Today, the Save Our Wards Coalition held a press conference regarding the referendum up for a vote on this Tuesday April 4th. The Coalition stands in opposition to the referendum and urges residents to vote no. They maintain that a yes vote would waste taxpayer resources, abolish ward representation and disenfranchise Black and Brown communities in Waukegan. Their reasons for opposing the ballot measure are exactly right.

The Save Our Wards Coalition is chaired by Dr. Eleanor Murkey, who has long been dedicated to Waukegan and ensuring that all people are treated with fairness, justice and equality. Seeing the threat posed by the ballot measure, Eleanor became active in the recently formed Save Our Wards Coalition to work towards organizing the community.

Today’s speakers included Dr. Murkey, Pastor Robert Brown, Pastor Julie Contreras, Pastor Mark McCorley and Lake County Democratic Party Chair Lauren Beth Gash. All of the speakers stood together with members of the community from each of Waukegan’s current nine wards urging residents to vote no.

On their ballots, voters will be asked yes or no to the question, “shall the City of Waukegan adopt a managerial form of government?”

This would mean the adoption of a city manager. This new position would cost taxpayers at least $250,000 annually for the new hire’s salary and at least $100,000 annually for support staff. Waukegan already has a mayor who is tasked with the responsibilities the city manager would perform.

The measure if passed would also immediately abolish the ward system of representation. This would disenfranchise Black and Brown communities within Waukegan.

As it stands, there are nine wards in Waukegan. If the ballot measure were to pass and the city convert to an at-large system, aldermanic candidates would have to run city wide and the costs to run for the office would increase at least nine-fold. Only people with substantial financial resources would be able to run for office. This would mean only wealthier people could successfully run for the office.

Combined with the only people serving on city council being those with greater financial resources, it would concentrate power in those areas of the city at the expense of the areas where people have to work for a living. Such a new city council would no longer have the interests of all of the people in mind. This is clearly disenfranchising people of color, which is most of Waukegan.

The Save Our Wards Coalition today offered a solid set of reasons for voters to reject this improper ballot measure on Tuesday, April 4th. We agree and hope the voters turn out against this ill-conceived ballot measure and protect equal rights and reject discrimination.