Could it be strike two for referendum proposal?

Wayne Horne | 8/17/2016, 5:14 p.m.
The Concerned Citizens of Joliet organization once again has taken steps to place a referendum question on the Nov. 8 ...

referendum question on the Nov. 8 ballot. The referendum question seeks voter approval to replace Joliet’s three at-large city council seats with three new defined boundary districts, thus resulting in eight-city council districts. Last week, the group submitted more than 5,000 petition signatures to the Joliet City Clerk, certain the number of signatures gathered more than doubled the number needed.

The first part of the referendum ballot questions reads: “Shall the city of Joliet cease to elect Council Persons at-large and instead draw eight districts with only one Council Person to be elected from each district, with the Mayor continuing to be elected at-large?”

The second part of the ballot question has me scratching my head. It reads (and this part is in italics, which typically denotes it’s important): “Provided (1) the change shall be effective for the 2017 municipal election and therefore the City of Joliet be divided by the sitting council members into 8 districts by December 15, 2017. This proposition is written pursuant to Illinois Constitution Article VII, section 6(f) and 10 ILCS 5/28-7”

The problem as I see it is these dates don’t jibe, and apparently I’m not the only one as the matter has now been turned over to the office of Will County State’s Attorney Jim Glasgow for a ruling.

The December 15, 2017 date is incorrect and should read December 15, 2016. The municipal election for at-large council members is April 4, 2017, nine months before the districts are to be divided, per the referendum question. In other words, the election is nine months before the district remap would take effect.

The group’s first attempt on August 4, 2014 failed when an objector challenged a sufficient number of signatures to invalidate that referendum petition. The question didn’t get on the ballot.

As for the group’s second attempt, no one filed objections and the deadline to do so was Monday, August 15. But the ballot question probably won’t make it this time either.

When Maria Aracelia Rosas Urbano, representative for the Concerned Citizens of Joliet, was contacted by The Times Weekly and asked about the confusion regarding the dates listed on the proposed referendum question, she replied via e-mail that she would be seeking legal advice.

Even without the conflict in dates, it would appear that the timeline for implementation of the change would be difficult to accomplish. The referendum question requires a 60-day period for public input on what would be the newly redrawn district map. That means any changes to a proposed district map would have to be done no later than October 14 of this year if the dates were correct. If revisions to the proposed map were necessary, the 60-day period would have to be extended, according Joliet City Attorney Marty Shanahan, who was referencing Illinois municipal statutes.

Also, Sept. 20, 2016 is the first day to begin circulating at-large council petitions for the April 4, 2017 municipal election. The first day to file those petitions is Dec. 12, 2016. That’s more than a year before the Dec. 15, 2017 date listed on the proposed referendum question.

Desiderio told me Monday of her plans to send the referendum question on to the Will County and Kendall County Clerks’ offices with a letter stating the conflicting dates probably make the ballot question invalid. Shanahan also confirmed that probability.

The group’s main reason for seeking a change in the districts and the way they are configured, they say, lies in a quest for better representation for all. That seems like a noble cause. Their efforts in seeking better representation for all are to be applauded.

Those efforts fall flat when due diligence is not taken. We’ll now have to wait for Glasgow’s office to make a ruling on the matter and let the chips fall where they may. If that happens, maybe a third time will be a charm?

Stay tuned…