Rockford’s home rule could be beneficial, or catastrophic…

But the sole success of home rule, if adopted by voters, would be up to the leaders that voters allowed in office.

In the past few months our City Council has been taking a stab at perhaps implementing home rule, a rule that would allow qualified cities a flexible taxing power and a shortened process in making taxing decisions by moving the decision making from state to local levels. This means that Rockford would have entire control over decisions that impact the values of our property. Rockford once experienced home rule for a period of 13 years (1970-1983) before voters decided that home rule just wasn’t working for them.

So what did the voters think of home rule back then?

According to a February 2001 policy profile from the Center for Government Studies, Rockford was one of two cities who “reacted negatively to actual or proposed home rule use”. The study used home rule data from 1970-2000, during which time Rockford was one of only four communities to repeal home rule after it was adopted. What about the other communities who adopted home rule? They kept it, believing that it had helped their communities with the advantages it provided. The same study concluded that home rule “is a workable system for empowering local governments”. Well…then, WTF happened?! If home rule has worked so damn well everywhere else, then why not here?

Chuck Sweeny was right when he said that “This is a Rockford-centric condition”. He is also right when he states that the city “ceded power” when they repealed home rule. Instead, the voters should have replaced the mayors and the alderman, who at the time increased property taxes two years in a row using home rule. The problem with Rockford today, is that….hell, we need to get the citizens to vote at all!

The whole idea behind home rule is to free up the difficulty of abiding by State legislature mandates when those mandates can negatively affect us. With home rule, WE would be in control of what happens to us. But can we trust our politicians to use home rule in an effective manner, and not raise taxes even HIGHER than what they are for our citizens? Or can we depend on our mayor and the City Council to turn things around by using home rule to shift the burden of property taxes to other sources of income?

Just remember, communities that have adopted home rule status have seen their property taxes increase at a lower rate than non-Home Rule communities”.

I believe home rule can be more beneficial than catastrophic in Rockford. However, my beliefs are diminished by the current city government. I feel there is already too much heat for our leaders’ past decisions for my trust in this government to use home rule ethically. Even with our newcomers as alderman, your trust must be gained as well. Perhaps in the future, if all goes well, voters will show up and oust the bad seeds and bring in true thinkers of a Future Rockford.

With Rockford’s recent issues regarding underwater mortgages, how do you think home rule could affect us either now, or in the future?

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Categories: Economy & Government

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