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.
Next Rockford Facilitator