City Council referendum ruling set for next week
By Hank Beckman For The Sun February 11, 2013 6:38PM
Updated: March 14, 2013 6:25AM
DuPage County Circuit Court Judge Bonnie Wheaton Monday set a date for opening arguments in an appeal of the Naperville Electoral Board’s recent ruling concerning the City Council referendum.
The board rejected objections to Yes at Large’s petition for a referendum question to keep the City Council elections an all at-large contest.
Doug Ibendahl, attorney for Paul Sjordal, argued for a quick review of the Electoral Board’s decision, stressing that all parties involved had his appeal in written form for the past week.
“I will hear this (case) as soon as possible,” Wheaton told Ibendahl.
That will turn out to be Friday, Feb. 22. The following Monday, Feb. 25, is the deadline for sending out absentee military ballots for the spring election.
In Ibendahl’s appeal, he makes several legal arguments, prominent among them the belief that the question was improperly written and that the question is illegal because it violates the intent of another 2010 referendum question that ushered in term limits for Council members.
The new hybrid system of electing five Council members from districts and four at large is itself the result of a 2010 referendum that passed with 28,236 voters approving of the switch and 14,593 opting to retain the at-large system.
When implementing the new system proved impossible right away, Wheaton ordered that the new system be in place no later than the 2015 municipal elections.
That decision prompted Sjordal’s activism on behalf of the switch to districts.
“I’m concerned that it’s (the process) getting stretched out,” Sjordal said after the opening argument date was set.
Sjordal was upset that the new system wasn’t put in place after the 2010 referendum and sees the delay to 2015 as a chance for the opposition to drag out the process until it’s too late to do anything about the change.
“That way even if you have a good case you lose it,” he said. “The judge says, ‘it’s too late.”
Ibendahl agreed, pointing to the fight last year over the Naperville Electoral Board upholding the objection to Naperville Smart Meter Awareness’ petition for a non-binding resolution asking residents if they wanted out of the city’s new Smart Grid system.
Ibendahl represented Naperville Smart Meter Awareness only to see the objection sustained. When it was appealed, Wheaton upheld the objection and when it was taken to an appellate court, the judge declared the matter moot because of the lateness of the date it was received.
“They’re trying to run out the clock,” Ibendahl said.
But Rebecca Obarski, co-founder of Yes, at Large, pointed out that the question of when arguments would be heard was not one to be decided by the two parties.
“Judge Wheaton has her calendar and we have to work with it,” she said.
Sjordal said that he was not accusing anyone involved with anything improper, only maintaining that he was frustrated with the process.
Both sides were confident of prevailing.
“We’re on great legal footing,” Obarski said.
Ibendahl begged to differ, stressing his belief that the proposed question was illegal on the face of it.
“We shouldn’t even be here,” Ibendahl said.