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Home Rule

Home Rule authority is critical to a successful future for Downers Grove. The Downers Grove Community Advocates support the retention of this authority. We encourage citizens to read about and understand this important municipal authority and VOTE NO! on March 21st.


Prior to 1971, local governments had to turn to the legislature for authority to carry out even the most trivial functions. Downers Grove and 76 other Illinois municipalities now have home rule status, but "home rule" is hardly more than a phrase to most of the 6.4 million people residing in these cities.

Home rule involves a shift in the balance of power between the state and local governments.

In Illinois prior to home rule, local governments had to look to the General Assembly for authority to carry out all their-local functions, even the most trivial ones. In the early part of this century, for example, a state law had to be enacted before Chicago could be certain about its power to lease checkroom and refreshment concessions on its Municipal Pier, including the power to permit the selling of peanuts on the pier. Under home rule, however, municipalities - cities, villages and incorporated towns - have the power "to carry out daily governmental functions, and affairs without spending hours upon hours of research to first determine whether we have the legislative power to act.

Non-home rule counties and Municipalities continue to operate, as they did before the new Constitution, under "Dillon's Rule." This legal theory, first enunciated in an 1868 case by Justice John F. Dillon of the Iowa Supreme Court, makes local governments entirely "creatures of the state." They have only those powers explicitly granted by the constitution and state law.

Property tax levels may be portrayed as the chief issue in the Home Rule debate. They are not. Several studies of this issue indicate Home Rule communities tend to have lower property taxes than non-Home Rule communities. Home Rule taxing authority allows the community to spread the cost of local government to non-residents as well as residents through use taxes such as sales taxes and hotel taxes.

The real issue however is control. Home Rule communities are empowered to promote economic development and enhance the government's ability to address a wide range of local problems and issues with local solutions. Home Rule is a valuable tool in allowing your local government to respond to your concerns.

The Downers Grove Community Advocates encourage you to Vote Smart: the key is to elect responsible leaders. Citizens can and should refuse to re-elect public officials whom they believe have abused Home Rule power – or for that matter, any of the powers of local government.

Strong Mayor

What Are The Choices For Municipal Structure?

All municipalities in Illinois are either cities or villages. Most municipalities operate under a standard aldermanic-city form or trustee-village form. There are simple variations possible under these standard forms, such as the number of members of a legislative body, the terms of office, and minority representation. The State statutes also provide three more complicated variations which may be adopted by cities or villages desiring the possible advantages which each has to offer. These variations are the "commission form", the "manager form", and the "strong mayor form". Each form provides its own rules for the selection and type of officers, their powers and responsibilities, and the general operations of government.

Aldermanic-City Form

Under the aldermanic-city form, the legislative body ordinarily consists of two aldermen from each ward elected for a four-year term. Their terms are staggered so that half are elected every two years. The number of aldermen elected depends upon the population of the city. The mayor is the chief executive officer of the municipality. The mayor, city clerk, and city treasurer are elected at large (Village or citywide) to a four-year term. Other offices and vacancies are filled by appointment by the mayor with the advice and consent of the council, although it may be provided by ordinance that these offices be filled by election.

Trustee-Village Form

Under the trustee-village form, the legislative body consists of six trustees, generally elected from the village at large. The number of trustees does not vary with the size of the municipality. Villages of over 25,000 population may have each of the six trustees elected by district instead of from the village.

The village president and clerk are elected at large, but the village treasurer is appointed. The term of the president, trustees, and clerk is four years, unless reduced to two years by referendum. As with the mayor in the aldermanic-city form, the appointments to all nonelective offices are made by the president with the advice and consent of the board of trustees. If the village collector is appointed, the village board may provide by ordinance that the elected village clerk also hold the office of village collector.

Commission Form

The commission form of government is limited to cities or villages under 200,000 population. Under this form, the voters elect at large a mayor and four commissioners who serve as the council. At the first regular meeting after an election, the council designates each member to be either the commissioner of accounts and finances, public health and safety, streets and public improvements, or public property. The mayor serves as commissioner of public affairs. The council may elect the clerk and treasurer, as well as all the other officers whose appointment is not delegated, as it may be, to one commissioner. Each commissioner is given executive control over such administrative departments as may be assigned to him. By referendum, the electors may provide for the election of commissioners to specific departments.

Manager Form

The manager form of government is available to all municipalities under 500,000 in population. The municipality may retain its governmental structure as an aldermanic-city form, trustee-village form, or commission form while adopting the features of the manager form.

Under this form, the power of the council or board is purely legislative, except that it is empowered to approve all expenses and liabilities of the municipality. The manager is the administrative and executive head of the government for some purposes. The manager appoints and removes all officers not required to be elected. The appointment to most boards, commissions, and other municipal agencies resides in the mayor or president subject to council or board confirmation.

Strong Mayor Form

This form of government has an elected mayor, clerk, and treasurer and, depending upon the size of the community, from eight to twenty aldermen elected from wards. The terms of elected officials are four years. The functions of an ordinary mayor are generally merged with the powers accorded a municipal manager. The mayor is given the power, without council approval, to appoint and remove his administrative assistants, budget and finance director, heads of all departments, and all other officers of the municipality, and members of commissions, boards, and agencies, except those covered by civil service. The powers of the council are purely legislative.

Administrative Form

This "form" of government is not specifically sanctioned by statute but is in use in a number of municipalities. It may be used in all but the manager form of government. It is not really a "form" of government but rather a legislative device adopted by municipalities which seek a full-time administrator without the permanency of the manager form of government. Under this system, a municipality creates by ordinance the office or employment of "administrator" and endows such an office or employment with certain administrative powers. The administrator may be made the administrative head of all departments and may be given any power not specifically granted to another person by statute. The administrator may be appointed for a term or hired by contract, or his employment may be for an unspecified period. In any case, he may be removed like any other officer or employee subject to the payment of any valid remaining portion of his contract. This system of government allows for a full-time administrator to conduct the day-to-day operations of a community armed with as much or as little power as the corporate authorities may from time to time provide by ordinance.

"Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of crackpot than the stigma of conformity. And on issues that seem important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost."

Thomas J. Watson

Home Rule Downloads

Facts About Taxes Mailer
downers grove community advocates
Get The Facts Quick Fact Sheet
downers grove community advocates
Cut to The Chase... Keep Home Rule
downers grove reporter newspaper
Home Rule Case Study
James Banovetz, NIU
Home Rule and Taxes
James Banovetz & Thomas Kelty, NIU
No Basis for Anti-Home Rule
DG Chamber of Commerce
professional opinion
DG Library Information
detailed effect of Home Rule on library
Keep Taxes Low
former Mayor Cheever (03.08.06)
Home Rule Worth It
Elaine Johnson OpEd (03.09.06)

Home Rule Should Be Maintained
Gordon Goodman (02.22.06)
Keep Decisions Local
Alice Strelau (03.02.06)

Strong Mayor Downloads

Reporter Editorial, 01.19.05
65 ILCS 5 - Manager Code
65 ILCS 5 - Mayor Code
DGCA Press Release