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Our View: Now, it's up to the voters

Published: Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014 11:35 a.m. CDT

The McHenry County Board deserves praise for deciding to put a referendum on the ballot that will give voters the opportunity to decide whether the board chairman should be popularly elected.

On Tuesday night, the board voted, 19-4, to put the question to voters on the March 18 primary ballot. It will ask voters whether the chairman should be popularly elected to a four-year term. If approved, it would take effect in 2016.

Ersel Schuster, R-Woodstock; Mary McCann, R-Woodstock; Diane Evertsen, R-Harvard; and Ken Koehler, R-Crystal Lake, were the four County Board members who voted “no.” Robert Nowak, R-Cary, was not at the meeting.

We have been longtime proponents of letting voters decide whether the board chairman should be elected by voters instead of having the board choose the chairman from one of its 24 members.

If the board chairman is popularly elected, then the position can be held accountable by all voters. Currently, the board chairman can be held accountable by voters only in his or her district.

“We’re on the verge of turning this office back over to the people,” said board member Nick Provenzano, R-McHenry, who led an effort earlier this year to get the question on the April ballot.

Evertsen, however, wasn’t as excited, alleging that direct election fixes a nonexistent problem caused because state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, had a problem with former Chairman Koehler.

“This thing escalated and escalated, the newspapers got involved, and board members seemed to feel they had to go along with it to justify their representation from the public,” Evertsen said.

We make no apology for getting involved. Evertsen, Provenzano and the other 22 board members must be held accountable. The board is a steward for a tremendous amount of taxpayer money and makes important public policy decisions.

For too long now, the chairman of the board has escaped accountability.

At least now, voters will be allowed to decide just how accountable they want to hold their county board chairman.

(NOTE TO READERS: This editorial has been clarified to better reflect our stance. The Northwest Herald editorial board has long supported letting voters decide through a referendum whether the county board chairman should be popularly elected. It has not taken a stance on whether the chairman should or should not be elected by voters.)

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