McHenry County’s Power Elite and Meteors

In response to a Freedom of Information request McHenry County College has provided me with a list of what it seems to consider McHenry County’s “power elite.”

In 1956 C. Wright Mills published a book called “The Power Elite.” It suggested that political, economic and military leaders were joined at the hip (not his words) and controlled pretty much everything.

Aaron Wildavsky
, my government professor at Oberlin College really shaped my way of looking at the public arena.

Wildavsky assigned us to read Floyd Hunter’s power elite-based “Community Power Structure,” a case study of Atlanta, and Robert Dahl’s “Who Governs?”, which looks at New Haven.

Wildavsky pooh-poohed the power elite theory, arguing that different people were influential on different issues at different times. He even wrote a case study on Oberlin, Ohio–“Leadership in a Small Town”–which I see is still in print. I bought the first edition. It didn’t take off then.

The book characterized those involved in the governmental process, based on what he saw in Oberlin.

One I thought particularly apt.

He called people who got really, really involved in one issue and, then, disappeared from the political scene “meteors.”

They burn quite brightly for a short time, then disappear.

I don’t know whether there are any meteors in the MCC baseball stadium fight, but I certainly have met people that never contacted me when I was state representative.

Some people denigrate such individuals for their prior and subsequent non-involvement in the political process. Some call them NIMBY’s, using a derogatory inflection. (NIMBY is short for “Not in my back yard.”)

In my political career, I’ve found that most people really just want to be left alone. The politicians can do anything they want…up to a point.

The problem for politicians is that they do not know where that line is.

The most recent example is, of course, MCC’s attempt to push through a baseball stadium without answering any questions from the public.

(Think also of the gravel pit that village fathers are trying to shove down the throats of Fox Trails subdivision. MCC should be thankful that none of the opponents to its baseball stadium are as skilled as the opponents to the Swiss-owner Meyer proposal in Cary. Their satire is the most biting I have ever seen in local government.)

Not answering questions understates MCC’s approach.

It was worse than that.

The college deliberately hid information needed for even an active constituent to be able to figure out whether a baseball stadium was a feasible idea.

The college did not hold one public meeting to explain the baseball stadium until Crystal Lake Planning and Zoning Commissioner Vincent Esposito advised college officials to do so.

Here was his advice,

“Have public meetings.

“Answer their questions, so you don’t have an angry mob.”

Indeed, MCC continues to refuse to release the $70,000 feasibility study by Mark Houser of Equity One that was used to justify the stadium proposal made by his good buddy and apparent business associate Pete Heitman

I see I have gotten distracted going down an Oberlin College memory lane and missed my main subject.

Guess you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to learn who McHenry County College thinks is the “power elite” in McHenry County.

Here’s a theoretical construct by G. William Domhoff. Just found it, so I haven’t had time to read it, let alone evaluate it. It’s long.

This intriguing concept is at its beginning:

“…local power structures are land-based growth coalitions. They seek to intensify land use. They are opposed by the neighborhoods they invade or pollute, and by environmentalists.”

Does that sound like what is going on in Crystal Lake’s watershed or what?

= = = = =
Meteor picture from NASA. Crystal Lake Planning and Zoning Commissioner Vincent Esposito is the man gesturing.

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