Home rule disenfranchises Rockford taxpayers

Government is supposed to be of, by and for the people. Home rule is government “despite” the people.

If home rule is approved, putting aside for the moment both sides marketing campaigns, Rockford taxpayers will effectively be giving up their vote for or against any future referendums on tax issues, debt or sunset clauses that provide the checks and balance to hold city officials financially accountable.

Illinois’ Home Rule is a one-size-fits-all statute, unlike surrounding states, which allow local officials and the community to create a city charter with binding ordinances customized to fit the needs of that city, without the need to disenfranchise the people’s right to vote on the city’s financial issues.

Illinois Home Rule is taxation without participation.

Many of those who have thus far endorsed home rule have city contracts, receive hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars for their business interests or have received millions of taxpayer dollars for marketing tourism.

When you’re riding the gravy train, you don’t shoot the conductor – and the proponents are griping about the funding sources of home rule opponent’s campaign? The proponents of home rule are now making the source of the opposition’s funding the issue, not home rule.

With much fanfare to obtain home rule support, the city council has approved a few self-limiting ordinances, such as staying within the limits of tax caps, debt limits and a recall process that will trigger only after potential taxpayer damages have occurred.

However, if one of the stated purposes of home rule proponents is to reduce property taxes in Rockford, then why didn’t the city administration approve a self-imposed ordinance, which would have required any increase in taxes or debt limits to be approved by voter referendum?

Public notice and public hearings are no substitute for the ballot box and home rule in Illinois is the very antithesis of democracy. Regardless, none of these self-imposed ordinances, including my suggestion, would have any binding effect on current or future city administrations according to the rulings of the Illinois Supreme Court.

The city has current deficits and a projected accumulated deficit, estimated by city officials of $78M in the next five years. Pensions are projected to eventually swamp future city revenues and are the fastest growing segment of city deficits throughout the state, since Springfield has exempted pensions from home rule – so much for our future destiny.

Was home rule fully vetted by the city council before placing it on the ballot? If so, where is the city’s plan on how home rule will be implemented and where is the plan to reduce our property taxes with the current and future city administrations?

Controlling our own destiny with “diverse revenue streams” is not a plan!

Former Executive Editor of the Rockford Register Star, Linda Grist Cunningham in a January 10, 2009 article “How to tell public employees they can’t have more money” wrote “it’s my tax dollars that pay these folks (public-sector employees) and fund the services they provide for us. That makes me – and every other taxpayer – their boss.”

With home rule, the citizens’ role in the organizational chart will be completely reversed with the Mayor, the city council and public sector employees – the boss – in total control of Rockford taxpayers including other facets of their lives pertaining to fees, consumer and retail purchases, gambling and restaurant tabs.

Home rule is not really about taking back control from Springfield; it’s about taking the decisions and control away from the people of Rockford by abolishing our vote in tax referendums.

It’s not fearmongering to state facts about most other Illinois home rule cities and villages increasing their property taxes despite years of home rule. It hasn’t fixed these cities annual deficits. Home rule has not proven to be the panacea proponents believe it to be.

Do some solid fact finding on your own before the March 20th vote, possibly one of your last on tax issues.

Home rule cities across the state continue to be controlled by Springfield by raising diverse taxes and fees just to keep up with the deficits caused by pensions and unfunded mandates regardless of whether they have been under home rule for 10, 20 or 40 years.

With home rule approval, the taxpayers of Rockford will have a two tiered level of taxation without any approval needed – Springfield, which just raised our taxes 32% and the newly formed taxing dynamic of a home rule Rockford City administration.