Home rule, the most important ballot measure for Harvey voters in 2022

Voters must decide if the city should maintain its own authority. Here's what that means in practice.

Harvey voters will decide if the city shall maintain its own authority, major implications for local policymaking decisions. HWH / Amethyst J. Davis
Harvey voters will decide if the city shall maintain its own authority, major implications for local policymaking decisions. HWH / Amethyst J. Davis

Editor’s note: For the first time in decades, the Harvey community has dedicated election coverage from a nonpartisan, community-minded newsroom. The Harvey World Herald is dedicated to getting our readers information on the issues that matter most. That’s why we don’t advocate for policy, issue political endorsements, accept money from political figures or groups, or lobby on their behalf—and we never will.

There’s a lot on the ballot this election season. Abortion. The economy. Public safety.

For Harvey voters, there’s something else: home rule status. The measure allows a city to maintain its own authority, exercising control over its tax revenue. In communities where that don’t have home rule status, like Dixmoor and Phoenix, some of those regulations default to the state.

The city has posted several signs about the measure, visible in the downtown Harvey area. At the October 24 City Council meeting, city officials delivered a powerpoint presentation about home rule, which was to be placed on the website afterward. The city’s attorney remarked that Mayor Chris Clark considered letting residents in physically to the meeting for the presentation, as the public still must watch virtually via Zoom while city officials convene in-person.

However, the powerpoint is nowhere on the city’s website and residents weren’t physically allowed at the meeting.

Today, voters will decide whether Harvey should maintain home rule, which has a major impact on how the city functions. Polls close at 7pm. Here’s a quick, last minute explainer if you need it.

Why it’s on the ballot

In Illinois, states with populations of 25,000 people or more are automatically granted home rule status. Harvey’s population is a little over 20,000, according to decennial census data. Residents have to vote on the measure, determining if the city should keep or lose its home rule status.

Understanding the question

When you turn over your ballot, the question will read: “Shall the City of Harvey cease to be a home rule unit?”

If you do want Harvey to keep home rule status, then vote “No.”

If you don’t want Harvey to be a home rule community, then vote “Yes.”

The debate

There are a few politicians who are in favor of home rule use. It’s pretty weak compared to others, but nearby municipalities have home rule authority, including Hazel Crest, Country Club Hills, and Orland Park. Find the state’s full list here.

Another is the ability to create ordinances like crime-free housing, which basically allows landlords to evict tenants who have interactions with the criminal justice system. However, they can sometimes backfire, unintentionally harming those they’re designed to help. Read more about crime-free housing ordinances here.

Home rule municipalities maintain the inability to issue taxes and levies. According to the city’s powerpoint presentation, there’d be a budget shortfall of over $1 million. That’s because that revenue stems from property taxes, which the city wouldn’t be so easily able to issue if it were to lose home rule status.

However hard that would be, that also shapes an argument against home rule authority: increased strains on taxing abilities. That may be a more attractive option in communities like Harvey where officials have historically used property tax increases to make up for budget shortfalls.

A 2021 report from the Civic Federation, a nonpartisan research group, showed that Harvey’s residential property tax rate increased nearly 30% between 2009 and 2018.

What happens if Harvey voters reject home rule?

If voters rejected home rule status, taxes and levies issued by the city would roll back as soon as the election results are certified, except for taxes that the city has been using to pay bonds.

Regardless of Tuesday’s vote, one thing remains for certain: Harvey’s population decline, even in the face of the city’s development efforts, is likely to continue in the immediate future in the absence of a holistic plan to address structural inequities fueling lack of job growth, abandoned housing, and infrastructure. That, coupled with still-absent larger ethics reforms addressing lack of transparency and open government.

Correction, 11/08/2022: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that polling places close at 6pm. They close at 7pm, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections. This article has been updated to reflect the accurate information.

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