Gile: Ryan conviction casts shadow over home rule

Former Illinois Gov. George Ryan’s conviction on corruption charges April 17 speaks to the ills of home rule, local author and activist John Gile said. Gile said the verdict sends an important message.

“It confirms we have to keep a tight rein on (politicians),” he said.

Home rule has been put on the back burner—for now. Its chief proponent, Empower Rockford, suspended the petition drive aimed at getting a measure on the November ballot. In a press release, it cited a dearth of measures as the reason.

“The difficulty of communicating the advantages of home rule would be compounded by dividing our coalition strength among other initiatives,” it reads.

According to the press release, the organization plans to address the issue later, but didn’t specify an exact time.

Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey said he “understood and supported” Empower Rockford’s decision. Morrissey said the city must resolve its road funding issue—prompted by the failure of a 1-percentage point sales tax increase March 16—before dealing with home rule again.

“It’ll help the community stay focused on one issue at a time,” he said.

“I think they saw the writing on the wall. I think it’s a reflection of the reality that it’s a bad law,” Gile said.

He noted that Rockton and Broadview board soundly defeated home rule measures in the March primary.

“All of that is a sign that something is seriously wrong,” Gile said.

In reality, home rule in Illinois isn’t actually home rule, he said. According to Gile, municipalities under home rule aren’t allowed to have their charters. He said Empower Rockford underestimated voters.

“Empower Rockford simply found that the voters were simply smarter than they were giving them credit for,” Gile said.

According to Gile, home rule gives government virtually unlimited power. That power can be intoxicating. He said Ryan succumbed to it.

He said Ryan’s fate didn’t surprise him and may have taught other lawmakers something.

“It shows politicians that they’re not above the law,” Gile said.

While not condoning Ryan’s choices, Gile said he still had some sympathy for the 72-year-old disgraced former governor.

“I feel bad for the Ryan family. I hate to see anybody get into a situation like that,” he said.

Morrissey also said the Ryan saga is a teaching tool.

“I think it sends an important message to elected officials and citizens. This state and country demands the highest level of ethics. I’m looking forward to a future that we cannot be diverted by the discussion of ethics,” he said.

In the March 26 election, the Village of Rockton rejected home rule in its referendum by 136 “YES” votes (11.35 percent) to 1,062 “NO” votes (88.65 percent)

In the March 26 election, Harlem Township rejected home rule in its advisiory referendum by 861 “YES” votes (23.98 percent) to 2,730 “NO” votes (76.02 percent).

From the April 19-25, 2006, issue

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