Chicago suburb that may want to dissolve itself

Many suburbanites like that local communities protect them from other entities but what if suburban residents want to get rid of their own municipality?

Prospect Heights is a unique suburb — a bedroom community of 16,000 residents, many of whom have homes on lots larger than those in neighboring towns. There’s no overall property tax or major retail shopping centers, and some entities — such as Indian Trails Library and Chicago Executive Airport — are already shared with other towns.

But Prospect Heights is independent and proud of it. Parts of it still get water from wells rather than Lake Michigan. Residents have rejected — many times — petitions to become a home-rule community, which, among other things, would permit city leaders to collect sales taxes — and maybe even property taxes — and develop a reliable stream of revenue with which to run the city…

Comparatively, The Initiative is draconian. It calls for Prospect Heights to be broken up and merged into the bordering towns of Arlington Heights, Mount Prospect, Wheeling and Northbrook — or, if all those towns don’t get on board, to essentially merge Prospect Heights with just one neighbor, Wheeling…

Theoretically, though, even without city leadership on board, a bill currently in the rules committee of the Illinois House would make it possible for residents to lead an effort to dissolve their own town or any other government.

It sounds like this could turn into a fascinating battle between residents who don’t want the local government and local officials who want to keep it. Would cost savings or local control and loyalty win out? In the long run, which direction better serves the residents? It is not a wealthy community; Census figures show a median household income around $62,000 and the community is 30% Latino.

Thinking more broadly, I would think it is rare in recent decades to find cases where suburbanites are willing to give up on the community they chose and be absorbed into other communities.

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