It looks like Westmont may be one of only five municipalities in the state of illinois since 1971 to repeal home rule via referendum.
As of 11 p.m., with all 25 precincts in Westmont reporting, 4,530 residents have voted to repeal home rule while 4,273 voted to retain it, according to results from the DuPage County Election Commission. All vote totals are unofficial until certified.
The referendum on today’s ballot read, “Shall the village of Westmont cease to be a home rule unit?”
Village Manager Ron Searl said the vote was close, which he expected it would be, and that he thinks it was a message that a majority of the people are not comfortable with some of the aspects of home rule.
And as far as where the village goes next, there are many unanswered question that remain since there is very little precedent for this.
“The board hasn’t really talked about what we are going to do,” he said Tuesday night. “We still have an appeal out with the U.S. Census Department, which could indicate that we were never below 25,000 residents to begin with. There is still so much we don’t know here.”
The referendum was necessary because the village fell below the minimum 25,000 residents in the 2010 census needed to be considered a home rule community under state law. Westmont has been considered home rule since a special census was conducted in 2007.
The issue has been a hot topic in the village, with residents very vocal on both sides of the issue, some saying that home rule is necessary to maintain the current level of village services, while those in opposition claim it adds an extra, unnecessary layer of government control.
A community group called Citizens for Westmont has spoken out against home rule in the village, and opposes the referendum.
Bob Mueller, a member of Citizens for Westmont, said he was happy with the results, but they were closer than he expected. Earlier today, Mueller predicted home rule would be repealed by a two-to-one margin.
“All the hard work paid off,” he said. “It isn’t a good thing for small villages like this to have home rule.”
Citizens for Westmont spent the last couple of months out in force, going door-to-door in an effort to show that home rule was not a good thing for the village, Mueller said.
There also has been talk about how the wording of the referendum, with those in support of keeping home rule having to vote “no” to the question of the village ceasing home rule, and the opposition claiming the wording confuses residents, something that Searl has denied.
Home rule status affords municipalities financial advantages, including lower borrowing rates and legal costs, and the ability to increase certain tax rates, such as sales and property tax.