Mayors across Illinois, including Princeton and Spring Valley, are calling on the General Assembly to pass a resolution that would put a referendum on the November 2018 ballot to grant home rule status to 169 municipalities across Illinois.
If placed on the ballot, this constitutional amendment would allow Illinois voters the opportunity to lower the population threshold for home rule status.
Currently, communities can become home rule either automatically when they reach a population of more than 25,000 or by local referendum. This amendment would lower the population threshold to more than 5,000.
If the referendum was to pass, Princeton and Spring Valley would automatically be granted home rule status based on their populations. Princeton currently has a population of 7,660, and Spring Valley has a population of 5,558.
Princeton Mayor Joel Quiram is a strong proponent of home rule. In 2011, he introduced the concept to the community. A referendum was put on the 2012 ballot, but was defeated 80 percent to 20 percent..
“I accepted the defeat, and we have moved forward,” he said.
According to Quiram, by remaining a non-home rule community, it means the state controls much of what the city can and cannot do as a community.
“Many people are angry at how the state of Illinois is run in Springfield. They are not happy with the overall condition of our state, but they don’t seem to have the same concerns about the state telling us, as a community, what we can or cannot do. The state does so, because we are not home rule. They have control, not us,” he said.
“Under home rule, we would be able to come up with our own solutions that make sense to our specific needs as a community with little state interference or mandate. Home rule would allow us to control our own destiny as a community. Home rule allows creativity; it would allow us to determine what makes the most sense for us in addressing our own specific issues,” Quiram said.
In Spring Valley, Mayor Walt Marini says home rule has been discussed here and there over the years, but the city hasn’t explored the issue much further than a discussion with the city council.
Marini said he stands with the Illinois Municipal League in pushing for the amendment. With the subject now on his radar, he plans to look further into the issue to prepare for the referendum if the General Assembly votes in favor of the amendment.
According to a press release issued by the Illinois Municipal League, home rule municipalities have greater opportunities for local self-governance, enhanced services for the health, safety and welfare of residents, and options to lessen the reliance on property taxes.
Home rule ultimately allows local leaders and their constituents to craft creative solutions for their communities at a time when the state is either cutting or withholding funds it owes to municipalities.