Archive for the ‘ State Watch ’ Category

First off, I want to follow up on the question of repealing home rule in Mt. Vernon. Voters defeated the challenge, meaning home rule is retained. High profile business backers, a core group of “Vote No” volunteers plus use of social media are credited with the success.

While the Mt. Vernon pro-home rule group won with 57% of the vote, there was a veritable smackdown by 70% of voters of the proposition to make the city clerk’s office in DeKalb an appointed one. It’s difficult not to look at this as a referendum on city administration, and on the performance of city manager Mark Biernacki in particular. Let him laugh at the suggestion that the ballot question was an attempted power grab — that doesn’t make it untrue.

With the retention of an elected city clerk, congenitally optimistic residents like me can hope for a real watchdog in the position.

Lastly, I’d like to note that City Barbs is now seven years old.

Treat this as an open thread if you like. Name yer topic.

In “Time to Dump Landfill Protests,” the Chronicle lays out reasons for trashing the efforts of the little people.

Reason 1:

There’s nowhere else for the anti-landfill group to turn short of the Illinois Supreme Court, which might decline to hear the case.

Stop the Mega Dump should quit because the Supremes might reject it? WTH?

Reason 2:

It’s understandable that an expansion that would allow the landfill to accept as many as 2,000 tons of trash a day would be unpopular. At some point, however, the community and the company should be allowed to move forward.

Yeah, like maybe after an attempt at a Supreme Court appeal. What’s the rush, Chronicle?

Reason 3:

The impact of the expansion has not been felt. Waste Management has assured residents that a larger landfill will not endanger their health and safety.

Wow, great show of healthy journalistic skepticism.

More importantly, though, the newspaper is in effect trashing STMD’s contention that the process of approving the expansion was so fundamentally flawed, the threats to public health such as hydrogen sulfide emissions, groundwater contamination and vulnerabilities to seismic activity were never seriously examined and considered. Read the rest of this entry

It’s a 69-page PDF file. I just got my hands on it and will read it this weekend.

The New York Times published a story. So did the Chicago Trib, but the Times story is a bit “fuller.”

I actually saw news of the report’s release first at The Stephenson Blumdoggle, so here’s a tip o’ the hat to Tutty. Do you read his blog? A lot of what happens here in DeKalb has happened/is happening in Freeport and Stephenson County, such as a library expansion and a pet “economic development” project of the old boys’ club called Mill Race Crossing.

Let’s Talk IDOC

The consequences of drug, sentencing and public health policies are now coming home to roost in the state’s corrections system, their impacts magnified by Illinois’ dismal fiscal situation. They include continued high financial and social costs, Constitutional questions and even potential threats to the public health.

Fortunately, for better understanding of the current situation in our prisons we can look to the John Howard Association, a nonpartisan watchdog of the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) and its facilities that runs on a lot of volunteer power.

JHA has just released a report called “Unasked Questions, Unintended Consquences.” The report analyzes 15 findings and recommendations ranging from the lack of accountability for a $1.4 billion IDOC contract for health care, to the developing problems of housing a booming population of elderly prisoners. Read the rest of this entry

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.

Changes such as the addition of the right to speak during government meetings will take effect in 2013.

(g) Any person shall be permitted an opportunity to address public officials under the rules established and recorded by the public body.

Looks like we’ll be allowed our three minutes apiece at all public meetings beginning next January — well, most of us will, at least.

See Boone County Watchdog for more information about the changes to OMA.

When last we left our Mt. Vernon heroes, they had just presented a petition to have the question of revoking Home Rule put on the ballot in November.

I was a little alarmed that the Mt. Vernon city council had planned to vet the petition. In DeKalb this would probably constitute the kiss of death, but apparently democracy is still valued in some parts of Illinois.

The ballot wording voters will see is: “Should the people of Mt. Vernon, IL return the power to raise local taxes only by a vote from the people approving said tax, stopping the City Council from raising taxes through their sole power of Home Rule without your vote? If so vote Yes to Revoke Home Rule powers from the City of Mt. Vernon, in the County of Jefferson, State of Illinois, 62864.”

The Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce Past Presidents’ Council is reportedly launching a campaign to educate voters about Home Rule in Mt. Vernon, and what the consequences of repeal would be.

**Updated July 31 at end of post.**

Believe it or not, there’s at least one limit to Illinois Home Rule! Here’s a post from the blog of the Illinois Association of Realtors:

I was discussing a transaction in the home rule community of West Frankfort. “My client was surprised to learn at closing she had to pay a fee of 1 percent of the sale price to the city—which meant $1,200 out of her pocket,” the REALTOR® said.

Surprised by the transfer tax, I began researching the history of the real estate transfer tax. The Village of West Frankfort passed a referendum in 2006 making it a home rule community. In 2008, citing their home rule status, the council passed an ordinance creating a transfer fee on the transfer of leases surrounding the city-owned lake. Illinois Association of REALTORS® (IAR) Legal Counsel found that under state law before they implement a transfer tax, the question must be put on the ballot for referendum for voters to decide.

The IAR reportedly wrote a letter to the City of West Frankfort explaining this and now awaits a reply.

I’m pretty sure that if the tax were legal without a referendum, the City of DeKalb would be collecting it already. Read the rest of this entry

Illinois communities automatically receive Home Rule powers when their populations reach 25,000. Mt. Vernon is not one of them because it’s too small (about Sycamore-sized). The city’s residents had to vote for Home Rule, and they reportedly did it in order to finance a sewer project in the 80s.

So what’s the problem? According to one of the current petitioners, Steven Casper, Sr., Mt. Vernon approved Home Rule without understanding the residents would lose their power to vote on tax increases.

Casper and three other Mt. Vernon residents organized a petition, which collected 1,031 signatures from registered voters, to revoke the home rule.

“I don’t know why somebody did not do this before now,” he said. “[We] just don’t like the idea the city has the ultimate power to raise taxes for whatever they want, whenever they want.”

The group only needed about 365 signatures, Casper says.

Supposedly the city council will vet the petition before it can go on the November ballot. This does not sound right to me. The council had its chance to put the question on the ballot themselves. Since they did not — this is the reason folks had to collect signatures — my understanding is that the city clerk should certify the petition for placement of the question on the ballot unless the petition is challenged by one or more individuals. And challenges are adjudicated by election panels, not city councils.

I hope the Mt. Vernon group has competent legal counsel.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to bring you lists of authorized drone pilots/sites and map their locations.

You do not have to be President of the United States to own and fly drones. We are lucky to live in such an egalitarian country!

[looking at map] Geez, get with the program, Illinois.

Bonus: Do-it-yourself drones