GEORGETOWN — A referendum question will be on the Nov. 3 ballot for Georgetown voters.
The question reads: Shall the City of Georgetown become a Home Rule unit of local government?
According to the Illinois Municipal League, the purpose of home rule is to allow for local solutions to local issues and problems. A municipality with home rule status can exercise any power and perform any function unless it is specifically prohibited from doing so by state law.
In contrast, a non-home rule municipality may only exercise powers for which express authority is provided by state law. This means that non-home rule communities are dependent on obtaining grants of authority from the general assembly and governor.
Home rule status can be achieved in one of two ways: 1. A municipality automatically achieves home rule status when its population exceeds 25,000 residents. If the municipality’s population dips below this threshold, it continues to be home rule, but the clerk is required to certify the question of home rule for submission to the voters at the next general election; and 2. Communities with fewer than 25,001 residents can become home rule by passing a local referendum.
Home rule municipalities have the power to self-govern in areas that are uniquely local in nature. Home rule municipalities in Illinois have the ability to regulate on any subject that is of local concern provided the regulation thereof is not limited or prohibited by federal or state statute or constitutional provision.
Currently there are 217 home rule communities in Illinois.
“Our objective is, it’s a health and welfare type of thing,” said Georgetown City Council Ward 3 Alderman Mike Scott.
He said the reason the council decided to seek home rule status through the public referendum is to have some more tools to take care of ordinance violations, abandoned houses and other health and safety issues.
He said they have problems with residential properties not being habitable; and one idea for the safety of residents is the possibility of doing inspections on homes that are going to be rented.
He said they’d like to address these “not really habitable” properties and “get rid of the slum lord issues” of landlords who don’t live nearby and rent out these properties.
Scott said issues are currently going through municipal court, but fines are not cleaning up or fixing the problem.
“The problem still exists,” he said.
Under Georgetown’s current form of government, after the court makes decisions, nothing else is being done to clean up or fix properties.
”We’ve wasted everybody’s time,” Scott said, adding that without a judge’s order, people don’t care anymore.
Georgetown officials also are working with the local land bank on properties. They’ve had one house torn down where a tree was growing through the roof. A neighbor obtained the land.
Scott said by Georgetown being a home rule community, it won’t fix everything, but would offer other options to use to help resolve issues.
Georgetown officials are planning a public meeting question-and-answer session on the referendum, possibly at the high school. Meeting plans had been postponed due to COVID-19.
Georgetown has a population of about 3,200.