Group meets to discuss referendum to overturn move to Council districts
By Hank Beckman For The Sun August 28, 2012 2:38PM
Naperville resident Dean Reschke, talks about his concern for Naperville if it goes to a districting system, on Monday, August 27, 2012 at the Naperville Settlement's "Meeting House." | Terence Guider-Shaw~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 30, 2012 6:12AM
On the night before nominating petitions were available for candidates seeking City Council seats, about 50 citizens gathered at Naper Settlement’s Meeting House with the April 2013 elections on their minds.
But this group, which included former Naperville Mayor Peg Price, backs no particular candidate but rather seeks a return to electing the entire City Council at large.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Dean Reschke, co-chairman of Yes, Elect City Council at Large, told the gathering.
The group wants a binding referendum question on the spring ballot that reads: “Shall the City of Naperville elect the City Council at large instead of part of the councilmen at large and part of the councilmen from districts?”
Copies of a petition to get the referendum on the ballot were provided to volunteers at the meeting. Completed petitions need to be filed with the City Clerk’s Office between Nov. 19 and 26.
The move to the hybrid system of electing five council members from districts and three at large is the result of a 2010 referendum that passed by 28,236 for with 14,593 against, an almost two to one margin.
The size of that result has led those in favor of the new system to say that there is no need for a new referendum, since residents already had a chance to vote on the matter and clearly chose the district option.
When the move to the new system immediately proved impractical, a DuPage County judge ruled that the new system must be in effect for the 2015 municipal elections.
While Reschke’s group is sympathetic to those who might have felt marginalized by the at-large system, he wasn’t shy about expressing his distaste for the notion of carving up the city into what the group fears will become political fiefdoms.
Reschke worries that the move to election districts will cost the taxpayers more in the long run in the form of higher taxes that could come with a ward system.
Reschke went on to say that the ward system would foster divisiveness in city politics by pitting regions against each other in the process of allocating city resources.
“It will change the perspective” of the City Council, he said.
Price, who served eight years on the Council and eight in the mayor’s office, said there was a real cooperative spirit when she was on the Council. She worries that districts will lead to regionalism.
“We never acted that way,” she said. “We never worked that way.”
Organizers stressed to the volunteers present that 2,000 signatures are needed on petitions to get the question on the ballot.
Nick Ryan was glad the group held the forum and wants the ward system overturned.
“I voted against it last time,” he said.