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.
Cities can rescind home rule by voter referendum and Rockford residents did that in 1983, joining Villa Park, Lombard and Lisle, as the only four cities in Illinois to reject home rule authority once they had it. Once they reach 25,000 in population, cities automatically are granted home rule authority. Loves Park and Machesney Park are both expected to top 25,000 following the next census in 2020.
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.
A YES vote on March 20 will give that tool to leaders we know and trust.