Director of Government Reform
Many local voters didn’t realize it, but residents of Westmont, Ill., made history during last week’s election.
By a vote of 51.5 percent to 48.5 percent, Westmont became the first Illinois community to repeal a municipality’s home rule power in 29 years. The last repeal happened in Rockford in 1983.
Westmont automatically became a home rule community after a special census in 2007 showed Westmont had more than 25,000 residents. State law automatically grants home rule powers to communities with a population of more than 25,000.
The subsequent 2010 census showed that the village fell short of the 25,000 population mark, triggering an automatic home rule referendum according to state law.
Jim Tobin, president of Taxpayers United of America (TUA), has been fighting home rule in Illinois for decades. Tobin calls home rule “one of the most financially devastating schemes Illinois politicians have ever come up with.”
“Home rule means, literally, home rule unlimited taxing power,” Tobin said. “A home rule municipality can create just about any tax under the sun and raise taxes without limit.”
TUA assisted a group called Citizens for Westmont to work for elimination of the village’s home rule power in the referendum battle.
Enactment of home rule powers is often shortly followed by increases to sales, utility or property tax rates. Communities often borrow against future home rule revenues to finance big projects.
The recent November election had voters in nine communities in Illinois voting on home rule referendums. Home rule was defeated in five of those communities and approved in four others.
Illinois communities that rejected or repealed home rule
Westmont (population fell below 25,000)
Illinois communities that retained home rule
Edwardsville (population fell below 25,000)
Homer Glen (population fell below 25,000)
Maywood (population fell below 25,000)
Mt. Vernon (population fell below 25,000)