Chicago suburbs divided over governor’s stay-at-home order

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Northwest Municipal Conference takes issue with governor’s stay-at-home order

Some suburbs have asked the governor to be spun off from Chicago in his Restore Illinois plan.

The Northwest Municipal Conference has been around since 1958. In all of the years, members hardly disagree.

But on the issue of the Restore Illinois plan, they are pretty divided.

Cities in DuPage, Kane and parts of Lake County want to do their own thing.

“What we’re looking to do is have some tweaking going on a little bit,” said Schaumburg Mayor Tom Dailly.

In a letter sent to Governor Pritzker, 20 suburban cities are asking for different rules than the ones the governor laid out in his plan.

Lumping us in with, and no offense to Chicago but lumping us in with such a large, densely populated community, or area in this case, is really hurting Schaumburg businesses and residents,” the mayor said.

They are asking Gov. Pritzker to rezone the regions in his plan to mimic the emergency medical services regions based on hospitals, which means carving out parts of Cook County.

“We can’t stay home forever,” Dailly said. “We’ve got to get going here.”

They also want to be able to open up their restaurants and retails stores in Phase 3, instead of waiting until Phase 4.

But not all suburbs think it’s smart.

Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering disagrees with her colleagues in the conference.

Leaders in North Shore suburbs like Evanston, Wilmette, Libertyville and Lake Bluff tend to agree.

“We need to do this in a thoughtful way. It can’t be people just stomping their feet and demanding – that’s not how viruses work,” she said.

Rotering said it’s not reasonable to think people will stay inside their on micro regions when things open up.

“If we’re doing it in this haphazard fashion that some people are following, the science, others are following public demands, we’re only going to create confusion and in the end, we’re not going to help anybody,” she said.

Dailly said it’s not about politics or pandering to public emotion. It’s just a reasonable request and he thinks Gov. Pritzker will listen.

“I’m actually pretty hopeful,” he said. “I think he will, he’s a smart guy, he’s no dummy.”

Read both letters below.

Dear Governor Pritzker:

The forty-three members of the Northwest Municipal Conference strongly share your goal of reopening the State of Illinois in a safe, efficient and timely manner. To that end, thank you for issuing the Restore Illinois plan and its roadmap to achieve that goal.

We are eager to partner with you and your administration on the specifics of how we can work together as communities at the sub-regional level to help safely facilitate reopening of the Illinois economy. Our membership has reviewed the plan and a majority of members respectfully request consideration of the following modifications in order to help us shore up our local economies and provide for the needs of our residents and business communities:

1. We agree that the State should be divided into smaller geographic areas to facilitate local openings. However, combining nine unique counties into a single Northeast Health Region we believe will make it more difficult for the entire NE region to fully reopen. We recommend dividing this larger region into smaller sub-regions following the boundaries of the 11 Emergency Medical Services Regions, which have traditionally guided statewide public health efforts. This prudent approach will allow our communities to ensure greater accountability and maintenance of safe operations within those sub-regions.

2. We urge you to work with the Illinois Department of Public Health, the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and the General Assembly to develop specific protocols (including pre-opening preparations, operational restrictions and reasonable guidelines and controls) in order to safely phase in the opening of restaurants, bars and other businesses beginning with Phase 3 of the Restore Illinois Plan.

Thank you in advance for your consideration of these recommendations. Please feel free to contact me or NWMC Executive Director Mark Fowler at to should you have any questions or need additional information.

Dear Governor Pritzker,

On behalf of the City of Highland Park, I write to share our grave concern with action
taken by the Northwest Municipal Conference (NWMC) Board of Directors at their May
13, 2020 meeting. Let me be clear, the statements within the NWMC letter requesting a
diminishment of public health protective actions from your four-region approach to
specific EMS regions does not represent the position of the City of Highland Park. The
NWMC has taken a short-sighted and ill-informed approach to re-opening our vital local

The lack of consultation with public health officials in proposing this change ignores the
seriousness of the public health crisis we are experiencing. We know that certain health
care metrics must be reached before social expansion (including commerce) can be
safely supported. As a city that borders Cook County, we recognize that what happens in
communities to our south is just as impactful as what happens to our north.
Fates as municipalities are intertwined with the region’s economic engine — the City of
Chicago. It is folly to imagine that we can separate ourselves from that entity to any
gain. Employment, transit, commerce, and social activities are fluid throughout our
region, not limited by the geographic borders of our individual towns, and any attempt
to separate from a regional approach to pandemic recovery is unrealistic and
dangerous. The economic pain we are feeling will not be alleviated by a more granular
regional reopening, and the public health pain will only be exacerbated by this approach
in coming months.

I cannot state strongly enough: Highland Park supports your four-region plan to restore
our state as this plan was guided by health metrics. Decisions that fail to account for
real-time public health metrics are dangerous and put our residents at risk.
To address these critical concerns, I respectfully request a Zoom conference town hall
meeting with you and the Northeast Illinois mayors – from Evanston to the Wisconsin
border. It would be beneficial for this meeting to allow members of the public to observe
and/or participate. We know from the public health data, and we’ve confirmed this with

Lake County Public Health Executive Director Mark Pfister, the density of population in
this region is the strongest contributing factor to the continued rise in cases. It is
important that we have a public health data-driven, region-specific conversation about
realistic timelines and safe approaches to re-opening our local economies. Everyone
wants to do this as quickly as possible, but it needs to be based on science and not whim.
Thank you for your leadership during this difficult time.


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