Pro-Pot Ballot Questions On Town Meeting Agendas In C-U

Notice and Agenda for the Cunningham Township annual town meeting in Urbana.

Notice and agenda for the Cunningham Township annual town meeting, posted at the Cunningham Township Offices in Urbana.

Jim Meadows/Illinois Public Media

Proposals to place advisory referenda calling for the legalization of marijuana statewide are on the agenda at annual town meetings in Champaign and Urbana --- two of the 1,431 such meetings being held across Illinois on Tuesday evening.

State law requires the meetings, which allow registered voters in each township to vote directly on township matters.

In regions like New England, such town meetings may be attended by hundreds of people. But the town meetings in Illinois usually attract just handfuls of voters, and the agenda is often routine.

In some townships, interest groups often use the town meetings to place advisory referenda on upcoming election ballots reflecting topics important to them. That is frequently the case in the annual town meetings for Champaign and Urbana. In past years, advocates have used the meetings to get advisory referenda on the ballot for issues ranging from township relief benefits to the war in Iraq.

This year, town meeting agendas in the City of Champaign Township, and Cunningham Township in Urbana include proposals to put an advisory referendum on the November ballot asking voters if the state of Illinois should “legalize and regulate the sale and use of marijuana in a similar fashion as the State of Colorado”.

In Urbana, the Cunningham Township annual meeting begins at 6 PM at the Urbana City Council Chamber. The City of Champaign Township holds its annual meeting at 7 PM at the Champaign City Council Chamber.

But more town meetings have agendas like the one in Decatur Township. The major items on that meeting’s agenda are the town clerk’s presentation of the township supervisor’s financial report, and a resolution for an audit of accounts.

The Decatur Township annual meeting takes place Tuesday evening at 6 PM, in the County Board Meeting Room, in the Macon County Office Building, 141 S. Main Street in Decatur.

The proliferation of advisory referenda proposals --- often introduced from the floor of the town meeting as a last-minute addition to the agenda --- led to passage of a state law in 2008 barring the public from proposing such motions without advance notice. The law has limited the element of surprise that backers of the referenda depended on, but hasn’t eliminated the proposals entirely.

Township governments exist in all but 17 of Illinois’ 102 counties. Townships are governed by an elected board, and by voters in the annual town meeting. In rural areas, townships are responsible for local roads and drainage issues. In Monticello Township, the responsibilities include a local cemetery.

Such duties often do not exist in more urbanized townships. But those townships are still responsible for local property assessment and for the administration of certain types of welfare benefits.

In many urbanized townships, the borders may be contiguous with a city, and the city council also serves as the town board. That is the case in Champaign and Urbana, as well as other larger cities in Illinois --- except for Chicago, which has no townships.

Story source: WILL