By Devin Rose
One month before River Forest voters will have the chance to decide whether they want the village to become a home rule community, groups on both sides of the issue want their voices to be heard.
If the referendum passes on Nov. 6, River Forest would be granted all the authority that larger municipalities have — except what is specifically prohibited in the state constitution or statues. Communities with a population over 25,000 are automatically designated as home rule.
"It's the good-government way to go," said Dan Lauber, a River Forest zoning attorney who operates the pro-home rule website rfhomerule.info with residents Louis Vitullo and board Trustee Jim Winikates.
"Home rule gives local residents increased ability to find local solutions to local issues," Winikates wrote on the site. Instead of the limited powers the state provides for local municipalities, the village would be able to exercise a greater range of responsibilities, he said. That could include bringing in more revenue from employer head taxes on Dominican and Concordia universities, as well as gas, liquor and enhanced food and beverage taxes.
The site tells residents to "control our own destiny" and "vote 'yes' to bring River Forest into the 21st century."
But another organization has been formed in opposition to home rule, said resident Al Popowits, who has argued that home rule gives elected officials almost unlimited power to tax, spend and incur debt. He would not elaborate further on what the organization's plans are as the election approaches, but they have circulated pamphlets against home rule.
Next week, the River Forest Service Club will host a forum on home rule at Concordia University's Christopher Center. The forum will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 18, and the public is invited to hear and ask questions of speakers favoring and against the issue.
Meanwhile, Village Administrator Eric Palm has attended about 10 meetings of government bodies and organizations in River Forest to provide information about home rule.
Palm has said the educational materials he has passed around, which are also available online at www.river-forest.us/home-rule-referendum, answer some of the questions residents have had and provide facts about why the village is seeking to do it.
Overall, he said, "people were appreciative that we came," but he thinks the issue is challenging because it's a little more in-depth than a referendum for a tax increase. For the average resident, home rule might not be as easy to wrap your head around, Palm said.
Whether they vote yes or no, "we want people to be educated," he said.
Answer Book 2017
To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2017 Answer Book, please click here.
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