County Board Report from Quinton Osborne Feb 14, 2017
The primary issue at the meeting was voting on the 2017 State Legislative Program (link to the version that was approved). The County pays numerous lobbyist groups to further the County’s interests in state and federal governments. The Program generally describes the legislation the County will promote or attack. It should be noted that the County pays lobbyists (Liz thought the annual lobbying fees County website $250,000). This seems strange as we already have representatives and senators in Springfield and DC representing us, not to mention the County Board members themselves. The Board also is a member of other organizations, such as the National Association of Counties, which has lobbyists.
The Program supports the passage of SB1592, which was drafted with the assistance of the County Board. On February 9, 2017, Senator Don Harmon introduced the bill, which would allow the County to move the Election Commission (currently an independent and separate entity) under the umbrella of the County Clerk. Right now, the Commission is composed of three members, with at least one member of both parties represented on the Board. Each member is paid a salary (set by the Board) of $27,500. The bill would change the composition of the commission to 5 commissioners – with the clerk serving as the chairman, and 4 commissioners from among the 2 leading established political parties, with at least 2 commissioners from each party. The chairman of the County Board would appoint the commissioners with the advice and consent of the county board. Before the Board Chairman shall appoint the commissioner, he shall “consult with elected officials who are members of the respective leading political parties and seek their recommendation as to prospective commissioners.” The state’s attorney shall be the exclusive legal representative of the county board of election commissioners within the office of the county clerk.
There are numerous concerns with the bill, as discussed below. These include that the County Board Chairman will choose right-leaning “Democrats,” friends or allies of the Republican Chairman (as he has done in the past with the current Election Commission). Other concerns: the bill is vague as to who the Chairman will consult with the respective party, and it does not appear to save any money (may increase with additional Commissioner and state’s attorney requirements). Concerns about the bill may be alleviated with the passage of HB294, introduced on January 25, 2017, which requires all election commissioners to serve without a salary.
Other legislative programs included advocating for the Edge Credit Program, and advocating against judicial mandates. The legislative program passed, with our own Liz Chaplin being the only nay vote.
Dr. Richard Jorgensen gave a brief presentation about the rise of fentanyl-related deaths in recent years. He spoke about the County’s program that has provided Narcan to first responders to counteract the effect of heroin/fentanyl. The program has saved around 250 lives to date, only taking into account saves by police officers. Robert Larson was apparently concerned about the program’s cost. Narcan expires after two years. In early 2016, when the Narcan that the County originally provided to municipalities was going to expire, the County decided to not pay for the new two year supply, which costs around $120,000, and instead required the individual municipalities to carry the cost.
Jean Kaczmarek: Had great comments about SB1592. The Board had the opportunity to ease divisiveness, gain respect, and promote fairness in consolidating the commission – but the legislation missed the mark. The most troubling aspect is how commissioners are chosen. Commissioners are apparently allowed to keep their salary to the conclusion of their term. No lobbyist should be assigned to this bill, or to fight legislation to require unpaid election commissioners. She concluded her remarks by asking what is the Board’s plan if their legislation fails. No response from Board.
Dan Bailey: Not against efficiency or consolidation in and of itself, but merely has questions about payments of salaries and how commission appointments are made. There are concerns that Republicans have disenfranchised voters (up to 7 million) in 2016. This could disadvantage a group of voters, especially those in the minority party. He wants to be sure that someone is there who will really fight for a fair and open process that includes concerns of those not in the majority. Ask that the program be revised.
Kevin O’Donnell: Proposed bill is no valentine to DuPage voters. The legislation appears to require less oversight over the commission. The chairman will “consult” with leaders of the party to be nominated. This is merely a lawyer wiggle word. There was no mention of electronically formatted records, which shows this is not a serious proposal. This is draft number one. Why are we paying lobbyists to promote draft #1?
Bob Peickert: Salary is still not clear. Do current members still get $27,500/year salary, will the fourth member receive a salary, and when will this change with the new commission? The bill is also vague: Which members of the political parties does the chairman have to “consult” with? If you really want to be transparent, change legislation to clear these up. Also, somehow this is going to save money. However, there has not been one word where consolidation is going to save money. It is merely moving the Election Commission under the County Clerk. This is not consolidation, although it may look good in the paper. Take another look at legislation and make legislative changes.
Supporting SB1592 (Part of Legislative Agenda)
John Curran: States that reading the first paragraph of bill solves most individuals’ concerns – it establishes a new commission, and the Board will set the salary for the new commissioners’ salaries. The bill would establish a new commission. As far as procurement, the county clerk will adhere to procurement requirements for the election commission.
He says we expect to save “several hundreds of thousands of dollars due to consolidation” by eliminating a unit of government, expanding the commission, expanding representation. The board will strongly consider setting the commissioner salaries at lower rates.
- Note: Nobody mentioned how the bill would save a dollar. There would be an added commissioner under the plan, and it would likely require increased resources/staff from the state’s attorney’s office.
On the appointment process, he just wants us to think, it is with advice and consent of the Board. The Board is the elected governance of the county. The Board is the appropriate venue for an appointment. Looking at the federal and state levels, there is no law that vests authority with a particular party. The appointments are made by the governing body, and the Board is the governing body of the County.
He says there are a lot of misconceptions about the bill, especially those mentioned earlier (looking at public comments podium)
Gary Grasso: The bill is submitted by Democrat Harmon, who is a Democrat, and he would not have put name to the bill unless he gave it deep thought. This has been approached in a bipartisan manner.
Liz: State’s attorney will be exclusive legal representation within office of county clerk. In October 2015, she sent an email to State’s Attorney Berlin, asking why he did not represent the election’s commission. He emailed her that ‘If he could serve as legal counsel, he could not carry out division. He would have to add an attorney or attorneys knowledgeable with election law, and who may have had experience with the specialized practice. It would likely be difficult to entice an attorney with this specialization. It would likely cost more to hire a permanent attorney, as opposed to the contract work that attorney Pat Bond provides to the Board.’
Who commissioned the no-ab consulting firm that’s reviewing the head count in the clerk’s office, and how much is this costing, and whose budget did this come out of? (long silence followed…, no response)
Tonia Khouri: Harmon put forward, so any questions should be addressed to Harmon, who is a democrat senator, assistant majority leader in senate.
John Curran: State’s attorney will “carry out” any statutory duty given to him. No discussion of the added cost of making the state’s attorney “carry out” additional duties. Will not be an issue.
As far as fair elections, and every complaint about fair elections. Every board member is concerned about fair elections as demonstrated with same day election debate.
Supporting Edge Credit Program (part of legislative agenda)
Liz: Since this was created by Governor Ryan in 99, has not increased jobs, and does not create. No evidence it creates jobs. Criticized for lack of transparency, and state has kept no records as far as how many jobs are created. Chicago Tribune recently criticized.
For example, Navistar received 20 million in TIF funds, 225 million in federal recovery zone bonds, and 65 million in funds for Edge for 15 years. With all of these credits, in 2012, told employees that involuntarily layoffs were being considered in cutting costs.
These do nothing to help small businesses – the backbone of the economy. Large corporate winners, leaving taxpayers to pick up the slack. Nothing more than handout to large corporations. Much better served to other government programs, such as schools, and should not pay lobbyists to support this failed program.
Tonia Khouri: She proposed this be included in the legislative plan. She said it is being reformed, and it is monetizing credits to support small businesses. Only thing that is economic development, which is sorely needed in this state.
Peter DiCianni: Look at American Mattress in Addison, who came to Addison because of Edge grant and came to Illinois instead of Indiana because of that. He employs a lot of people and brings lots of people to the state. Important to have these tools.
Brian Krajewski: Picked up little Edward Don truck, which is company that almost went to Wisconsin. They got Edge credits, and pay tax to Woodridge. Also, lots of bills filed have mandates for local governments, and wants lobbyists.
Fighting Judicial Mandates (part of legislative agenda)
Liz: Daily Herald recently reported that Kane County welcomes the changes, despite the adverse impact on its budget. County should not be balancing the budget on bail.
This is the Board’s position at this time. He has listened to counterpart in cook county board chairman and Kane County state’s attorney, if benefits, might change later on. But there is process that must take place
John Curran: We want a voice in the process, because there may be high economic consequences in properly funding court system.
Public Works Project FM-P-0061-17
The Board voted on whether to approve a public works project that will relocate the DU-COMM facility (provides emergency communications to police, fire and EMS for DuPage County agencies) to the DuPage campus, for a total cost of $15,790,004. As part of the project, the contractor, Wight Construction Services, Inc., will build a bike path that will connect, downtown Winfield, the new train station, and the County campus.
Tim Elliot: Voted no because the project contained a bike trail that will cost $738,000. It is an extremely expensive bike trail not necessary to overall project. This is a want, not a need.
LIz: Echo what Eliot said, and agrees this is good project. Also voted no because of the amount of donations that were given to majority of County Board members by the contractor that was awarded the project.
Amy Grant: Agrees with Elliot on bike trail situation. She does not think it is necessary, but thinks the project and purpose is important, so voted yes
Brian Krajewski: Says only couple hundred dollars to some county board members. Asked Chaplin to be transparent. She took a $1,000 donation from IBEW local 701 (Electrician’s Union, which has over 6,000 members), and then voted for a member of the same union to go on North Westmont fire Protection District, and voted for another member to go on the ethics commission. He thinks she even seconded the motion..
- Note: Using Krajweski’s logic, it would be unethical for a Republican to accept a donation from the Chamber of Commerce and then vote for any measure that benefited a business.
The project was approved, with Liz and Elliot being the only nays.
Robert Larson: Been on Board for 6 years now, and has seen lots of bipartisanship. He is promoting a bill that would allow the minority party a say in politics, just as Liz was allowed to speak uninterrupted. The same people complaining about SB1592 are the same people who support Speaker Madigan. So if you want to lecture the Board, you must speak with Madigan first to treat the Republican party fairly.