Sign inside Wood River City Hall
With a little help from city officials, and in spite of protest over that help, voters in Wood River have passed a 1 percent sales tax increase by a margin of 54 to 46 percent.
The vote was 560 "Yes" to 481 "No."
Ahead of the election, opponents of the referendum had challenged city officials' decision to place signs favoring the referendum on city-owned property and inside City Hall. A court battle ensued on whether the city violated its own ordinance which forbids political signs on city property, and whether the city's demonstration of support constituted election interference under state law.
On Monday, Associate Judge Clarence Harrison declined to order the city to remove the signs, concluding that if opponents of the signs wanted a remedy they could vote the public officials responsible out of office.
Last week, city manager Jim Schneider insisted that the Illinois State Board of Elections indicated that its actions on the sign were legal.
However, a spokesperson for that board, Matt Dietrich, indicated that if a municipality paid for signs or used its workers to place them, that would be considered election interfering. He said that is not allowed under state law, and any violation would have to be dealt with by the State's Attorney.
Schneider also had indicated the city would not allow vote "No" signs on its property.
"This is the for the betterment of the city," Schneider said in a previous interview with the Record. "A lot of people are missing the point, [and are] worried about signs but we are worried about the community, trying to better the community."
Wood River resident and Madison County treasurer Chris Slusser, who opposed the referendum and the city's decision to allow political signs on city property, was highly critical of the city's actions.
"This is something you see in Third World countries, where the state rules and the opposition has no say," Slusser said last week.