It has happened time and time again.
Uppity voters prevent elected officials from doing something they dearly desire.
Or uppity voters punish elected officials and those officials don’t like it.
What do the elected officials do?
They ask their state legislators to ask for the law to be changed so they can get their way, so they can thwart the will of the voters.
I first saw it happen my friend Forrest Hare was Algonquin Township Assessor. It was about 1971.
To set the stage, way back then, township government was the closest thing to direct democracy around. The people attending the annual town meeting actual set the budget.
Uppity township electors (that’s the fancy name for registered voters who attend township meetings) in Algonquin Township did the unthinkable. Hare’s allies directed the township board to do something the majority most definitely did not want to do. They put $500 in the budget (a large amount at the time) to sue McHenry County for discriminating against Algonquin Township taxpayers in the issuing of township multipliers. Algonquin Township property was assessed higher than property in other McHenry County townships.
In neighboring Nunda Township, uppity township electors from Porten’s Subdivision packed the meeting. They were really quite upset that the Nunda Township Road Commissioner would not repair their private subdivision roads.
Well, duh, they were private.
Regardless, that explanation did not wash, because the homeowners knew they were paying township road taxes.
In retaliation for the lack of road assistance, the town meeting’s electors replaced each line item in the township road commissioner’s budget with $1.
That pretty much killed the township road program for the coming year.
So, what did the township officials do?
They went to their statewide lobbying organization, the Township Officials of Illinois, and asked that the power to set the budget be taken away from voters who had gotten uppity.
I’m not sure, but I think that may have been the time when the title of the office of “Township Auditor” became “Township Trustee.”
So much for any legitimate claim that Illinois township government as a “direct democracy.”
One of the few remaining rights of township voters have is to approve borrowing for new township halls at a referendum.
This power was exercised with a vengeance the night of April 13th at the Huntley High School Gym. Over 700 residents showed up in person, proved they were registered voters and told the township trustees that they disagreed with their continuing efforts to build a new township hall or buy and remodel an old factory.
That effort by the township trustees came after Judge Michael Caldwell ruled that their efforts to build a township hall with money not approved by the voters was unlawful. And after the 2nd Appellate Court upheld Judge Caldwell.
Despite the tidal wave of opposition to building a new township hall in Grafton Township expressed at the Annual Town Meeting April 13th, State Senator Pam Althoff and State Representatives Mike Tryon and Mark Beaubien voted to allow township boards to to lease a township hall or senior center without referendum with funds that are not the proceeds of specified bonds.
Senate Bill 3010.
The bill was introduced before Judge Caldwell’s court decision. It’s sponsored by Bremen Township Supervisor and State Senator Maggie Crotty, a township supervisor, and State Reps. Dan Brady, Kevin McCarthy and Al Riley.
Wouldn’t you think that having seen such an outpouring of public sentiment and with a $3 million township hall referendum on the fall ballot that the state legislators who represent Grafton Township would have voted against such a bill…even if they were allies of the losing side at the township’s Annual Meeting?
Later this week, the township trustees will be in court trying to get Judge Michael Caldwell to kick Township Supervisor Linda Moore out of office. They filed such a motion in response to her Separation of Powers suit.
Here’s the relevant language of the bill:
“Notwithstanding any provision of this Section to the contrary, any township may, by ordinance or resolution, build, purchase, or lease a township hall, a multi-purpose senior center, or a combined township hall and multi-purpose senior center within the township without referendum approval, if the building, purchasing, or leasing of the township hall, multi-purpose senior center, or combined township hall and multi-purpose senior center is paid or provided for with funds that are not the proceeds of bonds authorized under this Article.”
In the Senate the bill passed 39-4 on March 12th. Two months ago.
State Senator Pam Althoff, who represents Grafton Township, voted, “Aye.”
The Roll of Honor of those voting against was small. Just four members:
- Tim Bivins (R)
- Brad Burzynski (R)
- Gary Dahl (R)
- Dan Duffy (R, representing eastern McHenry County)
16 state senators didn’t even bother to vote. Were they confused or just didn’t want to get on the wrong side of their local township officials?
Last Wednesday, the bill was on Short Debate in the House. Under that order of business only two people from both sides could speak.
It would not have mattered anyway.
The skids were greased.
98 voted in favor, 19 opposed.
I’ll list the friends of the taxpayers who voted against the bill:
- John Cavaletto (R)
- Linda Chapa LaVia (D)
- Fred Crespo (D)
- Shane Cultra (R)
- Anthony DeLuca (D)
- Keith Farnham (D)
- Robert Flider (D)
- Jack Franks (D of McHenry County)
- Paul Froehlich (D)
- Careen Gordon (D)
- Jehan Gordon (D)
- Emily McAsey (D)
- David Reis (R)
- Darlene Senger (R)
- Carol Sente (D)
- Keith Sommer (D)
- Andre Thapedi (D)
- Mark Walker (D)
- Jim Watson (R)
So, much for Republicans being for having referendums before taxes are hiked.
I think it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that Governor Pat Quinn will sign the bill. He has not stood up for the “pee-e-e-ple” in a pretty long time…maybe since becoming governor.
Can’t you hear the township trustees soon saying,
“Referendum? We don’t need no stinking referendum!”