The November election always brings out an urge among some McHenry County Board members to discuss moving to evening committee meetings to "increase public participation."
The idea rears its head every two years, when the Management Services Committee in charge of board rules is tasked with reviewing them following the general election. It's already been spoken aloud at the last full County Board meeting to think about moving committee meetings from the morning to the evening.
There's a post-election perception among some board members that there are thousands of people itching to attend county government committee meetings, if only they were held during the prime-time television hours that no one wants to miss rather than during the insipid daytime TV talk show bloc that people just turn on to have some noise in the background.
November was no ordinary election – there are nine new members on the board in the wake of a redistricting election in which all 24 seats were up for grabs. So as a public service, I'll do my part to bring the newcomers up to speed and spare the wasting of time on a debate that always, always ends up getting shot down by a resounding majority:
• Aside from the once-in-a-blue-moon controversial issue that everybody cares about, you almost always can count the number of people in the audience at the County Board's monthly night meeting on one hand.
• When committees decide to meet in the evening prior to a full board meeting to forward important legislation to a full vote, you almost always can count the number of people in the audience on one or two fingers.
• The last time the County Board reviewed moving meetings to the evening to solve the public participation "problem" was a morning meeting in which more than 100 people showed up to voice their opinions on various subjects.
• More than 99.9 percent of the people whom some County Board members want to empower through night meetings will always choose watching "Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo" at home over watching government in Woodstock.
• It is not an affront to democracy to expect a certain level of responsibility from citizens. That means making the time to make our voices heard if we feel strongly about something. The guy standing up in Norman Rockwell's famous "Four Freedoms" painting is not webstreaming his city council meeting or voting on the Internet because it's cold outside.
• As I blogged here, there are a gazillion taxing bodies in McHenry County, and all of them have their meetings at night. Enough said.
• It's been eight months since the County Board began streaming audio of its meetings on the Internet, and we still don't have any numbers as to how many people are tuning in. I think the best estimate comes from former board member Peter Merkel, who joked that the county could probably rent a bus, bring those people to the meeting, take them to dinner afterward, and save money.
There. I just saved County Board members time that could be spent on the Unified Development Ordinance and getting to know our radically-changed representation in Springfield and Washington, D.C.
And I'll see you all in the morning.
Senior Writer Kevin Craver can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.