Home rule debate: Guest Column: Truth and openness in government: Looking beyond…

Comments presented to Rockford City Council Dec. 12.

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 advisers 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.

John Gile is a journalist, author and Rockford resident.

From the Dec. 14-20, 2005, issue

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