citizens must ask themselves is, "How much power do we want our representatives to have?"

"Don't you trust your local elected officials?"

Of course we trust our local elected officials or we wouldn't have elected them in the first place — except in those cases when we have to choose between an undesirable Tweedledum and an undesirable Tweedledee. Again, the real question citizens must ask themselves is, "How much power do we want to entrust to our local elected officials?"

Legitimate Questions For Creative Thinkers

There is a basic, common sense approach that can help citizens cut through all the home rule hoopla and balderdash. Citizens should be asking themselves these fundamental questions:

1. "Are you qualified to tell the city council how much of your money you want them to spend and how you want them to spend it?"
2. "Are you qualified to tell the city council how much control over your property you want them to have?"
3. "Are you qualified to tell the city council how much control over your liberty and livelihood you want them to have?"

If you answered yes to those questions, you are qualified to rule your own home free of any encroachment under the guise of Illinois' so-called home rule. (Copyright 2005 by John Gile, Citizen-Journalist, Rockford, Illinois. All rights reserved. Permission Requests: 815/968-6601.)

Page 7

"The greatest voice is the voice of the people . . ." Robert F. Kennedy

"The greatest voice is the voice of the people — speaking out in prose, or painting, or poetry, or music; speaking in homes and halls, streets and farms, courts and cafes. Let that voice speak, and the stillness you hear will be the gratitude of humankind." — Robert F. Kennedy, 1963 (Special thanks to the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial)

Page 8

Home rule exposes a double standard at city hall: tough rules for ordinary citizens, preferred treatment for the privileged

(Ordinary citizens were forced to spend thousands of dollars and thousands of volunteer worker hours getting signatures on petitions to place a home rule referendum on the ballot in 1983. Government and business executives and lawyers who want a home rule referendum on the March 21 ballot seek preferred treatment from the city council. They want it placed on the ballot with a simple city council resolution. I was allowed three minutes to address the issue at the Rockford City Council meeting Monday night. Here's the full text of the speech.)

My name is John Gile. I am an author, journalist, editor, publisher, and communications consultant with deep roots in The Forest City.

My family moved to Rockford in 1952. I graduated from Rockford schools and returned to Rockford after three years of military service in America and abroad in the 1960's.

I married my childhood sweetheart, a Rockford native, in 1967 and we have reared two sons and four daughters here.

Our publishing and communications company has been based in Rockford for 34 years.

Through those experiences, I have come to know the people of Rockford as creative, caring, compassionate, and competent citizens committed to quietly building a greater Rockford for all. I reject and condemn the characterization of Rockford's citizens in a recent newsletter emanating from city hall, as a community “addicted to mediocrity.”

Twenty-three years ago, citizens launched a grass roots campaign for a referendum to repeal so-called home rule which was imposed upon our city by the 1970 state constitution. I served as spokesperson for the campaign.

I refer to the Illinois version of home rule as
“so-called” because, unlike other states, Illinois denies local citizens the right to create a local charter or constitution specifying what home rule powers citizens want and do not want their local government to exercise.

Rockford voted against the 1970 state constitution 52 percent to 48 percent, but it passed in the state and so-called home rule was forced upon Rockford without local citizen consent or approval.

Efforts to repeal so-called home rule here started in the 1970's, culminating in the successful repeal in 1983 by a margin of 54 percent to 46 percent.

About eight weeks ago, a handful of government and business executives and lawyers announced they have pooled $21,000 for a campaign to have a home rule referendum March 21 and they want you to assure its place on the ballot with a simple city council resolution.

I have no problem with presenting the issue to the electorate and welcome a healthy and vigorous debate. Giving private citizens more say in city government was the essence of the repeal in 1983 and is the essence of my message at www.fixhomerule.com today.

Putting home rule on the March ballot with a simple city council resolution is a different matter, though. When ordinary citizens wanted a home rule referendum, they were forced to spend thousands of dollars and thousands of volunteer worker hours getting signatures on referendum petitions. It would seem only fair that home rule proponents be held to the same standard.

Running it through the city council would establish a double standard of citizenship — one for ordinary citizens and one for a privileged class — and would give citizens the impression that you, the city council, are mere puppets of the privileged rather than servants of all the people.

I urge you to reject any double standard and to oppose any effort to use the council in a way that would diminish our trust in you.

May God bless you, your families, all the citizens of Rockford, and the noble experiment in human liberty we call the United States of America.

John Gile

—As the debate continued, I was allowed to address the city council for three minutes on three additional occasions:

•Monday, December 12, 2005:
"Truth and Openness in Government: Looking Beyond Home Rule."

•Tuesday, December 27, 2005:
"Accountability in Government: Home Rule Questions Rockford Citizens Want Answered Now."

•Monday, January 9, 2006:
"Leadership for Excellence in Rockford: Debunking the Springfield Myth."

(Copyright 2005 by John Gile, Citizen-Journalist, Rockford, Illinois. All rights reserved. Permission Requests: 815/968-6601.)

Page 9

If the city falls, can the county be far behind?

A Rockford/Winnebago County Reader's Question:

"Hi John. Just a thought about home rule. Isn't it true that even if the public votes NO for home rule that the county can still implement home rule?"

An Answer To Ponder:

Winnebago County can call for a home rule referendum any time it wants to, and there are board members who want home rule for county government.

Because the population of Rockford makes up a large percentage of the Winnebago County population, I believe county home rule advocates will use it to measure prospects for a county home rule referendum. If it were to pass in Rockford, the county would be almost certain to pursue it.

If it were resoundingly defeated in Rockford, county board members would understand that the same voters who voted against it in the city referendum would vote against it in a county referendum.

(Copyright 2005 by John Gile, Citizen-Journalist, Rockford, Illinois. All rights reserved. Permission Requests: 815/968-6601.)

Page 10

League of Women What?

I received a very interesting e-mail from a woman identifying herself as "one of the League of Women Voters representatives on the issue of Home Rule" and proclaiming that "The League of Women Voters has taken a position of support of Home Rule."

It seems strange that a group of women who call themselves the League of Women Voters would support a referendum to take away citizens' right to vote on vital city issues.

It seems strange that a group of women who call themselves the League of Women Voters would support a referendum to silence the voice of the people and give control of citizens' livelihoods, property, and liberty to a handful of politicians and their associates.

In a colossal understatement, she wrote, that "the issues that Home Rule addresses are related to daily life in our city." They're not just "related" to citizens' daily lives. There is virtually no area of citizens' daily lives in our city that cannot be taxed and regulated — without asking voters for permission — under Illinois' so-called home rule.

Since so-called home rule takes away citizens' right to vote on vital city issues, it would seem more correct for proponents to call themselves the League of Women Un-Voters.

In any case, if you are contacted for a presentation by the League of Women Whatever but would like to have more than one viewpoint represented, call 815/968-6601 and Citizens for Government of the People, by the People, and for the People will strive to accommodate you.

(Copyright 2005 by John Gile, Citizen-Journalist, Rockford, Illinois. All rights reserved. Permission Requests: 815/968-6601.)

Page 11

"Through its home rule system, Illinois gives the broadest and most liberal authority to cities and counties of any state in the nation." James Banovetz

The city of Rockford, Illinois, is blessed with many treasures, perhaps the greatest of which are dedicated volunteers who contribute thousands of hours in personal service to the children and adults of our community at schools, hospitals, shelters, and other care facilities and who work to make our community even more beautiful.

One of those treasures is a man named Jim Powers, a founding member and vice president of Neighborhood Network, past president of North End Square Neighborhood Association, and coordinator of Rockford's Graffiti Program from 1993 to 1999. The Graffiti program he built is reportedly the fastest at graffiti removal in the entire country and has attracted visitors from as far away as Sweden, Saskatchewan, and Los Angeles.

Jim wants home rule in Rockford and took issue with
a statement on page 3 of www.fixhomerule.com. He asked, "Can you give me a reference or footnote for this quote, from your website: "Students of government and political science have described the Illinois version of so-called home rule as the most uncontrolled form of government anywhere in the United States of America."

I tried to explain to Jim that the sentence is a summary statement reflecting speeches, conversations, and assessments of the Illinois version of so-called home rule garnered from numerous sources since it was created in the 1970 Illinois Constitution. "Not every student of government and political science is an academic," I told him, "and discussions don't come with references and footnotes."

Jim was adamant and wrote again, insisting on a citation. Ironically, his answer comes from one of the most well known speakers who proponents of so-called home rule hire for their campaigns, including the Rockford campaign, Professor James Banovetz, a retired professor from Northern Illinois University.

In a February, 2001, edition of "Policy Profiles," Banovetz said, "The home rule provisions in Illinois' 1970 Constitution represent a unique innovation in the way states bestow power and authority on their city and county governments. Through its home rule system, Illinois gives the broadest and most liberal authority to cities and counties of any state in the nation."

Jim Powers said in an e-mail, "I believe that informed citizens will usually make good choices. Therefore, as a public service, I donate free webmaster services to four websites of not-for-profit organizations, providing their members with information." I commend Jim for his public service and agree that helping citizens make informed choices is crucial.

Notifying citizens that the Illinois version of so-called home rule takes away their right to vote on vital city issues and gives politicians greater power to raise taxes, impose fees, license, regulate, incur debt, and seize private property is one way to help them make an informed choice on so-called home rule.

It also would be helpful to point out that the city with the fastest graffiti removal program in the entire country has achieved that honor without so-called home rule.

(Copyright 2005 by John Gile, Citizen-Journalist, Rockford, Illinois. All rights reserved. Permission Requests: 815/968-6601.)

Page 12

“Truth and Openness In Government: Looking Beyond Home Rule.”

(Monday, December 12, 2005, address to the Rockford City Council.)

My name is John Gile. I come to you this evening as a journalist to address the topic “Truth and Openness In Government: Looking Beyond Home Rule.”

Truth and openness in government were very much on my mind the first time I walked into Rockford’s City Council chambers as a rookie reporter with Rockford newspapers in 1967.

A journalist plays the role of government watchdog for the men and women of our community whose lives and liberty, livelihood and property are profoundly affected by government decisions.

Conscientious journalists are guided by a code of ethics that warns journalists can be guilty of lying to the public by publishing information that is not true or by failing to publish the whole truth -- withholding information citizens have a need and a right to know.

I believe elected officials and other agents of government should be held to that same high standard in conducting public business both because it is right and just and because it is the foundation for public trust in government.

Trust is a word repeated often by a handful of citizens who are asking you to give them favored treatment by passing a resolution to place a home rule referendum on the March 21 ballot. Yet they themselves have repeatedly proven themselves unworthy of trust.

Even though area media were participating in the formulation of their home rule scheme last year, it was not made public. Even though major campaign supporters and advisors for candidates were participating in the formulation of their home rule scheme during our last election, it was not disclosed by candidates during the election process.

Proponents announced they were going to have a petition drive and distributed petitions and notarization instructions at a rally, but were rebuffed by the public. Only about 150 people showed up. They enlisted the aid of the Chamber of Commerce, but received a dismal response. Now they expect us to believe an announcement in the Rockford Register Star that they never intended to get petitions in the first place, that it was all a misunderstanding that went uncorrected for more than two months.

Associating yourselves with and granting favors to a group of business and media executives and lawyers who show such little regard for truth and openness in government and show such disrespect for the citizens of Rockford is beneath your dignity and unworthy of the trust the people of Rockford have placed in you.

We elected a new mayor because we wanted new ideas and new approaches, not more of the same old behind the scenes wheeling and dealing, not more of the same old archaic, obsolete, outmoded, unimaginative, and discredited approaches to so-called economic development that are nothing more than prostituting the city to corporations that are here today and gone tomorrow.

That wheeling and dealing is at the heart of the advocates’ well-meaning but misguided support for home rule and their effort to bulldoze a home rule resolution through the city council. They are misguided because home rule is a component of the negative business climate that discourages investment in Illinois.

Sharp businessmen and women know that any government which is big enough and powerful enough to give you everything you want is big enough and powerful enough to take away everything you have. Predictability and stability are what sharp businessmen and women seek -- and home rule destroys both.

You can begin today to undo the damage proponents have done by denying their request and telling home rule proponents to engage the citizens of Rockford in the same petition process we followed in 1983.

—I was allowed to address the city council for three minutes on three additional occasions:

•Monday, Monday November 28, 2005:
"Home rule exposes a double standard at city hall: tough rules for ordinary citizens, preferred treatment for the privileged."

•Tuesday, December 27, 2005:
"Accountability in Government: Home Rule Questions Rockford Citizens Want Answered Now."

•Monday, January 9, 2006:
"Leadership for Excellence in Rockford: Debunking the Springfield Myth."

(Copyright 2006 by John Gile, Citizen-Journalist, Rockford, Illinois.
All rights reserved. Permission Requests: 815/968-6601.)

Page 13

"Accountability In Government: Home Rule Questions Rockford Citizens Want Answered Now."

(Tuesday, December 27, 2005, address to the Rockford City Council.)

My name is John Gile. I come to you this evening as a journalist to address "Accountability In Government: Home Rule Questions Rockford Citizens Want Answered Now."

Accountability in government goes to the heart of the Illinois version of home rule because the 1970 Illinois constitution which imposed so-called home rule on Rockford gives local governments broad taxing and regulating powers without commensurate local citizen control.

Under the 1970 Illinois constitution — which Rockford voters rejected 52 percent to 48 percent — so-called home rule is imposed upon cities without citizen consent when the population reaches 25,000. Unlike citizens of other states, Illinois citizens are denied the right to have a local charter or constitution to control so-called home rule government's power to tax, to regulate, and to incur debt.

At least 79 Illinois cities and 11 counties have voted to reject home rule when they had a chance to keep it out. Thirty-one additional cities tried to get rid of it after it was imposed. Only four, including Rockford, have successfully overcome the entrenched powers of government and users of government who back so-called home rule with resources which overwhelm most grass roots citizens' movements.

My programs to strengthen communication skills in children and adults have taken me into hundreds of cities in 43 states, Europe, and New Zealand. I have seen first hand cities struggling with universal problems caused by global developments that transcend city and even national borders.

When I return to Rockford, I find a city with great natural advantages over many of the cities I visit. We have a prime location with excellent access to national and world markets. We have ample water, adequate energy resources, and a skilled work force. We have affordable housing, opportunities for continuing education, outstanding medical facilities, recreational opportunities, and easy access to major metropolitan areas with world class professional sports and other entertainment. Above all, we are a community blessed with kind and generous and compassionate people. What a wonderful community spirit we should have with all these advantages.

Yet when I return to Rockford I also find citizens unhappy with their treatment at the hands of local government. They speak of having a Metro Centre and a courthouse that were put up in the wrong place at the wrong time without citizen support. They speak of corporations that take advantage of community generosity, then send jobs overseas. They speak of a school district failing to focus on the needs of all of our children. They speak of lack of government accountability.

And they ask questions:

Do proponents really think Rockford's citizens don't understand that home rule licenses and fees and regulatory costs are taxes too? Why did home rule proponents, including backers of then mayoral candidate Morrissey choose to organize in secret last year? Why did candidate Morrissey fail to tell voters what his supporters were planning? What did he know, and when did he know it? Why did home rule proponents feel the city council would give them special treatment with a referendum resolution? Do home rule proponents want a city council resolution because they believe citizens won't sign their petitions? What and who are the driving forces pressuring the city council to give special treatment to home rule proponents? What's the rush? They have plenty of time to get petitions signed for the November election.

Accountability in government means accountability to all of the people, not just to a privileged few. Accountability in government means listening to all the people, not just to a privileged few.

—I was allowed to address the city council for three minutes on three additional occasions:

•Monday, Monday November 28, 2005:
"Home rule exposes a double standard at city hall: tough rules for ordinary citizens, preferred treatment for the privileged."

•Monday, December 12, 2005:
"Truth and Openness in Government: Looking Beyond Home Rule."

•Monday, January 9, 2006:
"Leadership for Excellence in Rockford: Debunking the Springfield Myth."

(Copyright 2006 by John Gile, Citizen-Journalist, Rockford, Illinois.
All rights reserved. Permission Requests: 815/968-6601.)

Page 14

"Leadership for Excellence in Rockford: Debunking the Springfield Myth."

(Monday, January 9, 2006, address to the Rockford City Council.)

My name is John Gile. My topic tonight is "Leadership for Excellence in Rockford: Debunking the Springfield Myth."

On November 28th I asked if you wanted to send a message to the citizens of Rockford that there is a double standard of citizenship in our city. When ordinary citizens sought to repeal home rule in 1978 and again — successfully — in 1983, they were forced to spend thousands of dollars and thousands of volunteer hours getting signatures on referendum petitions.

In October, when a handful of lawyers, government officials, and business executives announced they seek a home rule referendum in March, they decided to use their influence and leverage to pressure you, the city council, for special treatment to put their referendum on the ballot without petition signatures.

You have responded with a vigorous debate and the Codes and Regulations Committee has voted to reject that double standard. I thank alderman Beach and members of his committee for their stand.

Home rule proponents argue that it is legal to place the referendum on the ballot with a simple city council resolution. True, it is legal, But what is legal is not necessarily fair. What is legal is not necessarily just. And what is legal is not necessarily equitable.

Fast-tracking a home referendum through the city council for the March ballot is not equitable and discriminates against your constituents who have the most to lose.

The petition process is part of the education process. Many of you have constituents who are economically and technologically disadvantaged. Many are worried about the price of gasoline, about paying to heat their homes, and about keeping their jobs. Many are struggling, single-parent families. Many are working two or three jobs to make ends meet. They need time to consider and understand the impact home rule would have on rent, gasoline, and on purchases they make at local retailers. We need time to teach.

We need time to teach so all the citizens can see the reality behind the rosy picture home rule proponents paint.

Home rule proponents don't tell your constituents that under home rule from 1970 to 1983, city taxes rose 300 percent.

Home rule proponents don't tell your constituents that under home rule from 1970 to 1983, Rockford's population began to decline after decades of growth:
1950 -- 92,927
1960 -- 126,706
1970 -- 147, 370

In 1970 home rule was imposed on Rockford against the will of the citizens. Rockford voted against that constitution 52 percent to 48 percent, but it passed in the rest of the state and it was imposed without our consent or approval. By 1980, population had fallen to 139,712 .

Home rule proponents don't tell your constituents that under home rule from 1970 to 1983, Rockford was losing businesses and home rule was not a tool for economic development. In a 1983 debate with then Mayor John McNamara, I pointed out that Loves Park, a non-home rule city, had increased by 22 businesses and Rockford had fallen by 200.

He responded, "Any industry that locates in the city of Loves Park is not locating there because they do not have home rule. That is a misconception. We all have difficulty in the state of Illinois. and the north central region of this country not because we have home rule or do not have it. We are going through an industrial revolution in this country second to none. That is something that is severely impacting us. We all have difficulty.”

Home rule proponents don't tell you that home rule powers were used to give the Sundstrand corporation property at taxpayers' expense. Did Sundstrand respond with undying loyalty to our citizens and work force? No, they sold the company and have proceeded to send Rockford jobs to other parts of the country and overseas. That is what negotiation for city property without competitive bidding gives us under home rule.

Home rule proponents argue that keeping citizen control over city government's power to tax, to regulate, and to incur debt means turning our fate over to Springfield. In 1983, we asked City Legal Director Bill Collins how many times he had to go to Springfield for special legislation before home rule. He said once in sixteen years.

Even now proponents cannot give compelling answers when asked what they have to go to Springfield for. It's not Springfield they dislike, it's the limit on access to citizens pocketbooks and limited control over citizens' lives and rights that they dislike.

We need time to teach.
—There are 167 home rule cities in Illinois.
—There are 1,113 non-home rule cities.
—Only 12% are home rule, and most of those are in the Chicago collar counties.
—79 cities have rejected so-called home rule when they had a chance to.
—11 counties have rejected it.
—31 cities have tried to repeal home rule.
—4 have succeeded. That's because it's virtually impossible to get rid of it. Grass roots efforts by private citizens are always at a severe disadvantage when up against the entrenched powers of government and users of government money and privileges.

The petition process is part of the education process. Your rejection of any double standard will assure that your constituents receive fair, just, and equitable treatment and that they will not be forced to vote without hearing the full story. Your rejection will show you are committed to leadership for excellence for all the citizens of Rockford.

—I was allowed to address the city council for three minutes on three additional occasions:

•Monday, Monday November 28, 2005:
"Home rule exposes a double standard at city hall: tough rules for ordinary citizens, preferred treatment for the privileged."

•Monday, December 12, 2005:
"Truth and Openness in Government: Looking Beyond Home Rule."

•Tuesday, December 27, 2005:
"Accountability in Government: Home Rule Questions Rockford Citizens Want Answered Now."

(Copyright 2006 by John Gile, Citizen-Journalist, Rockford, Illinois.
All rights reserved. Permission Requests: 815/968-6601.)

Page 15

Illinois' Flawed Law: Fix It Or Nix It

(Published in the Voice, a publication of the Rockford Chamber of Commerce)

The stormy history of so-called home rule in Illinois makes one point very clear: the law is flawed.

Flaws in the Illinois version of so-called home rule have been evident in citizens' responses since its inception in 1970. Rockford is not unique in rejecting it. At the time these pages were first published in  2006:

—Seventy-nine cities have rejected home rule when they had a chance to do so.
—Eleven counties have rejected it.
—Repeal movements have sprung up in 31 cities where home rule was imposed without the consent or approval of the citizens when the city population exceeded 25,000.
—Only 12 percent of Illinois municipalities live under home rule, mostly Chicago collar county cities.

Citizen rejection of so-called home rule would not be so common and so-called home rule would not be so controversial if it were not seriously flawed.

Its major flaw is that the Illinois version of so-called home rule denies citizens the right to control local government with a city charter or constitution. Other states allow or even mandate that citizens establish a local charter or constitution to control local government before home rule powers are granted.

Illinois bypasses the people of the community and puts all the power of local government into the hands of politicians. That's why students of government and political science have described the Illinois version of so-called home rule as the most uncontrolled form of government anywhere in the United States of America.

It even takes away citizens' right to vote on vital city issues and limits citizens' voice in government to mayoral and council elections.

Without the controls of a local charter or constitution and with citizens stripped of their right to vote on city issues, so-called home rule empowers politicians to:
1. Raise taxes without citizen permission.
2. Impose new taxes in the form of fees, licenses, and regulations.
3. Expedite seizures of private property.
4. Give city property to private interests without competitive bidding.
5. Take greater control over citizens' lives, livelihoods, property, and liberty.
6. And on and on . . . "...Powers and functions of home rule units shall be construed liberally." (Illinois Constitution)

Constitutions are designed to safeguard citizens from government excesses. Our nation's founders gave birth to the United States of America by calling a Constitutional Convention at which the powers of the federal government were defined and restricted, with other powers reserved to the states and the citizens.

When territories became states, their first actions were to hold constitutional conventions to do the same.

In states other than Illinois, the same constitutional process is followed to pass power from the state to local government. Because Illinois left that crucial provision out, home rule government in Illinois is like a car with no brakes and a steering wheel that works only once every four years.

Article 7, Section 6 of the 1970 Illinois Constitution stipulates that "a Home Rule unit may exercise ANY POWER and perform ANY FUNCTION pertaining to its government and affairs" -- all without asking for the permission or approval of the citizens whose lives are affected and the taxpayers who must pay the bills.

Citizens seeking to limit city government's power to tax, to regulate, and to incur debt, have no choice but to reject home rule. It is a question of setting limits, not of trusting Springfield instead of trusting our city council.

Home rule proponents argue that rejecting home rule means turning our fate over to Springfield. At the time of the repeal, we asked the city legal director how many times he had to go to Springfield for special legislation before home rule. He said once in 16 years.

Rockford citizens have always voted to control government powers. Rockford voted against the 1970 Illinois Constitution by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent, but it passed in the state and so-called home rule was forced upon Rockford without local citizen consent or approval.

Efforts to repeal so-called home rule in Rockford started in the 1970's, culminating in the successful repeal in 1983 by a margin of 54 percent to 46 percent.

Now home rule proponents want to impose that badly flawed law on Rockford's citizens again despite its disastrous impact on our community during the 13 years Rockford was under home rule.

During those thirteen years, city taxes rose 300 percent, Rockford's population began to fall for the first time after decades of growth, and surrounding non-home rule communities grew while Rockford declined.

At the time of the repeal, Loves Park, a non-home rule city, had increased by 22 businesses and Rockford had fallen by 200. The Illinois version of so-called home rule exacerbates the bad business climate in Illinois by subjecting businesses to taxes, fees, and regulations without citizen control and by destroying the predictability and stability in government sharp business leaders regard as essential.

Rockford does not need home rule to flourish. It needs creative leadership. We need new ideas and new approaches, not more of the same old behind the scenes wheeling and dealing, not more of the same old archaic, obsolete, outmoded, unimaginative, and discredited approaches to so-called economic development that are nothing more than prostituting the city to corporations that are here today and gone tomorrow.

And we need to fix home rule so Illinois citizens can have the same rights as citizens of other states. I will continue my citizen education campaign to accomplish that regardless of what happens here.

Home rule can be fixed with a simple constitutional amendment to give us the best of both worlds. It reads: "Nothing in this Constitution or its home rule provisions shall be construed so as to constrain or prohibit citizens of home rule communities or communities eligible to become home rule communities from creating by referendum a community charter or constitution in which the citizens of the community define and restrict the powers and procedures of their home rule governing body. Those powers and procedures include defining and restricting the power to tax, to regulate, and to incur debt, specifying what decisions and actions their elected representatives may exercise by virtue of holding office and which decisions and actions must be presented to the community for approval and ratification in a referendum open to all eligible voters in the community. Such local charter or constitution shall govern in any conflict with home rule provisions or other sections of the Illinois Constitution."

In the meantime, citizens can cut through the home rule hoopla by asking themselves these questions:

1. Are you qualified to tell the city council how much of your money you want them to take from you and how you want them to spend it?
2. Are you qualified to tell the city council how much control over your property you want them to have?
3. Are you qualified to tell the city council how much control over your liberty and livelihood you want them to have?

If you answered yes to those questions, you are qualified to rule your own home free of any encroachment under the guise of Illinois' so-called home rule.

Home rule? We must fix it -- or nix it. Those are our only options.


(Copyright 2006 by John Gile, Citizen-Journalist, Rockford, Illinois.
All rights reserved. Permission Requests: 815/968-6601.)

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