Is this the path to “small-town democracy still works as intended”?

The village board of suburban Round Lake recently voted against a proposal to annex property and create a year-round ski hill. One representative of local opponents described the outcome this way:

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“It is heartening that small-town democracy still works as intended,” Ashman added.

What happened in this process of “small-town democracy?

Opponents who had coalesced into a large, multifaceted grass-roots force were uncertain of the outcome until Trustee Mark Amann, who was appointed earlier in the meeting to fill a vacancy, ended the speculation…

The opposition group started with about a dozen residents a few months ago but grew with a united goal and different areas of expertise.

A Facebook group ballooned to 779 members, 120 yard signs were posted, hundreds of fliers were passed out in town and a website was created. Nearly 2,000 signatures in opposition were gathered on an online petition, and a blog chronicled the issue…

“I had to go with my conscience and my gut,” he said after the meeting. “The bottom line was he (applicant Dan Powell) didn’t have any skin in the game. We were at more risk than he was.”

This exemplifies why suburban Americans like local control and local government. In a smaller community (Round Lake has over 18,000 residents), the closer connection residents have to the local board or council. If residents do not like something, it is easier for them to make their voice heard. Here, residents took advantage of social media and websites plus utilized yard signs and fliers. Those opposed felt this was not in the best interest of their community. If elected officials do not do what residents want, it can be easier to remove them at the next election.

Whether such a process leads to the “right” outcomes is another question all together. Such a process also makes it easy for communities to resist affordable housing, development or changes that might be good for an entire region, or protect a particular character or set of resources.

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