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updated: 8/17/2014 5:36 PM

No term limits in Arlington Heights' near future

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  • Arlington Heights Mayor Thomas Hayes

      Arlington Heights Mayor Thomas Hayes

 
 

With a referendum on term limits off the November ballot, the idea may be dead in Arlington Heights for the foreseeable future.

Last week, the village's electoral board for the second time in two years threw out a petition asking that voters decide the term-limit question.

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Mayor Tom Hayes said it is not likely the village board will take up the issue anytime soon.

Resident Bill Gnech has been behind that last two referendum efforts, collecting thousands of signatures in the village asking for voters to have a say on whether elected officials should serve at most two consecutive four-year terms.

Both times, his petitions were thrown out after objections were raised regarding the way the question was worded. Gnech didn't have a lawyer either time and struggled to navigate the particulars of Illinois electoral code.

"You guys just make it too hard to do this," he told officials during Thursday's electoral board hearing.

Gnech said he won't try again, but instead will run for village board and try to make a difference from the other side of the dais.

A resident-backed petition isn't the only way to get a term limits referendum on the ballot. The village board could also pass an ordinance to allow a binding public question to be placed on the ballot.

The deadline to get a referendum on the November election is Monday, so it won't be happening this time around, officials said.

The next possible chance would be during the April 2015 consolidated municipal election, but even then, Hayes said it's unlikely.

"I'm just not sensing a great community outcry to institute term limits in Arlington Heights at this point," he said.

Hayes, who was a trustee for 20 years before being elected village president in 2013, has said he does not support term limits, but would listen to what residents want. He and the other trustees have not received much feedback either way, he said.

"There's a minority that appears to be interested in it," Hayes said, noting that Gnech's petitions contained less than 3,000 signatures in a town of more than 30,000 registered voters. "But, from my perspective as a representative of the people, they are satisfied with the job that their elected representatives are doing and the form of government they have."

That idea is different from what happened in Naperville in 2010. A resident-backed petition for term limits failed to get the necessary number of signatures. In response, the city council put a term limits question on the ballot itself, where it was approved with more than 70 percent of the vote.

However, the Naperville term limits are more generous than most, with elected officials getting three consecutive terms before they have to step aside.

Term limits are still rare in the Northwest suburbs. Only Rolling Meadows and Des Plaines have them.

"The theory is that terms are decided by voters, so if voters are not enamored with the work of their public officials, they can impose their own term limits at election time," said Mark Fowler, executive director of Northwest Municipal Conference.

Gnech said that although he won't be circulating another term limits petition, that doesn't mean other residents can't pick up the fight where he left off.

Either way, the issue probably won't come from the village though.

"We have a very informed electorate," Hayes said. "They can rely on their own judgment as far as who their representatives should be."

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