Referendums to grant local municipalities "home rule" authority are frequently voted down because, in the minds of many, home rule has become synonymous with higher taxes. And, admittedly, new and/or higher taxes would undoubtedly become reality if River Forest is successfully able to move ahead with a proposed bid to seek home rule status.
On the other hand, higher taxes are ahead even if River Forest eventually defeats home rule.
That said, home rule is about much more than taxes. It grants local government the power to pass ordinances and set policies that are suited to the individual needs and values of a particular community. This is easily seen in Oak Park village government, which, for instance, would be unable to fund its prized diversity programs, without that authority.
Also, the unnecessary hassles of having to go to Springfield to seek a state stamp of approval on every desired ordinance has often been seen in River Forest, most recently in a simple bid to have condo-converted housing units inspected.
We believe in the power of local government. It is superior in terms of accountability and responsiveness to any other level of government. It is also a place where local governments can explore ways of working to help other taxing bodies, as Village President Frank Paris has suggested doing by using sales tax dollars to help fund Elementary School District 90. While the notion of "tax swapping" can be questioned, cooperation between units of local government is desirable.
Voters, of course, have the ultimate power of the ballot. If home rule is approved in River Forest, voters who might disapprove of how their elected officials handle this new power, can always vote them out of office.
So, pending further discussion at the village board table, it's our inclination to support River Forest becoming a home rule community. We trust that between capable elected officials and educated taxpayers, it will serve the village's best interests, not just pad government coffers.
If Bush will give it, we'll take it
We admit to being among the skeptics who long thought capping the Ike was just one of those People's Republic of Oak Park pie-in-the-sky ideas that would eventually come to an un-funded demise. Frankly, we're surprised it got this far, and even more amazed that the federal government is willing to give Oak Park $4.8 million just to study "the cap" in yet greater detail.
And, unlike perhaps some local cap enthusiasts, we're not offended by recent commentary suggesting that this money is just government "pork." The characterization isn't completely off base, considering that this money really only benefits one little suburb, and that not many drivers are going to particularly appreciate sitting in a traffic jam while under a tunnel of yet unknown proportions.
That being said, when we put on our Oak Park-only visor, this is potentially a great thing for the community for all the obvious reasons?#34;ranging from more park land to "bridging" north and south Oak Park, etc.
So, if George Bush is going to give us the cash, we'll take it. After all, better it go to Oak Park's dream cap than to the war in Iraq.