By Jim Hagerty
CITY HALL — Less than a week after a committee to bring home rule back to Rockford, a resolution to place it on March 2018 ballot was sent to the Code and Regulation Committee.
The committee meets Monday, Nov. 27.
Home rule was enacted in 1971, giving cities the ability to pass ordinances that would otherwise be prohibited by state law, including levying certain taxes. Rockford was a home rule city from 1971-1983, until voters repealed the provision under the mayorship of John McNamara.
Rockford is now the largest city in Illinois without home rule.
Wednesday, Nov. 15, a committee called “Our Decisions. Our Solutions” was introduced downtown Rockford. Chaired by former mayoral candidate and community activist Rudy Valdez, group plans to launch a campaign to educate Rockford voters about home rule and what it believes the city can gain by bringing the provision back after 35 years.
One of the benefits of home rule, the committee claims, is the ability for the city to created streams of revenue currently being captured by property taxes.
Sources told The Times that at least one rival group, possibly a political action committee (PAC) is being formed to keep home rule off the ballot, as opponents claim that municipalities too often abuse it by charging excess fees and taxes without citizen input.
That was the claim in 1983 as publisher John Gile rallied more than 10,000 people to sign a petition to place the home rule in front of voters. An attempt to bring home rule back under Mayor Larry Morrissey failed in 2006.
Local leaders agree that home rule can be abused, as it grants unilateral taxing power to the city. But, those who say Rockford needs home rule to unfetter itself from the control of Springfield say it’s also a reminder that citizens must remain responsible for voting for local leaders they trust.
“If home rule does in fact pass, the aldermen and the mayor who did not use their powers in a responsible, fiscal way, should all be voted out,” Third Ward Alderman Chad Tuneberg told reporters at Monday’s city council meeting.
Mayor Tom McNamara, the former Third Ward councilman, made a similar statement last week when he introduced the committee.
If the Codes and Regulation Committee votes for the home rule resolution, it will be placed in front of the full city council for discussion. R.