Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Why Unelected Bodies Shouldn't Raise Taxes

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    NEWSLETTERS

    This week, the Chicago Board of Education and the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority both got into our wallets. The Board of Ed raised property taxes 2.4 percent, and the Tollway Authority raised fares to as high as $1.90.

    Reader, I’m sure you had the same reaction that I did: let’s throw those bums out. The only problem with that is that we can’t throw the bums out. The best we can do is throw out the bums who put in the bums.

    That’s because the Board of Ed and the Tollway Authority are both unelected bodies. One is appointed by the mayor of Chicago, the other by the governor. Let me make a proposal to the General Assembly: it should henceforth be illegal for unelected bodies to raise taxes or fees.

    In Illinois, school boards have the authority to levy taxes. They were granted that authority because they’re elective bodies, directly accountable to the voters. In 1989, when the General Assembly took away the right of Chicagoans to elect a school board, it didn’t take away the school board’s right to tax Chicagoans. Let’s have it one way or the other. If the mayor appoints the school board, he should also have to sign off on any tax increases it passes. We need to have an elected official taking final responsibility.

    Same with the Tollway Authority. The GA has to approve all its road building plans. It should also have to approve toll increases. I wonder how many legislators from DuPage and Northwest Cook County would have voted “aye,” knowing that their constituents would be reminded of that vote every day on their commute to work? Fortunately, those legislators have an unelected body to shield them from voter discontent over a toll increase that benefits them by funding construction and patronage jobs in their districts. Nice, huh?

    If I can’t vote you out of office, you can’t raise my taxes or tolls. It should be as simple as that.

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