By Conor Brown, IAR GAD representing Heartland REALTOR® Organization and Howard Handler, IAR GAD representing Mainstreet Organization of REALTORS®.
With more than 7,000 units of local government – more than anyother state in the union – it is hard to argue that greater efficiencies can be found in Illinois. Many local units of government could probably be dissolved and their mission be undertaken by another agency. For instance, the Illinois Association of REALTORS® (IAR) supported legislation allowing a referendum to determine if Evanston Township in Cook County should be dissolved and its responsibilities transferred to the city of Evanston.
The legislation, importantly, gave the voters the power to determine the future of the township. On the other hand, Senate Bill 2696 proposed this legislative session, seeks to abolish the Fox Waterway Agency (FWA) without voter approval. This is extra-troubling because the agency was created by voter approval.
Many of the lakes, channels and the Fox River, managed by the FWA, are just three to fivefeet deep. Dredging the silt and removal of fallen trees and other debris by the FWA has kept the waterway navigable. Additionally, the FWA has and continues to address flooding issues. The Fox River and the Chain O’ Lakes are one of the busiest inland waterways in the country and generates an estimated $60 million in commerce each year – the economics of the FWA should not be ignored.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) – the agency that would take over this responsibility if the legislation were to pass – likely could not focus on this particular waterway nearly as well as the FWA, and in fact, indications are that the IDNR does not want the added responsibility. Ultimately, this is taking away local control and putting powers and responsibilities into an underfunded state agency that has no capability of providing an adequate level of service.
For those reasons, the Heartland REALTOR® Organization and Mainstreet Organization of REALTORS® (MORe) have formally opposed SB 2696. “We don’t oppose government consolidation, but we do oppose it without the informed consent of the community,” said Michael Lescher, a REALTOR® with RE/MAX Showcase and the MORe Lake County Government Affairs Committee chair.
“This isn’t a small little lake we’re talking about but rather a network of approximately 35 bodies of water and 45 miles of waterways that serve 3.5 million people annually, according to their website. This magnificent natural resource needs to be protected and maintained,” said Heartland’s CEO, Jim Haisler.