Votes will now be counted for 'Bring Chicago Home' referendum on real estate transfer tax: court

ByLiz Nagy and ABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Thursday, March 7, 2024
Votes will now be counted for 'Bring Chicago Home' referendum: court
An appeals court judge ruled that votes the "Bring Chicago Home" referendum on the real estate transfer tax is valid and votes will be counted.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- An appellate court has reversed a lower court's ruling on the Bring Chicago Home referendum, and votes will now be counted.

In the ruling handed down Wednesday, an Illinois appeals court wrote, "Nothing in this decision is intended to suggest that we have any opinion one way or the other on the merits of the referendum at issue. That is a question wisely entrusted not to judges but to the people of the city of Chicago."

The court concluded the circuit court erred in its judgement, so it will be vacated and remanded with instructions to dismiss the complaint for want of jurisdiction, court documents say.

"This will stay on the ballot. We'll get results. If it's defeated, end of story. If it succeeds you go back to court and argue the merits of the question itself," said Burt Odelson, election and municipal attorney.

"The referendum that was proposed or is on the ballot now is one that violates the state constitution, at least we believe so," said Miguel Chacon, real estate broker and member of Neighborhood Building Owner's Alliance.

A lower court judge ruled the question on the ballot vague and unconstitutional late last month.

Last week, a formal ruling brought the fight over the referendum to a higher court.

Chacon was part of the lawsuit filed by real estate and development groups trying to block the referendum from the ballot.

READ MORE | Homeless advocates speak out in support of Bring Chicago Home referendum; attack ad critiques

"The question that was asked on the referendum was to lower the taxes on one group, increase it on a second, and then a third if it exceeds a certain value. You cannot pick and choose which one of those three you would be able to vote yes or no on," he said.

The appellate court ruling came down as Mayor Brandon Johnson was speaking to the media at a news conference on an unrelated subject.

"I've said all along that the people of Chicago should determine how we should address the unhoused crisis in Chicago," the mayor said in the moment, "and I made a commitment, not just as a candidate but as mayor of the city of Chicago, that I would do everything in my power to move us closer towards housing for all, because this has been a long time coming for the people of Chicago."

The Building Owners and Managers Association of Chicago released a statement on the decision, saying, "We are disappointed in the outcome of this case, but felt it was important to challenge this misleading and manipulative referendum question. This massive tax increase would hurt homeowners, renters, union workers, and businesses throughout the neighborhoods. Even worse, a yes vote on this referendum is a vote to deliver huge blank checks to the City with no plan for how millions will be accountably spent. We have already ramped up our efforts to educate the public about the negative impacts of this tax increase."

In a statement, Maxica Williams, chair of the End Homelessness Ballot Initiative Committee and board president of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, said:

"Our longstanding coalition of policy advocates, service providers, labor unions, and homeless and formerly homeless people commend the judges of the First District Appellate Court for dismissing the real estate lobby's effort to invalidate Ballot Question 1. We look forward to keeping up our efforts to reach hundreds of thousands of voters about their opportunity to vote yes for a fair and sustainable plan to fund housing, care for the homeless, and ask wealthy real estate corporations to pay their fair share."