No referendum on Batavia home rule

Updated 1/13/2017 6:06 PM

Batavians won't get to decide this spring whether the city should retain its home-rule authority.

The city's electoral board Friday ruled the people who petitioned for such a referendum did not get enough signatures.


And the board's chairman, Alderman Alan Wolff, criticized Batavians for Responsible Government for submitting the petition while knowing it was short a couple of hundred signatures.

"I think that is a very irresponsible thing to do," Wolff said, noting the objection hearing took people's time and taxpayers' money to conduct. Expenses included having a court reporter attend.

Former city administrator Bill McGrath and his wife, Donetta, officially objected to the petition.

McGrath said the petitions needed 764 good signatures to be on the April 4 ballot. That number is equal to 8 percent of the number of Batavia residents who voted in the last gubernatorial election, as required by state election law.

The Batavians for Responsible Government collected 381 signatures.

McGrath also argued that several pages of signatures should be disqualified on technical grounds, and three signatures should be deemed invalid because the people didn't live in Batavia.

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He did acknowledge, however, that figuring out how many signatures were needed was not an easy task.

"I will say I was stunned that the county did not have it (the list of Batavians who voted in the 2014 governor's race) at its fingertips," he said. It took the Kane County clerk's office two tries to get a complete list to him.

Group co-founder Sylvia Keppel asked the board to overrule the objection, based on the difficulty in getting exact numbers from the county. She said candidates have gotten on ballot in Illinois without having all the required signatures, because no one challenged them.

"In terms of ballot access, it's not over until the electoral board rules," Keppel said.

Carl Dinwiddie, a member of the group, said the group could not solicit on private shopping-center properties and was, for a few days, prohibited from standing outside near the doors of the Batavia Library.

"Next time, we will get them," he said.

Keppel can appeal the decision in Kane County Circuit Court.

Batavia attained home-rule status in 2009 when its population grew past 25,000. With home rule, municipalities have more taxing and governing powers.

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