I am an Elmhurst resident who previously served nine years on our City Council before becoming a County Coard member, where I am currently serving my second term. Having served these two elected offices, but not at the same time, I would like to share with you my reasons why the residents of Elmhurst need to pass the Nov. 6 referendum forbidding holding two elected offices at the same time.
Although Mayor DiCianni’s insistence on attempting to hold two elected offices at the same time triggered the need to consider this referendum, it is not about him. This referendum is about the qualifications for Elmhurst office holders we want now and far into the future.
Good communities set good qualifications for who is eligible to be our elected officials. Current qualifications include petition requirements, residency requirements and the fact we elect our City Council members by ward neighborhoods instead of citywide. After all we don't want our officials to reside outside our community and we don't want candidates on the ballot who don't have the organizational skills to accurately complete a simple ballot petition. Let’s add one more reasonable qualification by passing this referendum and requiring Elmhurst elected officials to hold no more than one elected position at the same time.
Simply put, holding more than one elected position at the same time will divide a person’s loyalties and energy by creating conflicts of interests and time constraints.
As an example: If you were that dual office holder, which voting "hat" would you wear when you are voting on an issue that effects a particular area? For instance, who should get transportation projects or stormwater projects or distribution of scarce health and human resource funding from the county or state? As an Elmhurst elected official your duty to your constituents are to vote for projects and money disbursements based on what’s best for Elmhurst. But if you are also a County Board member, state rep or township official, your duty to those same constituents is to determine what is best for the region.
The problem: You end up serving two masters by serving two political offices at the same time. This puts even fair-minded people in a position where it becomes very tempting to make unfair choices.
A good county board member, state rep or township trustee should seek the view of city officials without being one. In fact, I am more effective if I am not a part of a local government, because I am not held responsible for policy or financial problems within a particular city government. But if I’m also a city elected official at the same time I’m a regional elected official, I could use my dual position to find money for city projects that could have been used better for the region while at the same time disguising inefficiencies I have within my city government.
No person—much less an elected official—can sit on both sides of a bargaining table. The conflicts that dual office holding creates is not a path to the good government that we should be striving for.
Furthermore, the public interest is not served when elected officials double up on the perks, pay and pensions that can come with serving in a dual capacity.
Regarding time constraints, someone serving on the city council and another elected office at the same time is engaged in government and politics full time or very nearly so. If not, they should be because a truly interested elected official owes it to the community to treat that position as a part time job or more. It is not realistic or fair to the residents to think when you are serving two elected positions at the same time you have time to raise a family, work a full time job, run for and serve as an elected official in Elmhurst and then decide to run for and serve as yet another elected official at the same time. One of those groups will get short shrift because the time constraints inherent in such an ordeal will leave the elected official distracted. And if it's a choice between family, business or constituents, the constituents will ultimately lose out.
Whenever a community has a chance to remove additional conflicts of interests and time constraints from their elected officials, we must do so. If this referendum is successful, the residents of Elmhurst can be that much more confident that all of us are electing faithful, impartial and efficient city council members as well as those at the township, county and state levels. Let’s set an example so obvious that even Springfield will stop trying to adjust current state law that will guarantee the ability to hold dual offices.
—Paul Fichtner, DuPage County Board District 1