Consolidation of Power Referendum Headed for Fall Ballot

McHenry County Board Chairman Joe Gottemoller went to a national convention and found out that Los Angeles County only has five commissioners.

That seems to be the immediate impetus to cutting the size of the McHenry County Board, which is a legislative body.

Had he looked further, he could have found other counties with only three commissioners.

My grandfather James Clayland Stevens served on one such board on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

The Eastern Shore was solidly Democratic then.

There were two factions in Queen Anne’s County.

Both courted my retired farmer grandfather.

He chose one side and won.

We grandkids were really impressed with one of the perks–free entrance to the Churchill movie theater.

I have no idea the connection of county government was to the  movie theater.

Queen Anne’s County was an interesting one politically.

In the 1950’s Democratic Party boss Joe George brought home a brick faced bridge where Route 50 split into 301 going north to Wilmington.

During the 1930’s my grandfather told of a family with seven voters going from one side of the courthouse square to the other side, from one lawyer’s office to another, offering to sell their votes.

The final price was $35.

I’ll be plenty of people would be willing to accept that price today.

But, back to my headline.

The McHenry County Board at the beginning of a meeting.

The 24-member McHenry County Board at the beginning of a meeting.

There are now 24 county board members.

Cutting that number in half, as was originally proposed, would guarantee one thing:

Fewer people would control McHenry County politics

Of course any referendum to eliminate elected officials will pass.

Think of Pat Quinn’s Cutback Amendment.

He claimed it would save money.

It would improve government.

No one can show that either promise was fulfilled.

My prediction is that cutting the number of county board members in half will result in a doubling of their $21,000 salaries.

The argument will be that they are doing twice the work, so deserve twice the salary.

This might not happen during the first term, because 24 people will be setting the salaries and close to half will be resentful that they will lose their jobs.

Give in a couple of terms and any claims that the scheme will save money will be found to be false predictions.

But power will have been consolidated into fewer hands.


Consolidation of Power Referendum Headed for Fall Ballot — 19 Comments

  1. Cal,

    OK, where can we cut then?

    I’ve seen cases from you where consolidating the two Crystal Lake school districts won’t cut costs (so I get to pay for two sets of six figure salary administrators. Yay!) and township consolidation would also not work.

    Yet we pay one of the highest tax burdens in the state.

    So what’s the next step?

    Besides moving to Indiana?

  2. You’re probably right that the members will want a raise if the board is cut by half, but they should get a pay cut instead because they will end up spending less time at work.

    Anyone who has ever served on any sort of a committee knows that large committees tend to take up more time and get less done than smaller ones.

  3. The two CL school districts could have the same set of administrators as I understand the Richmond-Burton High School and Nippersink Grade School Districts do.

  4. I still contend that cutting the board in half, or less as in the examples in this story, pave the way for the wrong individual, or entity, with money and a desire for control/power to buy the seats and install a handful of puppets willing to do their bidding…

    No different than is done on most school boards.

    Maintaining 24 (while it may seem like bloated government) with the current paltry salaries, at least provides a layer of insulation from this.

    Not to mention, that consolidating down to, say 6, would inevitably end up in quadrupling salaries and in all likelihood, inevitably quadrupling the cost to run an effective campaign to be elected to the county board, thereby hampering the ability of the Diane Evertsen’s, Andrew Gasser’s, Chuck Wheeler’s and other dissenting voices to even run for these seats.

  5. IMO 20K residents per board member as a guide line.

    16 now with possible growth to increase the number.

    25K in wages as a max paid by meetings attended.

    No pensions or health care.

  6. Cut the Fat, If you can’t do the job for the pay WE SET then go somewhere else.

    We the People need to step up to the plate and put the markers in place NOT the Board!(s).

    This will stop the power hungry!

    Its like picking up trash if you can’t lift the barrel you cannot do the job and this is what the job is!

    don’t like it go somewhere else and apply.

    I think this should also be done on ALL the Council Boards as well we have to many people, to much FAT power hungry on all of these boards everywhere costs us to much period.

    There is your cost savings.

  7. Robin are you reading my mind?

    We are actually quite close.

    18 board members (9 districts)

    No Pension

    No Healthcare

    Option for a 401k type of plan.

    That is where this will end up.

    If you do a cost benefit analysis of costs for the county board the salaries are not what kills us – its the healthcare and pensions.

  8. Certainly is ridiculous to pay 23 Board members $20K+ every year, the Chairman $80K and then the County Administrator and staff millions more.

    7 County Board members would seem to be plenty.

    Cap their salaries at 25K.

    School Boards have very large budgets and get by with 7 members who get paid ZERO.

  9. While I agree with Mr. Serwatka on many issues, not the above.

    I may be prejudiced, but I think our Dist 47 & 155 has been run very well over many decades….excepting of course the recent “bleacher” debacle!

  10. @Paul- you mean like now?

    Their compensation is anything but paltry for what they do.

    It would also bring out people who have to actually campaign- a rarity at the moment.

    Exactly what is it that requires 4 members from each district- often allowing one to hide behind the others- it is difficult to hold your elected official accountable.

    This board is ridiculously large for the level of outcome.

  11. Andrew 16 single districts, and program a computer to draw up the districts getting rid of gerrymandering.

    Probably need some outside programmers for the software, but then that program could be used if growth happens in the future too.

  12. 20,000 population number seems key to me, more than that and we lose something.

    Single districts so we have just one vote for county board besides the Chair of course.

  13. How could a salary cap be accomplished short of a state law?

  14. The county bought software to do the redistricting in 2012.

    Certainly it can be used now to draw up a few options re number of districts.

    Nothing like a graphic to help the thinking process.

    And how about having some meetings for public opinion to be given about the matter.

    Something like the open houses held for large traffic projects.

    The board itself has too much of a vested interest.

    Give the rest of the county a chance to weigh in, too!

  15. Wow it must have been “picture day-photo op”!

    The usual suspects of absenteeism are there…

    Check out our illustrious county board members habitual pattern of absence from a duty, it’s staggering!

  16. I believe one would have to live in an unincorporated area to pay 74% of one’s taxes to local grade and high schools.

  17. Well you could be unlucky enough to live in Marengo. Just 7,200 people and 5 school districts 3 Over priced Superintendents and nothing back for our tax’s.

    I am not in favor of reducing the County Board.

    We already have members who think THEY control the county on certain issues and not the tax payer or voter.

    Quite frankly I am really concerned at the lack of financial experience some members have so I am not in support of this plan.

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