County board committee recommends reduction, term limits

By Gregory Harutunian for Chronicle Media

Jack Franks, McHenry County Board chairman.

The McHenry County Board was forwarded three different proposals by its Ad Hoc Committee On Governmental Consolidation that would alter its membership numbers and set tenure of service term limits, during its July 31 meeting.

If acted upon, the recommendations for term limits would appear as binding referendum questions on the Nov. 6 general election ballot, while a 25 percent board reduction would be accomplished through passage of an ordinance.

One referendum question would limit an individual in the county board chairman slot to no more than two terms, beginning after the Nov. 3, 2020 election. The other question would seek to limit county board members to no more than 12 years, coinciding with the state redistricting election in 2022. The two measures will be brought to a vote during a special Aug. 16 session, ahead of the Aug. 20 state-mandated deadline for binding referendums in the next election.

“Today’s actions are a huge step forward for empowering voters to choose the way they are governed,” said Jack Franks (D-Marengo), county board chairman in a release. “Two years ago, almost 80 percent of county voters said in an advisory referendum that the county board should be reduced in size. The same year, a poll from the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute put support for term limits in Illinois at 80 percent.

“The committee’s vote today sends a message that its members heard the people they represent loud and clear, and I’m confident the full county board will follow suit.”

The ordinance to reduce the county board membership, from 24 seats to 18, is slated for a 30-day review period, prior to an anticipated airing for vote, during a September full board meeting. Franks also chairs the Ad Hoc Committee On Governmental Consolidation. Its members are: Dist. 3 Rep. Joseph Gottemoller, Dist. 4 Rep. Kay Bates, Dist. 5 Rep. John Jung, Dist. 3 Rep. Don Kopsell, Dist. 2 Rep. Donna Kurtz, Dist. 6 Rep. Mary McCann, and Dist. 1 Rep. Bob Nowak.

The three proposals were entered as committee agenda items under new business for its July 31 meeting. The ordinance for reducing the number of county board members cited the Illinois Compiled Statutes number requiring “the McHenry County Board to reapportion the county following the 2020 Federal Census to determine the size of the county board to be elected … effective with the county board nominated, elected, and taking office in 2022, the size of the McHenry County Board … is hereby fixed at 18 members.”

The ordinance excludes the county board chairman position in the membership reduction. McCann questioned reducing her district to two people as 75 percent is unincorporated, during a May 15 committee meeting. Franks said the county board sets the workload as policy makers.

The resolution wording to set term limits for the county board chairman position states: “No person shall be eligible to seek election to, or hold, the office of county board chairman who has previously held said office for two full terms or eight years.” The county board chairman is elected from the ranks of the county board membership, by its members.

“The county board isn’t making the big decisions on term limits … the voters are, which is the way it should be,” Franks, also said in the release. “I want to thank the Ad Hoc Committee, as well as the many other county board members who attended its meetings, for bringing a lot of good ideas to the table and working together to do the people’s will.”

The board will vote on the two binding referendum questions at an Aug. 16 special meeting.