The debate about home rule, resurrected during last week’s village board meeting, has both supporters and opponents in agreement that voters will have to be educated before the issue appears on a future election ballot.
Under state law, a referendum would be required for the village to become a home rule community because it has a population under 25,000.
If the referendum passed, the village would have more autonomy, including raising taxes past the limit set by the state.
That’s a positive aspect for supporters, like Frank Paris, who was the village president when a committee of locals came together in 2006 to study the topic.
The issue was stalled the next year when the committee narrowly voted in favor of it (5-4).
Paris said smaller communities like River Forest are punished because it’s an extra burden to have a referendum to become home rule.
Oak Park gas stations are right across the street from stations in River Forest, but Oak Park is collecting more money from them because they are automatically a home rule community (any municipality with a population over 25,000).
Amy McCormack, a member of the 2006 committee, said residents owe elected officials the trust and support to make decisions in the best interest of taxpayers.
But Russ Nummer, a former trustee, said losing the ability to stay under tax caps is concerning. He and McCormack both mentioned the need for the board to reach out to voters if the issue moves forward.
“I would be concerned that by enacting home rule, essentially we would be putting the total authority into the hands of the seven people on the board,” Nummer said.