DuPage voters send 'overwhelming mandate' for government consolidation

 
 
Updated 11/9/2016 5:40 PM
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  • Voters in the city of Naperville and Naperville Township said they support a proposed deal by which the city of Naperville could take over maintenance of 16 miles of unincorporated township roads.

      Voters in the city of Naperville and Naperville Township said they support a proposed deal by which the city of Naperville could take over maintenance of 16 miles of unincorporated township roads. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer March 2013

In seven DuPage County townships and one city on Election Day, voters sent a signal that they favor government consolidation.

Their answers to ballot questions about road services, mosquito abatement and township government transmitted the message, which leaders say they got from "overwhelming" voter support of governments combining when appropriate.

"They expect us to collaborate on their behalf and work together," Naperville Township Supervisor Rachel Ossyra said.

The consolidation-related questions all were nonbinding, meaning the results can advise elected officials, but no immediate action is required.

But the results in Tuesday's unofficial totals were strong, Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico said. The closest among the votes -- whether city of Naperville residents want township governments abolished if another unit of government can provide their services for less -- showed 78 percent support.

Chirico said the results could pave the way for future actions to make some consolidation moves, such as eliminating layers of government by referendum. State lawmakers could give municipalities permission to hold a binding referendum on township elimination, for example.

"With such an overwhelming mandate," Chirico said, "hopefully that will give our legislators the comfort they need to go out there and do the difficult work in Springfield."

Voters answering other consolidation questions showed even stronger support.

For an idea that could replace the county's roughly 40 mosquito abatement contracts with nine deals handled by the nine townships, the percentage of "yes" votes ranged from 88 percent in Bloomingdale Township in to 91 percent in Lisle Township. Voters in Addison, Downers Grove, Winfield and York townships also weighed in.

And for a road services agreement that could hand over maintenance of unincorporated Naperville Township roads to the city of Naperville, 88.7 percent of voters said the deal should be done.

"It should be a clear signal to the next highway commissioner that we need to change the way we think," Chirico said.

But Naperville Township Highway Commissioner Stan Wojtasiak said the strong showing of support for the agreement reflects more on the wording of the ballot question. He said it effectively asked if voters want to pay less in taxes, while assuming the deal would help lead to a lower levy. He disputes the savings the contract could provide and says the results of Tuesday's referendum don't mean much.

"They could have put in 'Do you like puppies?' and it would have went over the same way," Wojtasiak said. "It's strictly advisory. It really has no teeth."

Still, the results in favor of consolidation have captured the attention of some who say it's the continuation of a statewide push to eliminate unnecessary layers.

"Elected officials at all levels need to pay attention to these results," Ossyra said, "and find ways to modernize, streamline and simplify local government to create value for the taxpayers and citizens."

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