By Jim Hagerty
CITY HALL — Rockford aldermen on Monday approved an amendment to an ordinance that would make it slightly difficult to recall the mayor if home rule is reinstated later this month.
Before Monday’s vote, the ordinance required 3,500 signatures from registered voters to recall the mayor under home rule. Fifth Ward Alderman Venita Hervey moved to change that requirement so mayors don’t fall prey to frivolous proceedings.
“I don’t want the mayor to be subject to special influences and special interests who can pull him in a room and say, ‘If you don’t do something whether it’s good or bad for the city, we’re going to mount a recall against you,'” Hervey said.
The council agreed and voted to increase the number of signatures to 5,000.
The previously passed ordinance was introduced by Mayor Tom McNamara. It required no reason for a mayoral recall. That was also amended Monday night.
Now, if home rule passes March 20, recall proceedings could commence only if the mayor violates the city’s self-imposed limitations. The same would go for aldermen, who would need 1,000 signatures from voters to call for their ouster.
For an alderman or mayor to be recalled, a petition with the required number of signatures and valid reason for recall would be filed in the city clerk’s office. If it is approved, a referendum would be placed on the ballot.
Under the home-rule ordinances, property taxes cannot exceed the non-home rule limit established under the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL). Any increase, including the sales tax, would require a supermajority vote by city council.
A public notice would be mandatory as well as an automatic layover of 15 days prior to adopting an ordinance that creates a new sales tax or increases an existing one.
Property tax increases and the city’s debt would also be capped at what’s allowed for non-home rule authorities.
If home rule is restored, Rockford would be one of the most restrictive authorities in Illinois.
City leaders had home-rule powers from 1971 to 1983, when a group of citizens led a campaign to repeal the provision. Unlike some municipalities, Rockford’s repeal did not come amid misuse of home rule powers. With a manufacturing exodus underway and Rockford heading into a recession, the city increased property taxes under then-Mayor John McNamara. Opponents feared home rule served as an invitation for more hikes without referenda. R.