Group’s Campaign Prompts Elgin Policy Discussion

October 10, 2012
Tara García Mathewson

The city of Elgin is considering a formal policy discouraging public requests for proclamations that are political or “highly controversial.”

Members of Fox Valley Citizens for Peace and Justice and Kane County Move to Amend have spoken during council meetings in recent months urging the group to pass a resolution in support of an amendment to the United States Constitution. The amendment would limit the use of corporate, special interest and private money in politics, including elections.

Mayor David Kaptain initiated discussion of a council policy in response to the group’s request.

A memo to the council in preparation for Wednesday’s meeting said the city policy could read “public requests for proclamations and resolutions that are political in nature, that are highly controversial, or that likely would not enjoy a high level of community interest and support are discouraged.”

As part of the push for a constitutional amendment, the Move to Amend group collected 14,000 signatures to get a question on the Nov. 6 Kane County ballot asking if the constitution should be amended to limit money in politics. The amendment would be necessary to overturn a 2010 Supreme Court decision that said putting limits on campaign contributions restricts free speech.

Kaptain and Councilwoman Tish Powell both said they signed the petition to get the question on the ballot and emphasized the broad public support of the initiative.

“We really can’t ignore that, but I completely understand why we’re going through this process because it is a slippery slope,” Powell said. “We as a council really need to set a limit or an expectation in terms of the number of signatures that triggers this whole process.”

Besides setting a minimum signature limit, council members also considered routing resolution requests through appropriate citizen commissions to demonstrate wider community support.

All of the council members expressed hesitation in taking sides on a policy question of national significance.

Wednesday’s discussion focused on a response to citizen requests for a resolution supporting the Kane County ballot initiative rather than the constitutional amendment itself. Corporation counsel Bill Cogley, in a legal opinion on the matter, told council members it would be unlawful based on an “election interference” provision in the state code. That provision says public funds cannot be used to “urge any elector to vote for or against any candidate or proposition,” which would happen if city staff members were paid to write a resolution in support of the Kane County question.

Kaye Gamble, a main Kane County Move to Amend organizer, was not at the meeting Wednesday but said the group’s intention was always to request a resolution in support of the amendment itself, similar to that passed unanimously by Chicago’s City Council.

“I don’t know how it happened but there’s confusion there,” Gamble said.

City Manager Sean Stegall said staff members would work on drafting a policy to bring before the council in the next month.


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