Trib’s Undeniable Indictment of Home Rule

Yesterday’s Chicago Tribune: “Towns Borrow, You Pay”.

When the Trib covered the Rosemont story a few weeks ago, it looked at Home Rule but more tangentially. This time, the poster child is Bellwood and Home Rule, which gives municipalities free rein on borrowing and taxation, is front and center:

The vast majority of states — including all of the largest ones — do not offer municipalities such blank checks.

Ken Small of the Florida League of Cities said he would worry if his state had Illinois’ loose rules.

“It is like giving your teenager a credit card,” he said.

In Illinois’ home-rule municipalities, the onus is on voters to decipher the financial ramifications of what their local officials are doing. And even then, residents may only get a say come election time, and only if their local officials face competition on the ballot.

DeKalb residents never really get a say, because in addition to Home Rule it has the council-manager form of government. This means the CEO is the appointed city manager, not the mayor. Not only that, but the city manager has an employment contract with no expiration date on it. And furthermore we’ve been cursed with councils that, for whatever reason, don’t think we can do better.