Home Rule - Is It Right for DuPage County?
On August 9, 2007, the League of Women Voters of Glen Ellyn hosted a summer coffee at the home of a League member. Debra Olson and J.R. McBride, DuPage county board members, were the guest speakers and the subject was Home Rule. Also invited was Grant Eckoff who was out of town and unable to attend. Home Rule is a hot topic in DuPage County with the current board looking at the possibility of Home Rule for DuPage County.
Both Debra and J.R. are proponents of Home Rule, stating specific examples of how this form of governing would affect the county. Home Rule enables a county board to be less dependent on State Government and State Statutes thus allowing the board to promote economic and community development as well broaden zoning regulations. It also gives the county the authority to enact taxes, borrow money, regulate local activities and alter government structure. Examples of how Home Rule can work in a county would be the ability to regulate and zone a local strip club as well as implement a cigarette tax countywide that can provide revenue to an already tight budget.
However, Illinois law says Home Rule can only occur when the leader of the County is a CEO administrator, rather than an elected Chairman of the Board. Not the case in DuPage County. There are other types of changes in County Governance that would need to occur as well.
The County Board can attempt to convert to Home Rule by changing their rules/bylaws. But if they do, the States Attorney will sue the County Board, letting a judge decide the question. This could go all the way to the Supreme Court, take years, and costs millions of dollars. The County Board could also take the question to the voters through a Referendum. Problem is ... most Referenda fail.
The County Board is still debating the issue and may bring the question to the voters through a public referendum. Taxpayers in DuPage County need to familiarize themselves with the pros and cons of Home Rule so they can make an educated decision. While taxes to increase revenue and zoning to insure safe neighborhoods are important, a checks and balance system would be needed to discourage arbitrary actions and the misuse of power.