BELLEVILLE – The slow but steady decline in Illinois’ population could jeopardize the self-governing status some cities in the Eastern Metropolitan area enjoy.
Self-government grants cities broad powers of taxation and regulation, making it easier to quickly resolve local problems and finance projects and services. Status is automatically granted to any city in Illinois with a population greater than 25,000. Cities can also gain autonomy by referendum, as Fairview Heights did.
“This gives them a wide opportunity to come up with innovative solutions without having to seek permission from the General Assembly,” said Maryam Judar, Executive Director of the Citizen Advocacy Center. “Without home rule, a municipality must work within its narrow authority. He needs the state’s permission if he seeks to work outside of this. “
The 2020 census could reveal population counts below the magic number for some local communities, including Collinsville and East St. Louis, and others in the state, such as Freeport and Harvey.
Flexibility and authority
Plastic bag fee lack at Glen Carbon in April because the community did not have Home Rule status. He did not have the legal power to create a new tax.
With autonomy, cities benefit from greater flexibility in finances as they can levy new taxes. They can also exercise power over construction, zoning, sanitation, civil unrest and many other aspects of local governance, according to Illinois Municipal League documents.
Collinsville and East St. Louis both had populations greater than 25,000 in the 2010 census, although current census estimates Pin up Collinsville at 24 676 and East St. Louis at 26 678. But a undercount could skew East St. Louis numbers.
Collinsville and East St. Louis city officials did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Cities do not automatically lose home rule when they fall below 25,000 inhabitants, but they must ask their residents to vote if they wish to remain home rule with a specific question: “Should the entity stop d to be home rule? Said Judar.
“It’s a bit counterintuitive, because if you say ‘yes’ to the ceasefire issue, you don’t want autonomy,” she said. “If you say ‘no’ to the ceasefire issue, you want home control. “
Residents should not take this kind of referendum lightly because of the powers it grants to a municipal government, Judar said.
“Local government affects people more than any other form of government,” she said.
The Edwardsville case
This is not the first time that a community in the eastern metropolitan region has achieved autonomy and then fell below the threshold of 25,000 residents. Edwardsville got rule status at home after a special census in 2007 determined it met the threshold.
City lawmakers were interested in getting the special status because of the authority it gave a municipality, said Gary Niebur, mayor of Edwardsville at the time.
“It was seen as giving you more authority to run your city where you feel better for your residents,” he said.
In 2010, Edwardsville’s official population fell below 24,293, triggering a referendum. Niebur was not worried that the measure would fail, which had happened in other communities in the state.
“I felt good,” he says. “I felt we had proven that what we wanted to do with Home Rule was in the best interest of the whole community.”
He adds that the city was cautious in its use of autonomy and only focused on how the authorities believed it would benefit the community. For communities in the Eastern Metropolitan region that might face a similar referendum after the 2020 census, Niebur advises thinking about how the city has used self-government.
“Really list the things the city accomplished because it had control of the house,” he said. “A lot of these things should be positive.”
Eric Schmid covers Metro East for St. Louis Public Radio as part of the Journalism Fellowship Program Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. Follow Eric on Twitter: @EricDSchmid
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