January 03, 2006

More on Home Rule in Rockford, IL

A commentor, Marianne Garvens, left this comment in on this post. I felt her comment was so good it deserved it's own post. She did a wonderful job of posting the downsides of Home Rule.

Rockford’s Home-rule Debate began in 2003 Many of the following excerpts I wrote in mid-2003 Guest Column by Marianne L. Garvens

Local government spending/incentives is what drives the need for more
tax revenue - ultimately leading to higher fines, fees and property

Control spending you control taxes. It’s that simple!

KNOW THIS - Home-rule communities have NO bond limits! That means
Rockford would have an ‘open line of credit’ and ‘no direct accountability’!
You see, the city won’t need your permission by referendum anymore;
granting home-rule powers is like giving officials a vault full of blank

‘Freeport is my home community. I believe in its potential, but I have
seen repeated abuse of home-rule authority and I believe that this
power needs to be repealed from the Illinois Constitution, especially since
the concept violates the Federal Constitution.

Based on my experience in Freeport, I can only see the re-establishment
of home rule in Rockford serving the interest of growing government and
enriching preferred developers/businesses while stripping citizens of
their basic rights and more of their hard earned money.’

Home-rule communities are supposed to adhere to a ‘stricter standard’
for more openness, not less. They are not supposed to use home-rule
powers, consultants and attorneys to find new ways to cut the citizens out
of the public’s business.

There is a reason Rockford citizens voted out home-rule – their
‘representatives’ were abusing their home-rule powers to tax and spend and
they weren’t asking the people’s permission.]

On May 17, 2003, Rockford Register Star guest opinionist, Jim Ryan, a
City employee, used ‘factoids’ (instead of citing facts) in his attempts
to sway public opinion to re-establish home rule.

Simply put - a factoid is “a half-truth, unproven theory, wild
exaggeration or flat lie posing as scientific fact ... structured to mislead

Factoids play on our fears or suspicions ... [when] repeated over and
over, even reasonable, well educated people tend to go along ... No
matter how preposterous, the factoid will almost always be accepted as true
if it is repeated often enough. ...

Many of us [believe] that the truth will always triumph over ignorance
and error. ... The battle can easily be lost, and often is, before the
truth has a chance to catch up. ..." The Citizen’s Guide to Fighting
Government, Senator Steve Symms & Larry Grupp, Jameson Books, Inc.

First, while Jim Ryan is a citizen, and is certainly entitled to
express his opinion, as an employ of the City of Rockford; Ryan wields
tremendous authority while overseeing a substantial portion of the city’s
budget. – home-rule would certainly make his job easier and him far less
accountable. Also, based on a conversation with the Illinois Attorney
General's Office and George Ryan and Mike Curran's conduct - I know it
is improper for public officials and full-time elected officials to
campaign with public resources (of which time is one) or use their
position to influence the results of an election.

QUESTION: What is Jim Ryan’s real interest in this debate and why did
he resort to using ‘factoids’ and belittling the character of Rockford’s
majority when he said:
"By voting out home rule, we basically said that we want to be more
dependent upon the state legislature and have less freedom from
legislative mandates." RRS 5/17/03

On what basis did he reach his conclusions? He said, "As I stated, we
as citizens threw away home rule powers in 1983 under the guise that it
would lower local property taxes. Tax cap legislation has now fixed
that problem." RRS 5/17/03

State tax caps DO NOT prevent home rule communities from raising taxes;
home rule units can do what they want, when they want, unless the
people challenge the policy IN COURT!

[In Freeport, under the leadership of then Library Director Frank Novak
(Rockford’s newest Library Director), officials used home-rule powers
to go around State library law and the Illinois’ Taxpayer’s Bill of
Rights to avoid a referendum officials knew they could not win.]

Another problem? The media often avails public officials with unlimited
commentary space, usually without requiring factual citations or
substantiation; simultaneously, the media often edits or limits public
comments to 250 words or less once per month. How is this equitable, just or

The public’s participation is also silenced/ obstructed at what are
supposed to be public meetings – usually the public gets little notice
and/or no access to agendas; the public must make their comments within
two minute time constraints at the end of public meetings - even on
agenda items. My experience is that each unit of government interprets and
implements open government laws very differently and so there is no
consistency for the public to know how they can participate in their

Why does media allow/accept unsubstantiated claims and print conclusory
statements as fact? The people deserve ‘fair and balanced reporting’;
we depend on it in a 'healthy' representative democracy.

I suggest before entertaining discussions of re-establishing home rule
the public be fully educated.

KNOW THIS- a home rule government need only abide by the U.S and
Illinois Constitutions, and a hand-full of statutes that specifically limit
power. That means that policy challenges can only be heard by HIGH

District courts and administrative hearings have no jurisdiction for
constitutional opinions, they can only certify a constitutional question
to a higher court, or dismiss a case when a statute has been determined
unconstitutional on its face - like the ‘dangerous and unsafe building’

[Freeport, with its home rule, thinks they can ignore the higher courts
and deny real property rights without statutory authority and contrary
to the constitution and Bill of Rights.]

I do not believe the people of Rockford’s vote said: ‘ "take care of us
Springfield, because we’re too stupid, distrusting of each other, and
stubborn to get along and take care of ourselves. …" ’ Jim Ryan RRS

How arrogant! What is Mr. Ryan’s purpose of distorting the results of
the referendum, misrepresenting the facts, and speaking so poorly of the
public he was hired to serve?

Pretty good huh? Remember people, Home Rule is not going to ease our troubles, it's just going to make more in other places.

To read the rest of my posts regarding Home Rule in Rockford, Illinois see this archive.

Posted by Contagion in Home Rule at January 3, 2006 12:57 PM | TrackBack