Country Club Hills voters asked to reduce city council by half
By Casey Toner firstname.lastname@example.org November 1, 2012 4:24PM
Updated: December 3, 2012 6:05AM
Country Club Hills voters will be asked on Tuesday whether to cut the number of aldermen on the city council in half.
The ballot measure asks voters to consolidate council from 10 sitting alderman — two per each ward — to five , or one alderman per ward.
Hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars in aldermanic salaries and perks could be saved every year if voters approve the measure, which could also pave the way for Mayor Dwight Welch to make a major political move.
If approved, each alderman seeking re-election would have to run again in April even if they were elected to a four-year term last year.
That would give Welch the opportunity to run his own slate of candidates against the incumbents and possibly regain control of the city council, which he lost in April 2011. Since then, Welch has faced major opposition from the alderman, led by Ald. Vincent Lockett (2nd).
“We’re not getting things done that need to be done,” Welch said. “They haven’t done anything because their leadership is just terrible. They don’t know what they’re doing.”
Welch, whose supporters collected signatures to get the referendum on the ballot, said he has run a slate of candidates in the past several elections, and would do so again if the measure passes.
Lockett is staunchly opposed to the measure. He spent about $2,000 from his own political committee to buy 1,000 signs urging people to vote against it.
“I think the people of Country Club Hills are educated enough to know that it’s about power and control and not what’s right for the city,” Lockett said. “I’m not worried at all.”
Ald. Leon Williams (2nd) said the measure is likely to pass, even if it’s not in the best interests of residents.
“The only thing people hear is ‘saving money,’ and they don’t think of the big picture of Welch taking over the city council again,” Williams said. “He’ll go on a spending spree.”
Williams urged voters to reject the measure to keep Welch “at bay.”
The move could save taxpayers in the city of some 16,000 residents as much as $258,000 in aldermanic salaries, expense accounts, uniforms and more. Each alderman now earns a base salary between $31,514 and $32,696, not including other benefits.
Each also receives a $9,000 expense account, and the SouthtownStar has reported the accounts have been used for dinners, hefty cell phone bills, a gym membership, cash gifts for friends and relatives, and donations to charities that the aldermen are affiliated with.
Nearby Tinley Park is home to about 57,000 residents, but its mayor, six village trustees and city clerk share a combined expense account of $12,000 per year.
“We’re the only town around that has 10 aldermen at this kind of salary level,” Welch said. “If they’re worried about a slate, they should do their jobs.”