WOODSTOCK – With the possibility of Woodstock becoming home rule, local voter advocacy group Voters in Action is encouraging residents to be informed and know what the designation could mean for the city.
The group organized an event Wednesday night at the Woodstock Public Library, where about 45 people showed up to hear Taxpayers United of America President Jim Tobin’s take on the topic.
Tobin, who founded the taxpayer advocacy group in 1976, said his group characterizes home rule as the “most insidious” form of government in the country.
“The reason we think home rule is insidious is because it allows the city to raise property taxes without limit and without voter approval,” Tobin said, among other reasons.
In Illinois, when a municipality reaches a population of 25,000, it automatically becomes home rule, and Woodstock expects to reach that mark after a special census is conducted.
Advocates of home rule note the benefits, including giving more power to the people who know the community best, giving the city the ability to license landlords and create ordinances to require crime-free housing standards, and improving the city’s bond rating.
Others feel the city should not be able to raise certain taxes allowed under home rule without voter approval, and have concerns about the elimination of the property tax extension limitation law, which does not apply to home-rule communities.
Woodstock resident and Voters in Action member Scott Gessert asked the Woodstock City Council to consider a policy that would limit the city’s home-rule power, and the council agreed to look at a policy in regards to notification, public hearings and limiting PTELL with an emergency provision – but not to consider an advisory referendum.
“[A referendum] is one of the most important controls voters have over their local government, and there is no good reason to give it up and hand the power to the bureaucrats,” Tobin said.
Woodstock City Council members and Mayor Brian Sager have said advisory referendums take time and money, and consideration of new taxes under home rule would be brought before the public at City Council meetings.
Joe Tirio, Voters in Action founder and Republican candidate for McHenry County recorder, asked for volunteers to help the group canvass newer neighborhoods in Woodstock that will be targeted by the special census. Volunteers will knock on doors May 21 and 22 to encourage residents not to participate in the special census, he said.
“Help us tell those people face to face that we aren’t going to sit and let them get the keys to almost unlimited taxing power,” Tirio said.
Anyone interested in volunteering can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information on home rule can be found on Voters in Action's website at votersinaction.com, Taxpayers United of America's website at taxpayersunitedofamerica.org and the city's website at woodstockil.gov.