Our view: County Board shuns voters over chairman position

The McHenry County Board is considering a vast array of changes to how it operates, many of them aimed at curtailing the board chairman’s powers.

Last week, the board’s Management Services Committee voted to move 49 proposed rule changes to the full County Board for consideration.

About 10 of those changes would strip certain powers from the board chairman.

The changes aimed at the chairman include the establishment of term limits (three, two-year terms), abolishing the authority to appoint chairmanships of the board’s 11 standing committees, and limiting the power to appoint to boards and commissions.

The changes are so massive that the County Board will get two opportunities to review them before voting – at a presentation before its July 16 meeting, and at an Aug. 2 Committee of the Whole scheduled specifically to discuss them.

We won’t begin to weigh in on each proposal here. Instead, we’ll offer an alternative proposal.

Our idea isn’t a new one. In fact, we wrote about it quite often last year. Here it is:

Let the voters decide.

Seems simple, no?

If County Board members are concerned that the chairman has too much power, let voters determine whether the position should be accountable to all county voters.

Under the existing system, voters in each of six county districts elect four representatives to the County Board. Every two years, the 24 County Board members select their chairman.

So currently, the County Board chairman – or chairwoman, as Tina Hill was selected in December – is accountable only to the voters in his – or her – district and to the 23 other board members.

We’ve been arguing for more than two years for the County Board to put a referendum on the ballot asking voters if they’d rather select the chairman at large in a countywide election.

During the run-up to last fall’s County Board election, a majority of candidates questioned by the Northwest Herald said they’d favor a referendum giving voters that choice. But they failed to get the referendum on the ballot in April for the Consolidated Municipal Election. And now they’re talking about massive rule changes surrounding the chairmanship instead of preparing for a referendum next March to allow voters to decide.

Why?

What are board members afraid of?

Voters deserve to decide whether they want to elect the County Board chairman or preserve the status quo.

Our message to the County Board? Stop wasting time on 49 rule changes and prepare a referendum for March 2014.

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