At the January 23rd meeting of the Board of Directors, the Rockford Chamber of Commerce voted to endorse supporting the upcoming March 20 referendum to restore Home Rule powers to the City of Rockford.
The Board authorized the support via a comprehensive resolution that included recommended policies to limit or provide a governor on the use of Home Rule Powers. (see attached link to view the entire resolution) The vote followed two extensive review sessions with Mayor McNamara and representatives from the citizens advocacy committee, Our Decisions – Our Solutions. The Chamber's Government Affairs Council was the vetting body for this topic before making its recommendation to the Chamber Board of Directors.
When Illinois adopted a new Constitution in 1970, it provided home rule powers to any city of 25,000 population or more. These communities can exercise any local powers not expressly prohibited by the State. Effectively, it shifts decision making from the State to the local level, allowing residents to develop local solutions to local problems. These can include initiatives and ordinances in a wide range of areas such as building, zoning, sanitation, public health, civil disturbances, quality of life, safety and welfare.
With home rule, nothing happens automatically. In Rockford's case, the Mayor and City Council still must develop and vote on ordinances, budget proposals and new legislation. Home rule is merely an important tool allowing local leaders to make local decisions to develop local solutions to local problems. Our elected officials remain ultimately accountable to the voters.
The conditions in the Chamber resolution include the following: (see the full resolution for complete detail)
- Extensive notices of public hearings and timelines prior to any ordinance that will establish a new tax or increase and existing tax, giving the public ample time to react and respond.
- Keep non-home rule property tax caps in place.
- Continue to maintain a debt to assessed value ration that is 20% more stringent than the State debt limit.
Partisan gridlock in Springfield has brought our great state nearly to its knees and had a negative impact on Rockford as well. Without home rule, Rockford only has the power to move forward using tools that the General Assembly gives us. With home rule, we hold the control of our future in our own hands.
While Rockford faces challenges, we have opportunities in front of us poised to help provide a better future for all our residents. We've made investments in and developed new strategies for public safety that are slowly yielding results. We've diversified our economy to take advantage of our advanced manufacturing and aerospace technology employment base.
Returning home rule authority to our community is an important tool to help keep that momentum moving forward. Returning home rule to the community will diversify the revenue that provides police, fire, public works and other critical city services. It will help ease the burden on property taxpayers, who for too long have been responsible for funding those services.
A YES vote on March 20 will return to our great city the control our residents deserve.