Updated: December 21, 2012 6:19AM
We were heartened by voters’ decisions in two referendums in this month’s election — halving the size of the Country Club Hills City Council and strongly advising Tinley Park trustees to set term limits for elected officials.
We saw the city council issue as a no-brainer, and 58 percent of voters agreed that a town of some 16,000 people doesn’t need 10 aldermen for five wards. One per ward is clearly sufficient.
And it’s a bigger savings than you might think, nearly $260,000 per year in aldermanic salaries, expense accounts and other costs. That’s because Country Club Hills not only has too many aldermen, it pays them too much — a $31,000 salary and an annual $9,000 expense account.
But nothing is simple in Country Club Hills. While we commend the voters, we must give a thumbs-down to City Clerk Deborah McIlvain for a procedural error that could invalidate the referendum results.
The wording on the ballot did not match that of the petitions circulated to hold the referendum on a key point — when the election would be to eliminate the five council seats. The petition said it would be in April; the ballot question did not say when. So a legal challenge to the outcome (by current aldermen perhaps?) might succeed, requiring another referendum.
The term limits referendum was an advisory vote, but when 72 percent of those casting a ballot say it’s the way to go, you better take that advice seriously. Tinley Park Mayor Ed Zabrocki, a vocal opponent of term limits (he’s been mayor for 31 years), said he and the trustees will do so. We say, don’t delay.
Some argue that term limits are unnecessary because voters can oust an unworthy officeholder, and a limit prevents an excellent one from staying in office. But those points are outweighed by the dangers in a politician accumulating too much power (see Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, the mayors Daley, etc.) and to ensure new blood and ideas in public office. We hope to see term limits proposals on the ballots in more Southland towns.