On Feb. 22, Judge Bonnie Wheaton upheld the Naperville Electoral Board decision made in January that the referendum question should be placed on the April 9 Consolidated Election ballot.
Voters now will have a chance to answer the question, “Shall the city of Naperville elect city council at large instead of part of the councilmen at large and part of the councilmen from districts?”
For four months, a group of local residents organized as “Yes at Large” collected signatures to petition the city in an effort to reverse the decision of a 2010 referendum. That 2010 vote put into place a new hybrid system of electing the nine city council members, including the mayor, beginning with the 2015 municipal election. In 2015, with the new hybrid system, voters will elect one council member from one of five previously drawn districts (aka wards) and the other three council members will be elected at large.
After the petitions were filed in December 2012, an objection was filed by a Naperville resident, followed by a hearing of the Naperville Electoral Board and appeal in January. Judge Wheaton held that the petitioners’ question could be placed on the April 9 Consolidated Election ballot. Now, in addition to voting for candidates to serve on city council, local school boards, park district commission and townships, voters will have an opportunity to reconsider and possibly overturn the earlier referendum vote.
If the outcome is overturned on April 9, the Elect City Council At Large system of representation will remain in place under the Council-Manager form of government as provided by state law. Since 1969, Naperville has operated under the Council-Manager form of government.
‘Yes at Large’ education campaign
Earlier in the week the parties had presented Judge Wheaton with written responses and legal briefs, according to Naperville resident and attorney Rebecca Obarski who has been leading “Yes at Large” with Dean Reschke.
“This afternoon Judge Wheaton heard arguments for about an hour, engaged in some questioning of the attorneys and then ruled that the Electoral Board decision should stand,” noted Obarski on Feb. 22. “A representative of the DuPage Election Commission was in the courtroom and took the order over the commission and told us the ballots would be printed as soon as possible. The Objector can appeal this decision.”
Obarski added that now her group will become engaged in the education and campaign process. Their aim will be to reach out to all voters, and examine all the pros and cons without dividing the spirit and success of Naperville.
Some individuals already have begun to roll up their sleeves to begin the education process to the entire community, addressing unintended consequences of the hybrid system.
For instance, President & CEO of the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce Mike Evans supports Yes at Large. “There are several reasons why we continue to oppose wards, but everyone should take note that increased taxes and higher debt levels have been associated with ward-based government.”
Longtime resident John Harvard recalls the development and management of his hometown since Ss. Peter and Paul grade school and Naperville High School. Aside from college at the University of Illinois and some corporate transfers, Naperville has been his home for more than eight decades.
“My town, Naperville, has been successfully governed for all residents by visionary and dedicated people responsible to all citizens for the great town many residents attest it is,” said Harvard on Friday. “Individuals who are promulgating the division into districts may want to step back and rethink why this would be beneficial. They say Naperville’s government would best serve them if represented by five districts and three-at- large councilmen. Where are the benefits? Presently all council members being elected at large are there for every one of us. District representation would at best give you maybe, one vote. All is better than one!”
Then Harvard added, “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?”
During a Yes at Large awareness and fundraising event on Feb. 19 held at Cafe Buonaro’s in Fifth Avenue Station, resident Herb Nadelhoffer offered a suggestion for a slogan. “Keep Naperville great. Vote for eight.”
Editor’s Note: On April 9, voters will decide. During recent hearings, some individuals in support of the objector expressed concerns about low voter turn out in a Consolidated Election compared to the large number of voters attracted to the November 2010 General Election. Perhaps the referendum will engage residents in thoughtful deliberation and the local election will attract more interest this year— just to be sure. In the end, it’s up to all local voters to lend an educated voice to the decision. Thanks for paying attention.
RELATED POSTS: Yes at Large organized in August 2012
For more posts since August 2012 and going forward, visit the black navigation bar on the top of this page and search “Yes at Large,” “Naperville Voter Education League” and/or “League of Women Voters.” The Naperville Area Homeowners Confederation also presented an open forum featuring Dean Reschke and Ed Rivas as they respectfully presented both opinions. See the forum re-broadcast online.
ADDITIONAL INFO: April 9 Consolidated Election Candidates & Ballot Measure
Updated on March 2, 2013: A Naperville resident who first objected to the petitioners’ filing to place the referendum question on the April 9 ballot now has appealed the decision of DuPage Judge Bonnie Wheaton that upheld the ruling of the Naperville Electoral Board, PN learned Friday evening. The Naperville Electoral Board is comprised of Mayor George Pradel, Councilman Doug Krause and Naperville City Clerk Pam LaFeber. Since ballots must go to print and early voting begins on March 25, the objector’s attorney filed a motion that was granted for an expedited appeal from the Illinois Appellate Court, Second District.