Just from examining the agenda that newly-installed Management Services Committee Paula Yensen drafted, one could predict that nothing would come of the Monday morning meeting concerning whether the public should be allowed to vote on whether the Chairman of the McHenry County Board should be elected or not.
And, guess what?
Parenthetically, let me point out that the previous County Board managed to put something probably more important on the ballot before they left office–a tax hike referendum.
So, the public will get a chance to vote on whether their property taxes are increased in April, but probably not whether they will get an opportunity to vote for the next County Board Chairman in 2014.
While 2014 sounds like it is a long way off, for the current insider system of selection of whose hands control County government to be changed in 2014, it has to be approved in April.
And, there is still a chance such a referendum on the ballot.
(Last day to adopt a resolution or ordinance is Tuesday, January 22nd, advised County Clerk Katherine Schultz.)
Committee member Mike Walkup brought up the topic of a special meeting, which takes one-third of the members to call.
Before that, however, Anna May Miller called for more input.
“I still am 110% in favor of allowing the public to weigh in on the subject,” but she said she though more time was needed for citizen comment, e.g., “different focus groups,” including “McCog for municipal perspective.”
“I don’t understand the need for speed on this issue,” she said, pointing out that under 20% of citizens would probably vote in April.
There was discussion of two options, one for a two-year term in which the County Board Chairman candidate would also have to be nominated as a district board candidate. The other was a four-year term in which the Chairman would not have a vote on the County Board.
Non-member Nick Provenzano was allowed to address the Committee twice.
The first time, he contended County Board candidates “kind of made a grand bargain with the voters” by opposing Democrat State Rep. Jack Franks’ County Executive referendum.
“It was always assumed that we’d follow up immediately.
“I think it’s absolutely a bargain we should fulfill at the next election cycle.
“The decision was to get that to the voters as soon as possible,” he contended.
There was disagreement with that interpretation from member Ersel Schuster, who preferred limiting County Board Chairmen to two terms.
While she said she was “always for the electors being allowed to vote”… she was “totally comfortable with the existing process.
In December, Schuster ran for Chairman, along with Ken Koehler and Tina Hill. Hill won.
Mike Skala, at his first Committee meeting, told of being told people “wanted change” and “wanted some turnover, fresh ideas, fresh perspectives” when he went door-to-door.
“I’m personally not in favor of it. I think what we have does work,” he said.
“I agree they the voters should need (an opportunity to vote on the issue.) I don’t think it should be rushed to judgment.”
Anna May Miller suggested that “accountability” of the Chairman was “the only issue that resonates with the public.”
“We’re trying to do this very quickly,” he said.
“Act in haste, repent in leisure.”
“That’s really right on,” Donna Kurtz interjected. “It goes back to the problem we’re trying to solve. The problem is how do I make government more responsive, how do I make it more honest?
“I better dam well sure be sure I’m not making the problem worse.”
But, if I understood her context correctly, Kurtz, referring to the at-large election of the Chairman, said, “Many of us wanted to do that on Day 1 when we took office.”
Advanced earlier by Schuster as a means of making the Board Chairman more accountable was the proposal of putting term limits in the Board Rules.
Assistant State’s Attorney Donna Kelly explained twice that doing so would subject the County to litigation. from not only an office holder who might want to exceed the term limit, but also from voters whose rights to see the person they wanted in office would be curtailed.
Kelly pointed out that neither the State Constitution nor current Illinois law allowed for such term limits for County Board Chairmen.
“Out concern is litigation,” she said.
Skala, who has chaired many a meeting while he was President of the Huntley District 158 School Board, pointed out,
“The way I’m reading the agenda, we couldn’t pass anything even if we wanted to.”
He then pointed out that “it comes down [to] if we have people that want to have a special board meeting to do it.”
Walkup, who carried the ball on the side of having an April referendum, said he though people out to be put on record.
Provenzano took the floor again, saying,
“The fact that you had no resolution on the agenda doomed this proposal.
“The only way to do that is a special election.
“We’ve talked about it for two years.
“There have been numerous public hearings.
“There’s been plenty of opportunity [for input].
“We do have all the answers; some just don’t understand [them].
“We have a four-year term. Put it on the ballot.
“Let the County Board members vote on it.”
“It’s not something where you just toss a coin and it’s heads or tails,” Kurtz replied. “We could paint ourselves into a very dangerous situation. We could potentially create far worse problems than we have now.”
Closing the debate was non-member, newly-elected Nick Chirikos:
“I respectfully disagree with Mr. Provenzano. Fully a third of this board is new [and] haven’t had the opportunity to weigh in on this subject.”
Discussion also covered the monetary requirements to finance a countywide campaign for Board Chairman.
“I agree with some who have said [candidates would be ]self-funding millionaire or millionaire backing or special interest [financing, such as] developers,” Walkup said.
Newly-elected McHenry County Board Chairman attended about three-fourths of the discussion.