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Local

Batavia group opposing home rule files referendum petition

Voters asked to revoke city home-rule powers

Three critics of Batavia city government filed a petition Aug. 6 to place a referendum question on the Nov. 6 ballot seeking to strip the city of its home-rule powers. They are Yvonne Dinwiddie (from left), Carl Dinwiddie and Sylvia Keppel.
Three critics of Batavia city government filed a petition Aug. 6 to place a referendum question on the Nov. 6 ballot seeking to strip the city of its home-rule powers. They are Yvonne Dinwiddie (from left), Carl Dinwiddie and Sylvia Keppel.

BATAVIA – A Batavia citizens group has filed a petition seeking to put a referendum question on the ballot designed to revoke the city’s home-rule powers.

The three key leaders from the Batavians for a Responsible Government organization filed the petition at 1:33 p.m. Aug. 6 at Batavia City Hall. They included Sylvia Keppel, Yvonne Dinwiddie and Carl Dinwiddie.

The 86-sheet petition, containing the signatures of 1,195 voters, requests a referendum question on the Nov. 6 ballot asking: “Shall the city of Batavia cease to be a home-rule unit?”

Karen Morley, secretary to Mayor Jeff Schielke, accepted the petition and handed it over to City Administrator Laura Newman.

About 18 months ago, Keppel and the Dinwiddies filed a petition to get the question on the ballot, but the Batavia Electoral Board upheld an objection to the filing because the number of signatures submitted was insufficient.

The group had filed a petition with 381 signatures, half the 764 needed under a state law requiring 8 percent of the number of votes cast in the last gubernatorial election.

Former city administrator Bill McGrath filed the objection to the petition. The Batavia Electoral Board upheld the objection and the question did not appear on the ballot. Without the objection, the referendum would have gone forward.

This time, the group believes it has given itself a big enough cushion of signatures to survive any petition challenge.

“We always asked people if they were registered voters in Batavia,” when seeking signatures, Yvonne Dinwiddie said.

Batavia automatically gained home-rule powers in 2009, when the city’s population reached 25,000. Home-rule communities in Illinois possess additional taxing and bonding power, without having to resort to public referendum questions.

In Batavia, the city has used its home-rule powers to impose local sales tax increases and taxes on the sale of gasoline and alcoholic beverages.

Keppel and the Dinwiddies argue that home-rule gives the city government too much power without citizen oversight. They are vocal opponents of the controversial One Washington Place project and fierce critics of the city’s use of tax-increment financing districts.

Most of the signatures were obtained by the three leaders of the group, but about 10 other residents helped circulate the petitions, Keppel said.

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