Shrink Country Club Hills City Council? Not so fast, voters
BY CASEY TONER firstname.lastname@example.org November 12, 2012 7:46PM
Updated: December 14, 2012 6:06AM
Country Club Hills voters last week approved a measure to cut the number of city council members in half.
But the wording of the referendum question itself might not cut it if there is a legal challenge, according to an election attorney who reviewed the case.
The wording of the question on the ballot made no reference to a timetable for cutting the number of aldermen from 10 to five, and it thus differed from the question on petitions that had to be signed in order for the question to be put on the ballot.
Keri-Lyn Krafthefer, an election attorney with the law firm Ancel, Glink, Diamond, Bush, DiCianni and Krafthefer, said this puts the measure in legal jeopardy.
“That wasn’t on the ballot as it was supposed to be,” Krafthefer said. “It’s one thing if voters are thinking, ‘Yeah, that’s a good idea,’ but if they didn’t know that meant they were kicking people out of office, that might have changed some of their votes.”
However, Krafthefer said if the measure is not challenged, all of the aldermanic seats would be up for election in April, forcing all of the aldermen seeking re-election to run again, including those elected in 2011 to four-year terms.
That voters overwhelmingly approved the measure was seen as a political victory for Mayor Dwight Welch. Holding another election in April would give him the opportunity to run his own slate of candidates against the incumbents and possibly regain control of the city council, which he lost in the April 2011 election. Since then, Welch has faced major opposition from the aldermen, led by Vincent Lockett (2nd).
The move to cut the city council in half was popular, too. Fifty-eight percent of the city’s voters backed the idea of consolidating it from two aldermen to one for each of the city’s five wards. The final vote was 4,856 to 3,455, according to the Cook County clerk’s office.
Cutting the city council could save taxpayers in the city of about 16,000 residents as much as $258,000 in aldermanic salaries, expense accounts, uniforms and more.
“It’s always favorable to throw the bums out,” said Welch, who supported the measure after losing control of the city council. “The aldermen made it a referendum on my leadership, and my leadership is sound.”
Lockett, who ran against Welch for mayor in 2011, said passage of the measure wasn’t necessarily an endorsement of Welch.
“It’s all about people saving money,” Lockett said. “It has nothing to do with his leadership. His leadership is terrible.”