Residents in Arlington Heights will not vote this November on whether their mayor and trustees should be bound by term limits -- after a petition asking for a referendum on the ballot was thrown out on Thursday.
All three members of the electoral board -- Mayor Tom Hayes, senior Trustee Bert Rosenberg, and Village Clerk Becky Hume -- voted to uphold objections filed by a resident to the term limits petition that had been signed by more than 2,700 registered voters in Arlington Heights.
This is the second time in two years that term limits has been denied a spot on the ballot. Bill Gnech also tried to get a term-limits initiative on the ballot in 2013, but the electoral board at the time upheld an objection, which criticized the poor wording of his referendum, which was not phrased as a question, among other issues.
His question this time read: "Shall the Village of Arlington Heights limit the number of terms of office for Village President and Village Trustee to no more than two consecutive four-year terms for each position?"
An objection was filed last Friday by Jim Constantine, who stated that the question, as presented, is "vague and ambiguous and unable to stand on its own without additional information being added to the public question and, thereby, causes extreme voter confusion."
At Thursday's hearing, Constantine was represented by Rosemont lawyer Thomas Bastian, who said that since the term limits question would be binding, it must be completely clear and not open to interpretation.
"The question posted by Mr. Gnech's petition has no effective date. It doesn't say if it's retroactive, it doesn't say if it commences immediately, it doesn't say it's prospective," Bastian said. "The voters don't know if it's effective today, tomorrow, next week or three consolidated elections down the road."
The effective date of term limits was included in an introductory paragraph on the top of Gnech's petition, but not in the question itself which would appear on the ballot.
Bastian said there could also be constitutional questions raised, because by the time the vote from the November election is certified in early December, candidates will already be circulating petitions for the April 2015 consolidated election.
The electoral board members agreed with the objections, but one member of the audience accused them of bias.
Hayes responded by saying the board has to weigh the evidence and rule based on the law.
"It's not a question of how you (Gnech) feel or how we feel about term limits," Hayes said. "It's about the law."
"The question at hand does not meet the criteria to be put on the ballot. It is vague," Rosenberg added.
If there had been no objections, the question would have gone directly on the ballot.
Gnech has not retained a lawyer either time he tried to get term limits on the ballot, but said he consulted with lawyers this time around.
"If you look at this petition and all the people who have signed it, there is nothing missing," Gnech said. "It's pretty obvious that the people of Arlington Heights want this on the ballot. Everyone that sees this knows exactly what it is. If someone doesn't like it, they can just vote 'no.'"
Gnech, who said he has spent countless hours at libraries, train stations, businesses and going door-to-door to get signatures on his petition was emotional defending his petitions at the hearing.
He said he will not circulate another term limits petition, but instead plans to run for village trustee in April 2015, and try to effect the change from inside village government.
"The board needs to put this to the people," Gnech said. "Maybe things would be different if I was sitting on the other side."