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Home Rule, a Time Whose Come

Recently I joked with a friend that Bush will make a Republican out of me yet. We both laughed because we tend to lean socialist on many issues. What I was getting at was the Republican myth of local control. With an Iraq War gone a muck, the disastrous No Child Left Behind, and loss of civil liberties, real home rule is something I could hang my hat on.

When Madison passed its living wage law, you didn’t see many Republicans living up to or defending local control. Most supported the Democrats in overturning a local living wage law and replacing it with a watered down state law. The state has been less successful in overturning Madison’s smoking ordinance. If Madison had home rule the state’s ability to overturn the living wage and non smoking ordinances would be greatly reduced.

Since the 1970’s Illinois has had a version of home rule. The main function of this version is preserving community character, financial flexability, and reducing state mandates. I have no idea how this works in Illinois but this triad of home rule sounds like a perfect fit for Madison.

Waxing America refers to Mayor Dave calling the AT&T boxes graffiti magnets. Under current law, Madison can limit, deny, or regulate these boxes through the franchise agreement. If the recentralization bill passes, Madison would lose this important right of local control. It is not only these boxes but a host of other issues including inclusionary zoning. Madison was not able to enforce its inclusionary zoning laws on rental units because of state laws.

The truth of the matter is Democrats and Republicans have always disliked home rule. A little less than 100 years ago Socialists championed home rule and this is what their platform had to say.

The Social-Democratic party has kept up its fight for home rule for Milwaukee. The bills which we presented to the legislature to empower us to establish municipal plumbing and loan departments, also municipal lodging, ice and slaughter houses, were killed by the combined opposition of the Republicans and Democrats. But our fight for them will be continued until successful.

Our common council also presented to the state legislature a constitutional amendment providing home rule for cities. This was passed in a modified form. The next legislature and the people must endorse it before it becomes effective. The state legislature also passed a law granting limited authority to the people of this city to amend its charter. This law, being of doubtful validity, will soon be passed upon by the supreme court.

As soon as our home rule rights are clearly established we shall proceed to secure such changes in our charter as are necessary to enable the city government to carry out the local demands of this platform.

Here is what the Four Lakes Green Party had to say about home rule in 2006.

1. We will use every means at our disposal to challenge as unconstitutional and anti-democratic attempts by the state and federal governments to preempt and prevent local people from making the economic decisions – such as municipal minimum wage laws and community cable utilities – that matter most to them.2. We will work to expand the principle of Home Rule to include limited forms of sovereignty for municipal, town, and county governments.

3. We will establish firmly as a matter of local law that constitutional rights belong to natural persons, not corporations.