Update on Petition Challenge

A Verified Objector’s Petition has been filed by DeKalb citizens David B. Castle and Michael Larson. Their stated interest in filing the objections is seeing to it that the laws governing the filing of the petition for placement of a public question on the ballot are properly complied with. The Objector’s Petition seeks that the Home Rule question, petitioned for by 782 registered voters in the City of DeKalb, be stricken and be not printed on the official ballot for the Consolidation Election to be held on April 7, 2009.

The Verified Objector’s Petition alleges there is an insufficient number of signatures on the petition and that one of the circulators is not a registered voter in the City of DeKalb.

The Municipal Officers Electoral Board consisting of Acting Mayor Kris Povlsen, City Clerk Donna Johnson, and 4th Ward Alderman Donna Gorski, will conduct a hearing on the above referenced matter on Monday, February 2, 2009, at 1:30 PM, in the Council Chambers of the DeKalb Municipal Building, 200 S. 4th Street in DeKalb.

Shall The City of DeKalb Continue To Be A Home Rule City?

The above question will be on the ballot in the Consolidated Elections on April 7, 2009. It is on the ballot because of the efforts of many longtime residents of the City of DeKalb. There are no business groups, special interest organizations or political action committees associated with the Barb City Tea Company. This effort is exclusively inclusive of the residents of this great community.

A total of 780 registered voters signed the petition to provide for a referendum on the Home Rule issue in DeKalb.  Many were ready to toss Home Rule out immediately. Many indicated they would vote to retain it. All felt such a decision belonged in the hands of the voters.

There are, as of December, 2008, a total of 198 Home Rule municipalities in the state, according to the Illinois Municipal League Legal Department. Granted to Illinois municipalities with a population over 25,000, Home Rule gives local governments the power to tax, to license, to incur debt and to regulate for the protection of the public health, safety, morals and welfare. DeKalb is among the original Home Rule communities authorized by the 1970 Illinois Constitution.

The residents of DeKalb have had Home Rule for nearly 30 years. We no longer need national studies or paid outside consultants to tell us the value of Home Rule. We’ve lived with it. It’s time for voters to decide for themselves, based on their personal experience with it, whether this city should retain Home Rule or not.

Many of us in the Barb City Tea Company believe Home Rule has been abused too much and for too long. A common argumented presented by our opponents is that we should replace the elected leaders of DeKalb and not revoke Home Rule. They’ve seen abuse by the current administration. Many others saw abuse with previous administrations. A lot of folks are just plain tired of replacing faces only to see continued or new abuses of local government.

Perhaps it is the system that needs changed? Those who have met and know members of current and previous administrations often refer to them as good people, and we agree. Maybe its time to change the bathwater.

Home Rule as it stands today should be revoked. It grants too much power to local elected officials and their appointed administrators. Yes, they are empowered with the authority to overrule state on local matters and Illinois courts shall construe those powers liberally. But the power to increase taxes and fees as well as incur more debt — all without local voter approval — circumvents a government of, for and by the people.

Illinois is the only state in the Union that grants Home Rule authority to local municipalities without a local constitution or charter. Such a document provides the citizens with the power to place limits on tax and fee increases and debt without voter approval through referendum. Without such a document there are no checks and balances on Home Rule authority. Unless, of course, you have a lot of money to “lawyer-up” and take your grievances through the Illinois courts, who shall construe those powers liberally.

Checks and balances that empowers the people of the City of DeKalb to place limits on the powers of the local government must be incorporated. Under Home Rule, the City Council has the power to call for a Constitution for the City of DeKalb. Until that happens and the abuses of Home Rule are eliminated, we encourage you to vote NO to the question:

Shall The City of DeKalb Continue To Be A Home Rule City?

Home Rule Tuesday Evening Meetings

Beginning Tuesday, December 30, there will be a gathering for all those willing to circulate Home Rule petitions. The meeting, for petition circulators only, will run from 6:30pm-8:00pm. It is held at 248 Palmer Court in DeKalb. Palmer Court is the alley in Parking Lot 4. Our office is between The House and Filo Spinatos, underneath My Faivrette Things.

Home Rule Tuesday

Tuesday was Home Rule day for me. So here’s a diary of sorts… (reprinted from DeKalb County Online)

8:30am-11:30am ReNew DeKalb Board of Directors Meeting at the Ellwood House

Jennifer Groce, executive director of ReNew DeKalb invited me to attend this meeting. She said it was a neutral meeting for information gathering purposes. When she told me that NIU’s own Dr. James Banovetz was to be the keynote speaker I told her that I thought of Dr. Banovetz as sort of the Father of Home Rule in Illinois and did not think the meeting would be neutral but I would attend. She reminded me that the meeting would not be a debate — if I wanted to offer information to the contrary of what was being presented I could ask to attend a future meeting.

Just before the meeting began came the announcement that Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested at his home. It was not surprising news. Sickening. That’s it.

In attendance (from memory): Jennifer Groce, Mark Biernacki, Kris Povlsen, Steve Milner, John and Nancy Castle, Bob Higgerson, Rosa Balli, Tim Lehan, Mike Verbic, Lisa Small, Herb Rubin, Alice Freier, Frank Roberts, Mike Mooney, Brian Scholle, Mike Larson, Ken Andersen, John Launer and Lindsey Engelsman.

Dr. Banovetz began his presentation by pointing out that “some” local bloggers were erroneously promoting that he was the Father of Home Rule in Illinois. Ummm… that would be me. There is a difference between being talked at and about and not being talked to. But then again, who am I?

Technically speaking it would be more accurate to say the Fathers of Home Rule were the delegates to the Sixth Illinois Constiution Convention (1970) and perhaps most notably the late David C. Baum, professor of law at the University of Illinois. But I’ll stick with my assessment that Dr. Banovetz is the new dad, now, and that’s based on the number of Illinois communities that have hired his services.

Dr. Banovetz is Illinois’ recognized leading academic authority on local government home rule, and has lectured in local communities throughout the state. Professor Banovetz has authored and edited six of ICMA’s green books, dealing with the practice of the local government management profession.

In his retirement, Professor Banovetz has stayed active lecturing and writing. He holds an appointment as a senior research scholar in the Center for Governmental Studies, which he founded in 1970, where he edits the center’s Policy Profiles.

See:

ILLINOIS HOME RULE: ITS USE AND EXPERIENCE

Home Rule

Home Rule: City of Geneva, Illinois

Home Rule – McLean County – University of Illinois Extension

Home Rule Information

His presentation was not neutral but it was informative. Just a guess but I think most in attendance completely agreed with his positions, even before he spoke. Mayor Povlsen asked if I was willing to meet with him. I am.

Noon Meeting of the Barb City Tea Company

The Barb City Tea Company meets every Tuesday at noon in my office. It’s a loose knit group of people of diverse opinions and political persuasions who share a common concern with the City of DeKalb’s propensity to increase taxes and incur debt.

The petition, which requires signatures from 10% of the City’s registered voters from the last election, was distributed. It was agreed to circulate the petition responsibly and to make no promises regarding the lowering of taxes. Should Home Rule be repealed the City’s ability to go further into debt without voter approval would be limited as would their ability to create new taxes.

The Blagojevich calamity was the overriding conversation.

Home Rule Petition Open House 6pm-8pm

The event was lightly attended due to the winter storm. But it was a productive meeting. Elena Grimm, a reporter from the Daily Chronicle, attended and asked a lot of questions. Her coverage can be read here.

We talked about the Blagojevich fiasco, a lot.

Those interested in helping to circulate the petition should visit the Barb City Tea Company website or send me an email at mmcintyre[at]eworldlinx[dot]com.

More Open Houses are being scheduled. Watch for them.

Open House Meeting

The Barb City Tea Company, a non-profit, grassroots level group of DeKalb citizens, is holding an informational open house on Tuesday, December 9, 2008, at the House Cafe, in downtown DeKalb. The gathering, open to the public, is scheduled for 6:00PM-8:00PM.

The purpose of the meeting is to share information on the importance of putting a referendum question on whether or not to continue Home Rule in the City of DeKalb on the ballot for April 2009 consolidated elections.

Home Rule designation allows units of local government, such as city councils, to exercise certain powers within their jurisdiction concurrently with the state legislature. For example, in addition to the regular state sales tax, a city council might impose an additional sales tax for products sold within the city in order to raise revenue for city use.

In DeKalb, Home Rule has been used to institute and raise a variety of taxes and fees in 2008. The Home Rule Sales Tax has been raised from 1.25% to 1.75%. The City’s total Sales Tax rate then increased from 7.5% to 8%. A 2-cents per gallon gasoline tax was instituted. Water usage fees were increased. The Hotel/Motel tax was increased twice. The Restaurant and Bar tax was raised twice.

Home Rule communities are able to go into debt without voter approval. The City of DeKalb is considering selling an additional $17 million in debt obligation bonds to finance the construction of a new police station, for example.

There are limited ways for Home Rule authority to be curtailed.

First, the legislature has the authority to remove a function from the scope of home rule by the vote of three-fifths of the members elected to each house. The Illinois court system has a say behind the precise meaning of the home rule power in its role as interpreter of the constitution. But that requires citizens to file expensive lawsuits for relief. The ultimate check for Home Rule lies within the voters of a community, who can revoke home rule power at the ballot box.

The House Cafe is located at 263 E Lincoln Hwy in DeKalb. Get directions

Petition Signers Needed

The General Elections are over and we have a new President. It is time now to concentrate on the April 09 elections and the effort to give voters the chance to evaluate, with authority, the value of Home Rule.

We believe that the City of DeKalb has abused the use of Home Rule through several administrations. We are now among the highest taxed cities in America and, through Home Rule, the increasing of taxes continues to mount. Debt continues to climb as well — without voter approval.

A grassroots level effort has been launched to place the question of whether DeKalb should keep or repeal Home Rule on the April 09 Consolidated Elections. The ability for citizens to repeal Home Rule, through a binding referendum, is granted under Section 6 of Article VII of the Illinois Constitution of 1970.

The purpose of the petition drive is to get the required signatures necessary to place the question on the April 09 ballot. We believe doing so will generate in depth discussion of the problems and solutions Home Rule creates. Putting the question on the ballot does not repeal Home Rule. It simply gives you, the voter, the right to choose whether or not the City of DeKalb should be granted continued use of it.

You do not have to believe that Home Rule should be repealed to sign the petition, or to help circulate it. Obviously, you must agree that citizens have the right and should have the ability to decide the issue with authority.

If you agree we need your help. The Barb City Tea Company was formed at a grassroots level to get the Home Rule question on the April 09 ballot. It will remain a grassroots organization. We are looking for volunteers, who are registered voters in the City of DeKalb, to help circulate the petition.

We ask each volunteer for 50 signatures. Each signature must be that of a registered voter in the City of DeKalb. Volunteers must be conscientious and make sure that each signature is valid. We expect the petition to be challenged and do not want the effort thwarted due to a technical error.

The Barb City Tea Company has an organizational meeting each Tuesday at noon. It is held at 248 Palmer Court in DeKalb. You are welcome to attend the meetings. Post a comment or send us an email if you would like to volunteer.

If you care to donate money to the effort you are more than welcome to do so. Donations are limited to $150 per donor. There is a link on this page to donate online or you may send a check c/o The Barb City Tea Company; 248 Palmer Court; DeKalb, IL 60115.

A Call for Volunteers

Barb City Tea Company continues its strategy meetings every Tuesday. Join us sometime! The strategy is mixed with loads of local current events and good humor.

Recently we received word from counsel that the referendum can be placed on the ballot in April 2009 along with the elections for city clerk, mayor and aldermen from Wards 2,4 and 6. This means we will begin circulating ballot petitions sometime in December and the number of signatures we have to get will be 10% of the number of registered voters in DeKalb as of the November 2008 election. Continue reading