Groups differ on outside influence of Homewood referendum

Home rule supporters in Homewood decried the “outside influences” they say affected the referendum proposal after village residents rejected it in the March 20 election. Groups lobbying residents to vote against the measure disagree.
 
The referendum failed with about seven in 10 voters casting ballots against home rule. A similar margin was against home rule during a 2004 referendum, as well.
 
Steve Buchtel, the chair for Homewood Citizens for Home Rule, specifically called out the Illinois Realtors on election night.
 
“We felt that volunteer hours would beat realtor dollars in this race,” Buchtel said. “All we had was shoe leather and energy. We were literally on a shoestring budget.”
 
Tom Joseph is a governmental affairs director for Illinois Realtors and the south suburban-based Mainstreet Organization of Realtors. He said Illinois Realtors took offense to the outsider comments. His organization represents residents, landlords and business owners within Homewood, he said.
 
Joseph also cited the work done by Vote No Home Rule for Homewood, which was made up of village residents.
 
“I categorize (the outsider comments) as just sour grapes, kind of,” Joseph said. “It’s a total misstatement. I think it was irresponsible.” 
 
The realtors groups opposed home rule in Homewood in part because they believed, had the referendum passed, the rental inspections and crime-free housing program the village was considering would lead to point-of sale inspections. Illinois Realtors argues that point-of-sale inspections add fees and delays to projects.
 
“Our experience is that they start with (the crime-free ordinance) and then they move to the point-of-sale,” Joseph said. “Mayor (Richard) Hofeld was on record saying he didn’t want to do point-of-sale but we’ve seen that before. In a year or two, the board changes or maybe Mayor Hofeld retires, another trustee starts talking to the fire chief or the inspector and they start a point-of-sale inspection.”
 
Homewood officials  first raised the idea of home rule last fall, arguing that increased rental inspections would lead to rising property values. Fire Chief Bob Grabowski, who also heads the building department, said about 25 percent of single-family rentals in Homewood are cited for violations versus only 5 percent of owner-occupied homes.
 
“We can only cite violations that we see from the street (without home rule), so we’re not able to get inside to do rental inspections even though there’s some issues,” Grabowski said in October. “It’s a battle. It’s something that, as I said, we’d probably do more if we had the ability to do more.”
 
The Illinois Realtors Association spent approximately $15,000 to $18,000 on five mailings, robocalls and other efforts in Homewood, Joseph said. The organization also spent around $7,500 on a Flossmoor sales tax referendum, he said. The group supported the Flossmoor proposal, which was approved by voters.
 
“We honor state law and follow it,” Joseph said. “I think it was a good referendum campaign that was put forward and obviously the people agreed with us.”
Homewood Village Manager Jim Marino said the village spent $648.21 in its efforts to educate the public about home rule. That included information on the village website, a packet distributed at board meetings and public informational sessions and emails. 
 
Joseph said his organization never tried to hide their origins and put the Tinley Park address of local office on the mailings in compliance with state law. 
“Realtors are not outsiders,” he said. “Realtors are one of the few professional trade groups that are engaged in every community. We’ve got realtors that live in every precinct, in every village, in every town district, state and house district, congressional district. We’re expansive. We’re not narrow, not limited.”
 

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