Home Rule or State Rule?


Do you want Home Rule or do you want State Rule?    

There has been much discussion on Home Rule the past few months.   To that end, I wanted to pass along a little information shared at a recent Next Rockford meeting.  It was a panel discussion on Home Rule.  Disclaimer:  I am in favor of Home Rule and this blog post is intended to be a highlight of ideas that resonated with me the most.  I am well aware that not everyone shares my opinion and that is ok.  There concerns and counter points help me and others more fully understand this complex issue. 

What is the point of Home Rule?

“Home rule….. is predicated on the assumption that problems in which local governments have a legitimate and substancial interest should be open to local solution and reasonable experimentation to meet local needs.”  – Kalodimos v. Village of Morton Grove 470 N.E.2D 266 (Ill. 1984)  (Laurie Reynolds)

What are the powers of Home Rule?

“A Home Rule unit may exercise any power and perform any function pertaining to its government and affairs including, but not limited to, the power to regulate for the protection of the public health, safety, morals and welfare; to license, to tax, and to incur debt.” – Section 6(a)  (Laurie Reynolds)

Who can choose to have Home Rule?

Cities in Illinois over 25,000 people.  Home Rule is common throughout the United States and Illinois was one of the last states to adopt it.  Are we the largest city in the State of Illinois without Home Rule?  Yes we are!  Are we one of the largest cities in the country to not have Home Rule?  Yes we are!  

Personally, I think Home Rule is a piece of the puzzle.  It is a tool that other communities have and we do not.  State Rule is a poor subsitute for our lack of community engagment and self-confidence.  Continuing to choose State Rule is a cop-out – a way of avoiding real conversation around tough issues and a real community engagement.  State Rule actually marginalizes citizens of Rockford more than it protects them from locally elected officals.  Further, handcuffing local officals with State Rule does not make them better at their job – it doesn’t make them better servants of us. 

For those who are concerned about a shift in power from the state back home, please take comfort that there is a natural check and balance system in play for local officals.  This process limits local officals from moving too quickly or doing things that go against the will of their constituents:

  • City Council is check for the Mayor and vice-versa
  • Maybe it is ok after all that we disagree politically on certain issues!?! 
  • Some would say that local power is far more decentralized than Springfield
  • Election day – you can vote, campaign for someone, or run yourself
  • Open Meetings Act (OMA) – transparency protects citizens
  • Free Press
  • Free Speech     

Several Next Rockford members chimmed-in on Twitter Next Rockford and in follow-up conversations since Thursday’s meeting.  As with the comments I shared above, their comments reflect a combination of personal views coupled with panelist comments:   

  • “Case law says local problems should be open to local solutions.”
  • “Home Rule puts the burden on voters to solve problems.  I call that responsibility.” 
  • “Without Home Rule, you have to go to Springfield to get permission to implement creative solutions to local problems.  That makes no sense.” 
  • “Without Home Rule, what you get are politicans from other communities making decisions for us.”
  • “Look at Champaign and look at Urbana.  Both are Home Rule cities.  Both have shaped their destiny in much different ways.  Citizens were able to drive these processes in both places much more than the Rockford community has been allowed to shape its destiny since voting to give-up Home Rule in 1983.”   
  • “If we don’t have confidence to govern ourselves, then how can we expect businesses outside the area to have enough confidence to locate here?  How can we expect families to have enough confidence to move here?”

Special thanks to Professor Laurie Reynolds, Paul Arena, and Trisha Crowley for their participation in the guest panel. 

Frank Haney

Next Rockford Facilitator




  1. AmazingScott

    Wow- that’s a huge pack of lies! Rockford didn’t ‘give up’ home rule in 1983, it was taken from our corrupt leaders by voters who wisely decided that they couldn’t be trusted. Nothing has changed since then- look at how you’re whining and complaining about having to follow state law.

    Once again- since they don’t have home rule authority to just make any law they want the administration or the city council can put anything that they want up to a vote and let the voters decide. Home rule takes the voters’ say out of it and lets the elected leaders do whatever they want like raise taxes or install red light cameras.

    Free press? Not in Rockford- our press acts as the mouthpiece of the administration, not as the Voice Of The People. Look at all the propaganda they publish in regard to this matter when we KNOW that 80%+ of Rockford citizens are opposed to it. No matter how much propaganda you push through the lame local media we will never approve home rule. Never. Why? Because we don’t trust the elected leaders to do the right thing. Bribes in the form of ‘campaign contributions’ are how business is done in Rockford and we all know it (I’m looking at you CJ) because it is easy to look these things up in the Digital Era. Yes, it’s technically legal, we know that, but that doesn’t mean that we agree, and we certainly aren’t going to give you control in the form of home rule. We the voters are going to keep control.

    “Continuing to use State Rule is a cop out” BS! Following state law is good, m’kay? What we have here is Voter Rule- you do what the voters say and not the other way around. This constant barrage of home rule propaganda tells us that you’re afraid of the voters and don’t trust the voters to do the right thing. This shows what a bunch of conniving politicians you really are.

    Once again I advocate tarring and feathering any elected leader who wastes our time flapping their gums about home rule. They knew what the tool set was when they ran for office- complaining about the tools now is pretty lame. Now get to work and do the job you were elected to do. We’ll start heating the tar and collecting feathers just in case you want to continue the discussion.

  2. Frank Haney

    Are you against Home Rule for all cities or just Rockford? If Home Rule for all cities, why? If just for Rockford, what makes our city so different?

  3. AmazingScott

    I am opposed to home rule in Rockford- it was taken away for good reason (corrupt leadership) and our leadership is still just as corrupt as ever, maybe more so. Remember that many of the pro-home rule people that you are talking to are lying to you in the hope that you will put more money in their pockets. Stop being a tool, start thinking critically. Our leadership is suspect at best and downright dirty if the wind is just right…

  4. Hey Frank, I guess you don’t read so well, huh?

    Scott answered your question in paragraph freaking ONE!

    I’ll play it back for you, home rule wasn’t “given up” by Rockford city leaders, it was taken away from them by voters who did not trust that clown circus. THEN OR NOW!!!

    I don’t know how old you are, but it appears to me that every other “supporter” of the return of home rule seems to be under 45. That would put them at about 10 years old at the time. In other words, I don’t think you or your “focus” group know what you’re talking about.

  5. Chuck Sweeny

    Let’s put it on the ballot and see what the voters say.

  6. AmazingScott

    That’s what they’re gearing up to do, Chuck, but we’re going to have to suffer through (I would guess) 6-9 more months of these propaganda articles trying to sway people through misinformation. I have resolved to meet every article with as much opposition as I can muster. My guess is that their push will go away when Gatehouse does and some responsible journalism starts to happen around here once again…