Term limits on ballot in Tinley Park
BY STEVE METSCH firstname.lastname@example.org August 14, 2012 5:16PM
Steve Eberhardt and Darlene Carrero hold petitions at the Oak Park Avenue Metra station in Tinley Park, IL on Friday, July 6, 2012. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 16, 2012 6:09AM
A Tinley Park attorney who supports term limits for village officials is celebrating one victory but knows the bigger prize may not be as easily attained.
Steve Eberhardt learned Monday that his advisory referendum question seeking term limits will be on the ballot for the Nov. 6 election. Tinley Park voters will be asked: “Shall the village board of the village of Tinley Park pass an ordinance imposing term limits on all elected officials?”
The board would not be required to act, however, since the referendum is advisory. But after collecting nearly 2,000 signatures, Eberhardt is confident voters will approve the measure and said if the margin of victory is large enough, it could make village officials take notice.
“I would think that if the vote comes in where voters overwhelmingly want term limits, the village board has to listen to them,” Eberhardt said.
He presented the petition at village hall on Aug. 6. The deadline for filing objections was 5 p.m. Monday.
“He needed 900 to 1,000 signatures. They had about 1,960, about twice the number needed,” Village Clerk Pat Rea said.
Rea, a village trustee for 38 years before he became clerk four years ago, said the term limits question “would deserve to be considered” if approved by the voters. He said he wasn’t surprised that so many signed the petition, calling this “a year of voter frustration.”
Term limits are not common in Illinois, Rea said.
Mayor Ed Zabrocki previously said that voters already can express their thoughts about elected officials by casting ballots, because half the board is up for re-election every two years.
“Term limits are artificial,” Zabrocki, who has been mayor since 1981, said while Eberhardt was circulating petitions earlier this year.
Term limits actually could hurt the village because elected officials “with institutional knowledge” would be forced out of office, Zabrocki said. Rea agreed, saying it sometimes takes elected officials several years in office before they get up to speed on various issues.
Eberhardt said he’d like to see limits of eight years in office. He thinks officials who don’t face limits become too comfortable in office.
“One thing I noticed is a lot of people who signed saying they would at least like the choice. It was interesting to listen to their compliments and complaints about the village. The whole point of this is to give them a chance for their voices to be heard,” Eberhardt said.
If the village board does adopt term limits, they would go into effect for the first subsequent election.
“Say they all were re-elected and then approve the limits. Then it would apply to anyone who was elected in 2015,” Eberhardt said. “If they won in 2015 and in 2019, their term limit wouldn’t be up until 2023.
“This, at least, would be for our kids,” he said, “and by then maybe we’ll have limits on the state and federal level.”