Sure as perennials have sprouted around us, the debate about slots at Arlington Park is in full bloom again. A proposal before the legislature has the potential to bring hundreds of video gambling machines to the Arlington Heights racetrack and others in Illinois. The measure would allow the state to stomp on Arlington Heights' home-rule authority and haul in slot machines right under village leaders' noses.
It's an affront to local control and would set a disturbing precedent.
The proposal pre-empts Arlington Heights' home-rule authority on regulating and licensing electronic gambling. We believe such action ignores the intention of the 1970 constitutional change granting home-rule powers to certain cities and villages.
Home rule enables communities to find local solutions to local problems - issues that affect development, property values and community character, to name a few.
Twice in the past 20 years Arlington Heights has passed resolutions asserting local control. Village President Arlene Mulder told reporter Deborah Donovan this week "the village board supports absolute local control. ... Local government is close to the people. Most of us feel it should be based on each community. It depends on how it fits in the community and how it's being proposed."
In addition, trustees in 1997 went on record opposing slots at the track. Since then much has changed in the state and the racing industry, and new public hearings could offer more up-to-date guidance to leaders.
It was inevitable lawmakers would come up with another racetrack slot proposal. Illinois' new capital plan is likely to run short of funding after dozens of towns opted against video gambling. The pressure was on.
As a result, some want to add up to 2,100 video gambling positions at racetracks while shutting local governments out of the process.
We urge Republican state Reps. Mark Beaubien of Barrington Hills, JoAnn Osmond of Antioch and Suzie Bassi of Palatine, all co-sponsors of the measure, to reconsider and make sure Arlington Heights has the final say This decision on gambling expansion belongs to the citizens it affects most. We also encourage lawmakers whose districts include Arlington Heights - Republican state Sens. Dan Duffy and Matt Murphy, Democrat state Sen. Dan Kotowski, and state Rep. Mark Walker, a Democrat, and GOP state Reps. Ed Sullivan and Sidney Mathias - to show more leadership to protect local control.
Village officials also must stand up to this browbeating and reopen the community debate.
As the track begins another season today, residents will be reminded that horse racing is a large part of Arlington Heights' character. Together, the public and the village's leaders should decide whether slots also will be.