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With his apparent decision to be a one-term village president, River Forest's John Rigas clearly has a to-do list he plans to work through before he leaves office next spring. And putting Home Rule back on the village's agenda, and on the ballot come November, is obviously near the top of that list.
While it is too early for us to decide our opinion on whether River Forest residents ought to back Home Rule designation for the village, we'd allow that it is a worthy subject for a vigorous debate and we're glad to see it take place.
Simply explained, Home Rule is an expansion of local government authority which allows it to make choices that are reserved to the state government if a community does not have such powers. Smaller communities in the state must pro-actively vote to approve Home Rule. It seems clear that River Foresters will have that opportunity this fall.
There are a lot of nuances and a good bit of mythology that has grown up around Home Rule. We see it, at its most basic, as a broad debate on the virtues of government. If you believe, as we do, that government, particularly local government, has a vital role to play in solving problems then giving that local government broader power makes sense. If, on the other hand, you are distrustful of government at any level, then Home Rule will make you wary.
Critics will portray Home Rule advocates as ambitious politicians who want added ability to jack up taxes and impose new fees. And there are some poster children for such abuse. A recent piece in the Trib on southwest suburban Bridgeview is a horror show of Home Rule abuse. But that is not typical and River Foresters are unlikely to sit still for such excess.
Home Rule, responsibly managed, allows capable managers and diligent elected officials more tools to solve problems. Some of those tools will involve raising added revenues. But not all, by any means.
Several years back, a previous administration in River Forest studied Home Rule but a commission appointed to examine the issue was split and the notion was tabled. This time through it seems clear the matter will hit the ballot and voters will choose. Time for good people on all sides of this complex issue to make their arguments.