In his recent letter to the editor, “Who do you trust to run River Forest?” [Viewpoints, Oct. 17], Dan Lauber asks a simplistic question and gives equally simplistic answers. I expected more from such a knowledgeable person who maintains a pro-home rule website. The gentleman’s two choices, the State of Illinois or a board of trustees in a home-rule community, ignores a third choice — the citizens of River Forest.
Currently River Forest’s citizens have the power of the referendum which means they participate in the decision-making process by voting on proposed tax increases. Home rule would take away the referendum and reduce citizens to the status of political eunuchs. Mr. Lauber says that with the power of election, the citizen can always replace those trustees who abuse their office, but he fails to mention that all debts incurred by those officials remain long after they have departed.
The gentleman points out that 80 percent of the communities in Illinois have home rule, but he fails to mention that home rule was imposed upon them. How was this possible? In 1970, the mayor of Chicago, Richard J. Daley, led a home-rule movement that resulted in all municipalities with populations in excess of 25,000 having home rule forced upon them. That is how, for example, Oak Parkers got their home-rule status; they never had a referendum.
River Forest has a choice because its population is less than 25,000. On his website, Mr. Lauber points to 12 nearby communities which chose home rule by referendum. He fails to mention, however, that today 10 of the 12 communities have far higher tax rates than does River Forest. The two exceptions are Countryside and Norridge, which have huge shopping complexes that produce significant sales-tax revenues. Which way do you believe River Forest would go with home rule — toward huge shopping centers or toward higher taxes?
For a more neutral source of opinion about home rule, let us turn to the Illinois State Comptroller, Judy Baar Topinka, the woman in charge of the state’s pocketbook. In the Sept. 14 edition of the Chicago Tribune, she is quoted: “This [home rule] is dangerous for taxpayers. … That’s because Illinois law allows even the smallest towns to tax, spend, and borrow like the biggest of cities. … The Tribune found that suburb after suburb has gone deep in the hole over projects ranging from buying roller rinks to building condos — ventures far beyond the basics of building roads and sewers.”
Before entering the polling booth, I suggest that the voters go to the website www.NoToHomeRule.com for something other than Mr. Lauber’s smoke and mirrors.