Why voters approved Naperville/Lisle road consolidation, yet ousted supporters
Some called it ironic: Voters said "yes" the road services consolidation referendum question in Naperville and Lisle townships but unseated many of the leaders who pushed for it.
Such was the result of Tuesday's election, which drew 13.4 percent turnout in Naperville Township and 16.4 percent turnout in Lisle Township as roughly 55 percent of total voters asked for the two road districts to be merged, according to unofficial results from the DuPage County Election Commission.
But Naperville Township voters ousted four Republicans who supported it -- Supervisor Rachel Ossyra, Highway Commissioner Stan Wojtasiak, Clerk Barry Greenberg and Trustee Kerry Malm. Two of the four trustees did not run.
Lisle Township Supervisor Rick Tarulis, who raised questions about the consolidation effort, lost to Democrat Mary Jo Mullen, while Lisle Township Highway Commissioner Ed Young was unopposed and retained his seat.
Incoming Democratic leaders in Naperville Township, who wrested six out of eight seats from the typical Republican stronghold, chalk up the road consolidation's victory to the narrative of lower taxes presented as officials described the plan.
"Based on their crunching of the numbers, they said they were going to lower taxes," said Richard Novinger, a Democrat elected Tuesday to take over the Naperville Township highway commissioner seat from outgoing Republican Stan Wojtasiak. "Historically, Republicans favor smaller government and lower taxes, so they were able to successfully pass that message along."
The consolidation plan is estimated to save between $800,000 and $1.4 million a year on services such as snow plowing, street sweeping and collection of brush and leaves. Taxes are expected to decrease about $24 a year for Lisle Township residents and increase about $3 a year for Naperville Township residents once the merger is complete.
Republicans agree the property tax savings helped push the plan forward.
"It didn't surprise me to see that pass," Ossyra said about the measure, which she worked to place on the ballot along with Lisle Township resident and Naperville City Council member Kevin Coyne. "They're looking for those common-sense reforms that need to occur."
Democrats and Republicans also question whether the road district merger gained approval because of misinformed or uninformed voters.
"Maybe there was confusion," Democratic Naperville Township Supervisor-elect Eddie Bedford said. "Voters went into the booth with not a real good understanding of what this consolidation really, really means."
The referendum moved forward despite a lack of side-by-side comparisons of financials before and after road services would be combined, Bedford and re-elected Republican Naperville Township Trustee Paul Santucci said.
"I'm disappointed with the amount of knowledge that was put out about the referendum," Santucci said. "The idea of the full merger was never really discussed. All of a sudden it just appeared before the ballot was coming out."
Those who will be making the merger decisions, including Bedford and Novinger, say their first task is to understand how the four-year process toward consolidation will work. Bedford said it's vital to keep the process open and keep everyday residents involved.
"Let's not do things behind closed doors. That's one thing that a lot of people are turned off by with politics." Bedford said. "The last thing I want to do is put this in a vacuum and all of the sudden, 'Here's what it looks like.'"