Bellwood: A cautionary tale on home rule for River Forest

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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If you have been reading the Chicago Tribune, you know that another home rule community has bitten the dust. This time it is a small municipality located very close to River Forest. Investigative reporters have found that before he retired in 2009, Bellwood village administrator Roy McCampbell drew a yearly salary of $472,000. This salary was obtained by simultaneously holding 10 different village positions.

Today he faces indictment on eight felony counts of theft, and four felony counts of official misconduct. Village officials say that, at the time, they did not know the administrator was making so much money. On the other hand McCampbell told the Tribune that village officials signed-off on all of his pay. He added, "I didn't hold a gun to anybody's head to get this."

Aside from his salary, McCampbell received a car and gas paid for by taxpayers, who also covered his pension contributions and premiums for health and life insurance. (Chicago Tribune, 8/16/12)

We all know who the ultimate victim will be after the blame game has ended — the Bellwood taxpayer, the working stiffs who faithfully pay their taxes, raise their kids, and hope to stay above water on their mortgages.

This situation is not, of course, an inevitable result of home rule, but a possibility created by unfettered power in the hands of elected officials and an uninformed electorate.

Lest any River Forest resident pooh-pooh the possibility that such a catastrophe could ever visit our community, may I ask this question, "How many village board meetings have you attended in the past three years and with what frequency?" I've attend more board meetings than I care to remember and can attest to the fact that, with very few exceptions, most attendees are the occasional newspaper reporter, some RF employees, and residents who are requesting a variation on a building permit. It has also been my experience that the average resident is woefully uninformed about village government; a surprising number do not even read a community newspaper.

I only hope that those residents who are inclined to vote in favor of home rule are also inclined to spend the second and fourth Mondays of every month from 7 to 9 p.m. at a board of trustees meeting in order to monitor its proceedings.

Should you not be so inclined, please vote "No" on home rule.

Al Popowits
River Forest

Reader Comments

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RF Achievement   

Posted: August 24th, 2012 7:34 PM

@Tom - Home Rule is the issue. Why do you say - "think" Check the BS of Village of OP for Debt issued. That was able to be done - because of Home Rule, and they skipped referendum - a key governance point. Also, you say you are skeptical, why do you say that? The last reason given was to fund the schools - but the d90 Board said no, it was not needed. I am like you Tom, skeptical and leaning to vote no. How about you?

Tom from River Forest  

Posted: August 24th, 2012 9:14 AM

RF - While I do not disagree that OP is saddled with debt,I don't think that it is village issued debt. Instead, it was the library, the park district and District 97 that issued all of that debt and only after a referendum approving each issue. OP did not issue debt for its developments, it used TIF funds. Once again, I am skeptical about our need for home rule. However, the arguments against it should be valid.

RF Achievement   

Posted: August 24th, 2012 6:29 AM

@Tom - Home Rule in OP has also increaased the amount of DEBT that Taxpayers are saddled with. The amount of money they have given developers is unreal. So nice to see a developed area - at what COST. This is exactly what is going on in Rosemont. Wild spending. This River Forest Does not Need.

Greg from River Forest  

Posted: August 23rd, 2012 1:26 PM

@Tom...we are probably splitting hairs, but the best way to be vigilant in my mind is give less power to G. There is a correlation between G abuse and the power given in my life experience.

Tom from River Forest  

Posted: August 23rd, 2012 12:35 PM

Greg - I do get the point of the article. Mr. Popowitz expressed pretty much the same point in an earlier commentary. I just think that it is misleading to suggest that Bellwood got ripped off because of, either in whole or in part, home rule. Citizens have an obligation to be vigilant regardless of the relative power of their towns.

Greg from River Forest  

Posted: August 23rd, 2012 11:32 AM

@Tom...you are exactly right in the point your are making, yet I believe you are missing the main point of the article. Citizens have busy lives and spend little time auditing G. That is the way it is suppose to be so we can get on pursuing life, liberty and happiness. For our G to work it must be limited. Home rule adds to the idea that G should do more which is where you get corrupt actions. If a board approves a sweetheart development deal, whats to stop G employee from abuse as well?

Tom from River Forest  

Posted: August 23rd, 2012 10:05 AM

Jim: Home rule was not a contributing factor in the Bellwood case. A village manager in a non-home rule municipality could have committed the exact same crimes as McCampbell. Once again, I am skeptical about the need for home rule in RF but I only ask that legitimate problems be highlighted. A perfect example of the perils of home rule is Bridgeview. That is where elected officials abused the power and the trust.

Jim from River Forest  

Posted: August 22nd, 2012 9:36 PM

@Tom the Home Rule article is just fine. The writer was not saying Home Rule was the "sole" cause - but clearly is is a contributing factor. Why? It all comes down to TRUST. Do you trust these folks to do the right thing. I for one am skeptical. I want to see the facts. I am leaning to not support this thing, but I just do not know. I mean, if it was that good for us, they would have come out a long time ago and say WHAT it is for and WHAT it will NOT be used for.

T.J.  

Posted: August 22nd, 2012 8:36 PM

Home Rule is like having the fox watch the hen house.

Tom from RF  

Posted: August 22nd, 2012 6:48 PM

Can the Home Rule Discussion. The article did not draw the conclusion - but nor has the Village who has spent Many our $$$ to get to this point. What has been paid to legal firm for this whole thing. Please disclose this.

Makes No Sense to Me from River Forest  

Posted: August 22nd, 2012 4:10 PM

Home rule scam = $475K in Bellwood, non-home rule scam = $30 million in Dixon IL. Thus, we must vote for home rule to save us money. Just using Mr. Popowits logic. Mr. Popowits, as a regular attender of meetings have you seen the board act irresponsibly? If so please let us know so we can vote out the bad apples.

Tom from River Forest  

Posted: August 22nd, 2012 11:37 AM

Mr. Popowitz, with all due respect, your argument here is a non sequitur. While you can challenge home rule for a number of reasons, there is nothing inherent in home rule authority that enabled or even aided McCampbell's alleged crimes. He could have padded his own paycheck and otherwise taken advantage of the Bellwood taxpayers even if it was not a home rule entity. He was able to do it because the elected officials apparently weren't paying attention.

No Home Rule  

Posted: August 22nd, 2012 11:19 AM

Add the Village of Bridgeview to that list. People who vote for home rule have no idea what kind of power they are giving to the Village Board of Trustees.

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