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First Black mayor? Not yet, says Cal City attorney

Friday, Mar 12, 2021

* Sarah Mansur at Capitol News Illinois

State Rep. Thaddeus Jones’ name was legally placed on a February primary ballot seeking the Democratic nomination for Calumet City mayor, according to an Illinois Supreme Court opinion released Thursday.

But it’s unclear whether the opinion authorizes the Calumet City Democrat to be sworn in as that city’s mayor if he wins the April 6 General Election and remains a state lawmaker, according to an attorney for the city. That’s still in question, because the residents of Calumet City passed a referendum in November prohibiting anyone who holds an office created by the state’s constitution from serving as mayor.

The Supreme Court was ruling on an issue of timing regarding the local referendum’s effective date, not on the legality of Jones holding both positions – state law allows members of the General Assembly to hold another elected office.

Jones filed his nomination papers for Calumet City mayor on Nov. 16. Nearly two weeks earlier, on Nov. 3, voters in Calumet City passed a local referendum that prohibited a person from seeking mayoral office “if, at the time for filing nomination papers, that person also holds an elected, paid office created by the Constitution of the State of Illinois.” […]

According to [Ross Secler, attorney for the city] it is possible that Calumet City, the Cook County State’s Attorney or the Illinois Attorney General could seek to enforce the newly passed referendum and prevent Jones from being seated as mayor.

Or, Secler said, it is possible that Jones will resign from his position as state representative.

Secler is an associate with Burt Odelson’s law firm.

The Illinois Supreme Court opinion is here.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

20 Comments
  1. - Frank talks - Friday, Mar 12, 21 @ 9:22 am:

    I can’t even imagine how much money Burt Odelson is making off Cal City with all legal jumps he’s doing to try to keep Jones from being mayor. Be an interesting FOIA to get his billing records for the City.


  2. - Les Nessman - Friday, Mar 12, 21 @ 9:27 am:

    If I was about to lose my white whale of a client I to would continue grandstanding and postering to make sure Michelle stays Mayor for life.


  3. - Sideline Watcher - Friday, Mar 12, 21 @ 10:01 am:

    State law allows it. A local city referendum now trumps state law? Why is this even a question? What am I missing?


  4. - Precinct Captain - Friday, Mar 12, 21 @ 10:02 am:

    - Sideline Watcher - Friday, Mar 12, 21 @ 10:01 am:

    The second word in the headline.


  5. - Bridgeport Bob - Friday, Mar 12, 21 @ 10:15 am:

    Local communities are allowed to set their own qualifications for their local offices via referendum.


  6. - Homebody - Friday, Mar 12, 21 @ 10:19 am:

    @Sidelinewatcher:

    Just because a state law permits something, doesn’t mean a town can’t choose to forbid it. Towns can establish their own rules of governance, generally speaking. Smaller units of government can generally be more strict than the ones above them, they just can’t legalize something that the state has banned.


  7. - Candy Dogood - Friday, Mar 12, 21 @ 10:53 am:

    For the commenters that do not seem to be catching the drift of the crux of the issue, while state law allows such a referendum, federal law does not allow such a referendum to be created if the intent is to specifically prevent Blacks from being in elected office. There are numerous examples from history, including within the State of Illinois where local ordinances regarding elections were used to specifically prevent black people from being able to hold elected office. A common tactic employed in this effort is having all elections for council members or board members be “at large” instead of by a specific district which would make it difficult for a person of color to win because other racist practices resulted in people of color being forced to live in specific areas.

    Now, of course, the question here is was the intent of the referendum to specifically prevent a black person from serving as mayor?

    You could say no — but it does seem like a pretty unusual referendum to pass and it does seem to fit with a certain technique employed historically — or it could have been to prevent competition from people holding state elected office regardless of who they are, so anyone is free to make up their mind here.

    I’d put my money on this referendum and the threat of enforcement having a racial motive, but that’s only because I’m letting history inform my world view.


  8. - Levois J - Friday, Mar 12, 21 @ 10:58 am:

    I’m a bit confused people seemed to already be congratulation him on being elected and yet the election hasn’t yet happened?


  9. - Bored Chairman - Friday, Mar 12, 21 @ 11:14 am:

    Candy, I would agree in general, but Cal City is majority Black. The voters there approved the referendum item prohibiting double dipping.


  10. - the Edge - Friday, Mar 12, 21 @ 11:20 am:

    Cal City appears to be home rule municipality and as with the transportation lock box question, have certain abilities to circumvent State laws.


  11. - Red Ketcher - Friday, Mar 12, 21 @ 11:25 am:

    Candy Dogood = On Target


  12. - High Socks - Friday, Mar 12, 21 @ 11:50 am:

    Levois J - you are indeed confused


  13. - High Socks - Friday, Mar 12, 21 @ 11:52 am:

    Kim Foxx ain’t touching this, Kwame Raoul ain’t touching this. So it really depends on how Cal City can “enforce” the measure. They can’t make him resign from the GA and they can’t pretend the election Jones won didn’t happen legally.


  14. - Just Another Anon - Friday, Mar 12, 21 @ 12:13 pm:

    @Candy

    Let me get this straight. Your “worldview” supports an opinion that a majority black communities’ passage of a referendum which prohibits dual officeholding is ….prejudiced….against black people? To be clear, its your position that black people are being impermissibly discriminated against by….*check notes* the 25,000 black residents. Sounds like your worldview needs new prescription lenses.


  15. - Just Another Anon - Friday, Mar 12, 21 @ 12:16 pm:

    @ High Socks

    >They can’t make him resign from the GA.

    Actually, if an officeholder takes an incompatible office, they, by operation of law, resign their prior office. The mechanism would be a quo warranto suit challenging either his ability to validly accept the office of mayor, or arguing that a vacancy in his GA seat was created by his acceptance of a conflicting office. Happens from time to time.


  16. - High Socks - Friday, Mar 12, 21 @ 12:28 pm:

    Just Another Anon…from Odelson Sterk LLC


  17. - Roman - Friday, Mar 12, 21 @ 12:56 pm:

    @Candy

    If an all white city council passed an ordinance banning the practice and some of the members mentioned they were doing it to block Jones, then maybe there’s some sort of angle for a federal voting rights complaint. But because it was done by referendum by a majority black electorate, I think you’re barking up the wrong tree.


  18. - Occupying the Field - Friday, Mar 12, 21 @ 2:22 pm:

    The State law sets forth the framework regarding a state office. The referendum sets forth the framework regarding a local office. The two are not the same thing. I predict that he will not be able to hold both offices.

    I hope there is no racial motive. Putting that aside, I think there is a sound policy rationale for not allowing someone to occupy both offices. If he wants to be mayor, go be mayor.


  19. - Candy Dogood - Friday, Mar 12, 21 @ 2:39 pm:

    ===Candy, I would agree in general, but Cal City is majority Black.===

    This does not immunize it’s city government from creating laws that have an impact that is racist and our case law reviews the impact in addition to the intent.

    ===But because it was done by referendum by a majority black electorate, I think you’re barking up the wrong tree.===

    I want my opinion to be wrong too. In my experience efforts to restrict ballot access are not motivated by the better angels of our nature and since I have eliminated the angels that leaves me to pick among the possible demons that could motivate such an effort.

    Others are welcome to pick different demons, and even try to dress their demon up as an angel.

    The source of the rule in question being a referendum is unfortunate, but not every referendum that passes exemplifies the best policies or the best democratic ideals — even if it was done democratically.


  20. - Candy Dogood - Friday, Mar 12, 21 @ 2:51 pm:

    ===its your position that black people are being impermissibly discriminated against by===

    Okay — what’s your explanation for the purpose of the rule? Rep. Jones served on the city council for several years while also being a State Representative.

    I am happy to be wrong, but if you’re going to insist I’m reading an optotype wrong, I think I’m owed the correct reading.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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