Most communities are automatically given Home Rule powers. But some communities have to fight for it, and overcome the ignorance of some politically active whiners who complain about everything because they are not in power
By Ray HananiaRay Hanania
The last election shows that newly appointed Mayor Sergio Rodriguez is very popular in the Village of Summit.
Rodriguez was a close ally of the late Mayor Joseph Strzelczyk, who passed away a year ago this coming May 17th.
Strzelczyk entered public office as a Summit Village Trustee in 1990 and was elected Mayor in 1997, a path taken by Rodriguez, who is Summit’s acting mayor. Strzelczyk protected Summit from the lobbyists and outside agitators who sought to control the tiny Southwest suburban hamlet’s budget. Rodriguez is doing the same thing.
In a small community like Summit, that’s not easy. Everyone with an agenda, including politically motivated lawyers who have no concern for the village except for their own personal agendas, slammed Strzelczyk and slam Rodriguez.
But having covered Chicagoland politics for more than 40 years, I see in Rodriguez as the same kind of courageous leaders that helped protect the Village of Summit from the outside vultures, politically motivated activists, and lobbyists who only saw the tiny community as little more than a trough where they could squeeze more profits.
Rodriguez showed his brilliance in this past election when he supported the referenda to grant Summit Home Rule Powers. The referenda was approved with 952 votes, with only 823 against it. By any measure, that spread of 54 percent to 46 percent is a landslide victory.Sergio Rodriguez, Acting Village President of Summit, Illinois
Home Rule gives the Village of Summit the ability to be like every other community in Illinois. Most municipalities have Home Rule authority, which prevents the state from dictating local policies, especially policies involving land use and the dumping of poverty into communities that are incapable of protecting themselves.
State and Federal taxes meant to help communities and drained away to help cover the state and Federally mandated programs.
Home Rule prevents that.
Home Rule is most often opposed by the sinister Real Estate lobby and by attorneys who work closely with the realtors. Their goal is turn over housing and make fast profits – a 6 percent profit on a $100,000 home is $6,000, plus they charged closing fee and bank fees and interest rates that are available to the wealthy but not to the poor.
I hate lawyers who do that and I try not to listen to them when they spout off selfish political agendas against vulnerable local governments like the Village of Summit.
Why shouldn’t Summit have the same rights as other municipalities and villages?
State Law automatically gives Home Rule to communities that have populations of 25,000 or more. But those like Summit with smaller populations are denied Home Rule. They have to approve it through a voting referenda, a process often controlled by the big-buck realtors and their lawyer lobbyists.
Rodriguez managed to get Summit voters to understand that Home Rule, managed properly, is a good thing, like in Orland Park where I live. Orland Park did impose a Sales Tax on certain retail sales, but they also imposed a sales tax rebate for its residents. Home Rule allowed them to approve that Tax rebate, which I get every year.
In effect, the sales tax hike only impacts outsider. Sale tax revenues cover costs that outsiders create through roadway erosion, the burden on public works from their driving, and the need for police services.
I work and support a lot of governments over the years, like Summit, to help them get their message out. In my mind, it’s the smaller communities who are hurt most by the system. They have just as much right to control their own destiny as everyone else.
That’s a promise that Rodriguez made when he was appointed to fill the big shoes of Mayor Strzelczyk last year. And the election shows he has the wherewithal to keep that fight going.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and columnist. He is President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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