Like the mythical phoenix rising from its ashes, “home rule” has sprung up in River Forest. Six years ago, the question of home rule was analyzed, discussed and discarded.

The basic weakness is that it’s a solution in search of a problem. The questions then, as now, are, “Why do our elected officials need greatly enhanced powers?” and “What pressing community problems cry out for a home rule solution?”

In last week’s edition of the Wednesday Journal, a supporter of HR made the ingenuous comment that “residents owe elected officials the trust and support to make decisions in the best interests of taxpayers.” I disagree. River Forest taxpayers owe their elected officials nothing. Our citizens are capable of informing themselves about public issues, evaluating their own interests, and expressing their opinions in referendums and elections. Also, recent political events have taught them the wisdom of being chary in bestowing trust on public officials.

I wish to be quite clear that these comments are not meant to cast aspersions on members of the River Forest Board of Trustees. These public-spirited citizens unselfishly contribute their time and talents for the betterment of our community. However, we cannot count on always having such individuals in public office. It must also be understood that once HR is adopted, changing back to non-HR can be very expensive. Therefore, the argument that if HR doesn’t work out we can simply go back to what we had before is a nostrum.

I also disagree with our former village president Frank Paris when he stated “smaller communities like River Forest are punished because it’s an extra burden to have a referendum to become home rule.” First, Mr. Paris’ remark assumes that home rule for River Forest is a good thing. Opponents of HR disagree. Some believe that the best governments, including local governments, are those that govern least. Second, Mr. Paris regards referendums as a burden. Many citizens, however, regard referendums as an integral part of the democratic process — as a check on over-reaching governments. Referendums give citizens opportunities to voice their opinions on important community issues. Home rule would make referendums a thing of the past.

Finally, let us look at a partial list of things HR municipalities have done with their increased powers:

  • Circumvented Tax Caps
  • Increased real estate transfer taxes
  • Increased utility taxes
  • Taxed new and used motor vehicle purchases
  • Imposed taxes on students and services (Concordia and Dominican Universities should be concerned.)
  • Allowed a village library levy to exceed tax caps
  • Taxed lease rental receipts
  • River Forest residents must ask themselves this question: “Why should I vote to change a form of government which has served this community so well?”

Al Popowits
River Forest

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