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Illinois voters went to the polls on Tuesday, March 20, to select the candidates who will face off in the General Election on November 6.These "midterm" elections have drawn a great deal of interest and, in some cases, a surprising number of candidates to statewide and national races.There also were numerous ballot refrenda for voters to decide on, such issues as school construction, fire protection, home rule, and even the sale of liquor.WNIJ News has collated many of the stories presented this election season. You can find them here as a handy reference.

Rockford Realtors Oppose, League Of Women Voters Backs Home Rule

Katie Finlon

More Rockford organizations are expressing their positions on a proposal to give city leaders more local control over finances.  

Quick recap: Home rule is available to Illinois communities interested in deciding, among other things, whether to levy local taxes and fees beyond those imposed by state government. Rockford voters got rid of home rule in 1983. This spring, voters will consider whether to bring it back.

Conor Brown, governmental affairs director for the Rockford Area Association of Realtors, says the group looked at how similar-sized Illinois communities weathered economic pressures.

“We looked at what these communities have done in the real estate depression, through all the dysfunction in Springfield, and all of them raised their property tax levy at a greater percentage rate than the city of Rockford,” Brown said.

Then the Realtors' organization withheld its support.

Jo Minor, of the League of Women Voters of Greater Rockford, says the property tax argument is not convincing enough for her group, which supports home rule.

“Having home rule gone did not eliminate that upward trend of property taxes,” she said.

Rockford aldermen will consider proposals to limit the reach of home rule should it go into effect. Those include the ability to recall public officials and limits on taking on debt.

Brown says those rules aren’t foolproof when it comes to turnover in city government.

“It’s almost like buying a lifetime warranty -- a very expensive lifetime warranty -- from a company that you know is going out of business every four years,” Brown said, "and you just hope that the next company adheres to that warranty."

Minor counters that property taxes can go down with home rule authority because the city can diversify its sources of revenue.

Jenna Dooley has spent her professional career in public radio. She is a graduate of Northern Illinois University and the Public Affairs Reporting Program at the University of Illinois - Springfield. She returned to Northern Public Radio in DeKalb after several years hosting Morning Edition at WUIS-FM in Springfield. She is a former "Newsfinder of the Year" from the Illinois Associated Press and recipient of NIU's Donald R. Grubb Journalism Alumni Award. She is an active member of the Illinois News Broadcasters Association and an adjunct instructor at NIU.
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