There was a long debate over whether the County Board should put a referendum on the fall ballot asking voters is they wanted to elect the County Board Chairman in an at-large election.
Before that several citizens provided input.
District 5 Republican candidate Michale Rein was asking, “Where’s the money going to be coming from?” as I arrived a bit late.
“Outside interests” was his answer to the rhetorical question.
“We’re going to end up with a career political [running McHenry County],” he added.
Earlier I posted the comments that Grafton Township Supervisor Linda Moore offered.
By putting such a powerful official over McHenry County government, she sees the possibility of conflict similar to that in Grafton Township.
And that’s what Jack Franks’ County Executive form of government seems to be all about.
The alternative of having a competing referendum asking,
“Shall the Chairman of the McHenry County Board be elected at-large by the voters?”
on the ballot was rejected by a 16-3 vote. Only Randy Donley, Virginia Peschke and Paula Yensen voted to place it on the ballot.
The majority seemed to think that they stood a better chance to defeat the Franks’ proposal to shift from a Parliamentary form of government to a very strong Executive form of government if a somewhat similar sounding question were not on the ballot to muddy the waters.
And the majority clearly did not want to lose the power they now have.
Even Bob Anderson, in the room to promote his own anti-double-dipping advisory referendum, took a shot at Franks:
“If Jack Franks were doing his job, he would be addressing like this.”
Democrat Kathy Bergan Schmidt opposed Franks’ proposal, calling it “a Trojan Horse.”
“We can deal with this question on our own.”
A former candidate for County Board Chairman, Virginia Peschke said, “I don’t support Mr. Franks form of government,” while expressing her support for electing the Chairman in an at-large election.
It was suggested that if both referendum passed, the County Executive one would have precedence.
Later, Assistant State’s Attorney Donna Kelly stated that the Statute “does not address the situation when you have dueling referendums.”
Marc Munaretto wanted to know if the Franks’ question could be withdrawn if the at-large election of the County Board question were put on the ballot.
“This is not Jack Franks’ petition. He has not control over it after he handed it in…Why are we taking any time discussing it?”Kathy Bergan Schmidt asked.
[There is some disagreement with regard to Schmidt’s opinion.]
“I do not support the County Executive form of government,” the man who twice ran unsuccessfully against Ken Koehler for County Board Chairman, said.
Sandy Salgado told of taking to some folks in her precinct.
“I have a feeling it’s going to pass.”
Later Virginia Peschke agree.
“We’re going to have a hard time defeating it. ”
She told of talking over a twelve-month period with Winnebago’s at-large County Board Chairman Chris Cohen.
“I didn’t find many objections. I think many of these things are bogeymen.”
“I’m in concurrence with Kathy Bergan Schmidt’s opposition to the County Executive form of government…It gives unlimited power to that position…I do not support Mr. Franks’ referendum.”
Yensen indicated what was needed was term limits for the McHenry County Board Chairman, as did the head of the Management Services Committee, Ersel Schuster.
She also pointed out that a “countywide race for that position would be very expensive.”
She estimated candidates spent $100,000 on the campaign to become the at-large elected Chairman of the Kane County Board.
Mary Donner was suspicious about Rep. Franks’ timing, she indicated while expressing agreement with Schmidt view that putting a second referendum on the ballot would be confusing.
“I certainly do not support the Executive form of government,” Randy Donley said when he gained the floor. He made it clear, however, he supported electing the County Board Chairman at-large.
Donley expressed the opinion that Franks would be willing to take his question off the ballot, if the County Board put the at-large referendum on the ballot.
Donley asked how many had called him.
Jim Heisler, Paula Yensen, and Mary Donner said they had, although Yensen later said she had talked to him in person with others being present.
“I do not know at this time the motivation of Mr. Franks.”
“We’ve sent numerous letters to him saying we’ll set a Special Meeting when he wants to come,” County Board Chairman Ken Koehler interjected.
Announcing her intent to push for Term Limits again, Schuster said, “I find it mind boggling that a State Representative would act in this manner.”
Scott Breeden said his opposition to at-large elections was based on how the expense of the campaign wold limit “the number of qualified people.”
He pointed out that currently the Chairman “owes responsibility to the County Board members.”
Donna Kurtz said she supported Term Limits, as well as an at-large elected Chairman.
“A County Executive is so onerous,” she continued, “such a huge threat to the democratic process [because it puts] such an unprecedented amount of power and control down to the [lowest] employee.”
She pointed out a County Executive would have the power to hire its own attorney and “that will wreck havoc with legal fees.”
Kurtz said she thought having two referendums on the ballot would “confuse the issue.”
“If anyone doesn’t think there isn’t political influence in the way we now select the County Board Chairman, [he’s wrong],” Peschke said.
“I’d like to know why this discussion didn’t occur prior to his getting the signatures,” Yensen said, pointing out that those petitions had set “a fire under us.”
John Hammerand probed as to whether the County Executive form of government, once approved, could be changed by putting another referendum on the ballot.
The answer seemed to be that a repeal referendum could be put on the ballot in 2014, but that would be the first election for a County Executive, so he or she would have at least one term in office.