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updated: 10/4/2012 8:50 PM

Petition pushes Geneva to let aldermen have liquor licenses

If you have one in Geneva, you can't run for alderman

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Some Geneva residents are petitioning the city council to officially vote on whether to let people who have liquor licenses also serve as aldermen.

The effort gained momentum Wednesday when the Geneva TaxFACTS group agreed to forward the petition request to its membership, and has taken a stand in favor of the idea.

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Paper petitions have been circulated, said Bob McQuillan, co-founder of TaxFACTS. An online petition at change.org was started nine days ago by a Jennifer Anderson.

The online petition states: "Please sign our online petition to ensure fair Geneva city government and the integrity of the city council. Background: Currently, businesspeople who own liquor licenses cannot run for city council in Geneva. This local ordinance excludes many talented and civic minded individuals, particularly those with business experience from running for city council. In fact, the Geneva City Council's committee of the whole, after studying the issue, has already voted 8-2 in favor of the ordinance change. That vote was on July 30, 2012. To date, this measure has not been put before the Geneva City Council for a formal vote.

"This amendment would allow Geneva's restaurant liquor licensees to hold public office as defined in the state of Illinois Statutes. In the interest of fair government and to ensure the integrity of the city council, we seek your support to bring this before the council for a vote."

State law was changed in 2009 to allow holders of liquor licenses to be aldermen if they live in a town of fewer than 50,000 people, and if the license is for an establishment whose primary purpose is the serving of food on the premises.

The city council, at an informal committee of the whole meeting July 30, did favor the idea 8-2 and directed the city administrator to return with a formal proposal.

In late August, Mayor Kevin Burns said he opposed the idea.

Burns could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

"It's up to the mayor's discretion to put that on the agenda," City Administrator Mary McKittrick said. She said he has been researching the matter, including surveying more than 70 other suburbs. That survey, she said, found that 80 percent of them don't allow the practice.

"My understanding is it will come up (before the council)," but no date has been set, she said.

The mayor approves all city council agendas.

The matter was brought forward by 1st Ward Alderman Sam Hill, who is leaving office at the end of his term in April. Michael Olesen, who owns Stockholm's Pub, ran against Hill for alderman four years ago and supports the proposed change, suggesting over the summer that he would run for the position again.

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