Guest Column: Home rule gives city too much power

Editor’s note: The following speech was delivered by local Realtor Ken Becker to the Rockford City Council Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2006.

Good evening, Mayor Morrissey, aldermen, and my fellow citizens of Rockford.

I am Ken Becker, a Realtor in Rockford since 1962. I speak for everyone who wants less city control over our lives. I voted for you, Mayor Morrissey, but I cannot support you on the home rule issue and, as you can see, many others agree with me.

Mayor Morrissey, you have been in office approximately eight months. Your home rule issue has divided the city. Many citizens who voted for you are saying they no longer would vote for you. You are being led by a certain group down the wrong path.

You made promises in your campaign that you are not keeping. I found out many years ago, never make promises you can’t or won’t keep. It usually works against you. We are very concerned about the rights of property owners.

I hear citizens saying all week, “If they ram a home rule referendum down our throats this way without petitions, God help us if we get home rule.” You are destroying trust, credibility and accountability by putting home rule through the back door. The citizens who voted you in are watching you. They are the backbone of Rockford. Passing this home rule resolution will be committing political suicide.

Home rule, as it is written in the Illinois constitution, is very liberal and gives the City of Rockford almost unlimited power. Too much power translates into more taxes, fees, and regulations in one way, shape or form. When you leave office, that power will be transferred to people we don’t even know.

If you give people with power more power, they will use that power. Empower Rockford talks about economic development. Rockford is sitting in a hotbed of economic development, and the City does not need home rule taxing and regulating powers to make it happen. We have three major pluses to attract people to our area: 1. Raw land; 2. Housing inventory; 3. Price.

Yes, we do need jobs, good-paying jobs. But jobs come from private enterprise, and very often come in spite of government, not because of government.

Approximately $125 million worth of the properties in our multiple listings are sold by out-of-town realtors from surrounding areas such as Elgin, Chicago, Marengo, and other cities. Buyers are coming here because of affordable housing. Does that tell you something? They need us worse than we need them.

I think it is important that any referendum to take away citizens’ right to vote on city issues should be put on the ballot with petitions, not with a simple City Council majority. If the citizens are interested in a referendum, they will sign petitions. Otherwise, home rule should just be taken off the table.

As I said last week, it seems strange that people here would consider giving up their right to vote when we are fighting a war in Iraq to give people the right to vote.

Let your conscience be your guide.

God bless Rockford and God bless America.

Thank you and have a happy New Year.

Ken Becker is a local Realtor.

From the Jan. 11-17, 2006, issue

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