DuPage voters to see referendum on election limits
Question for you
DuPage County voters will be asked to share their opinion about this proposition when they go to the polls Nov. 6:
“Should Illinois law permit an individual to hold two or more public elected offices simultaneously?”
Updated: August 27, 2012 1:47AM
The DuPage County Board is polling the electorate about how many elections they can enter.
The 18 board members agreed Tuesday to let the voters weigh in this November on whether Illinois residents should be allowed to hold more than one elected office at a time.
At the suggestion of Naperville board member Jim Healy, the proposed ballot wording was modified to encompass all elected offices rather than simply local ones. Tony Michelassi of Aurora recommended replacing the word “local” with “public,” and the board concurred. The measure will ask, “Should Illinois law permit an individual to hold two or more public elected offices simultaneously?”
Assistant State’s Attorney Rick Veenstra said under existing Illinois law, state legislators can occupy local elected posts as well.
Serving as a voter advisory to the General Assembly, the ballot measure won’t have any short-term effect on Burr Ridge Mayor Gary Grasso, who is running to represent District 3. He has said he has no intention of stepping down from his municipal post if he wins the county seat.
County Board Chairman Dan Cronin was quick to note that the push to cap elected offices at one per Illinoisian was not personal.
“This referendum is simply about who we are as a community,” he said. “This is not about any particular individual.”
Grasso said he understands the concern Cronin and others have about the time commitment it takes to hold two elected offices.
“That’s a legitimate question,” he said, but one he believes should be answered by the voters, not by a law.
“I don’t think the referendum is necessary,” said Grasso, who also serves on the county’s Board of Health — a position he said he would give up if elected.
Grasso, an attorney, said he is confident he has the time and energy to serve as mayor and County Board member, and to run his law firm. If not, he said, the voters can choose not to re-elect him.
“That’s up to the voters of Burr Ridge and District 3 to decide,” he said.
Healy wanted the office limits to be discussed more extensively at the committee level. Noting that the county can place up to three referendum measures on the fall ballot, he said he has been planning also to propose a question that would assess voter support for reducing the County Board head count to 12, giving each district two representatives instead of the current three. His board colleagues, however, said the issue had been discussed enough.
“This is something that’s so important, and sometimes you just have to bypass committee,” said Don Puchalski of District 1.
In Cronin’s view, elected officials shouldn’t be permitted to spread themselves too thin. At Cronin’s request, State’s Attorney Bob Berlin issued an opinion earlier this year that said County Board members should not occupy elected positions with other units of government that have contractual obligations to the county.
“We face serious and time-consuming challenges here at the county that demands the undivided focus and commitment of each County Board member,” Cronin said in a news release. “Holding two elected offices at the same time simply does not allow for the level of attention needed to fully and impartially serve the taxpayers of DuPage County. I believe our voters will send a clear message that one elected office per person is enough.”
Unincorporated Glen Ellyn resident Paula McGowen, who lobbied to have the referendum question put to the voters, said when she was circulating petitions about the matter, an “overwhelming majority” of those asked were supportive. McGowen told the board that in many cases, the voters were so eager to talk about the issue it was hard to conclude the conversation and resume knocking on doors.
After the unanimous board vote, she was pleased.
“We got it through!” McGowen declared, with thumbs up.