Nick Chirikos didn’t mind that he had to wait 2 1/2 hours to get his 3 minutes speaking before the McHenry County Board at its Tuesday meeting.
The chairman of the McHenry County Historical Preservation Commission wanted to praise two of his former commission members, Gail Brown and Denise Collins, who were recognized by the County Board for their 17 years and 12 years of respective service.
Chirikos, who is running as a Democratic challenger for District 1 of the County Board, said he sees the time waiting and watching as a learning opportunity.
“I understand what the County Board has to go through - the discussions and the time that it takes, and believe me, it’s not the first time I’ve sat through these meetings and listened,” Chirikos told me Wednesday evening.
Brown and Collins fared better than Chirikos – they only had to wait 90 minutes to get their certificate and handshake for a job well done.
Chirikos was the only person who signed up to speak before the County Board. If others had issues to discuss during the public comment portion, one has to ask whether making them sit from 9 to 11:30 a.m. would have been proper or polite.
County Board agendas typically place public comment after routine matters like approving minutes, chairman’s remarks and special presentations. But Tuesday’s 3 1/2-hour-long meeting – the latest in a string of unduly long meetings that are getting on board members’ nerves – was something of a special case.
Chairman Ken Koehler, R-Crystal Lake, moved discussion of implementing a $1.5 million upgrade to the state’s attorney and public defender computer software to the top of the agenda because State’s Attorney Lou Bianchi and Chief Judge Michael Sullivan were there and needed to get back to their jobs.
County Board members discussed the concept for about an hour, although it became clear very early into the debate that they would send the proposal to committee rather than vote on it that day. As for special presentations, there were three of them: Budget presentations from representatives of Metra, Pace and the Regional Transportation Authority.
Does it look good, or is it good public policy, to make the voters who elect County Board members and pay their salaries wait for hours to get their 3 minutes to address them? I leave it to you to come to your own conclusions.
I’ve written (here and here) that board members and county staff are getting fed up with meetings that they say are being stretched out hours longer than necessary because of micromanaging, members jumping on pre-primary political soapboxes, and a lack of control by leadership.
But it looks like more County Board members are gathering up the nerve to take the initiative and move things along.
Board member Tina Hill, R-Woodstock, asked people to “please move along the meeting” after the debate over the software stretched into an hour, citing the waiting representatives from the Chicago mass transit agencies.
When a resolution to correct an error in board members’ future salaries threatened again to become a drawn-out, amendment-laden affair like the Oct. 18 meeting in which salaries were first approved, Bob Bless, R-Fox River Grove, called the question. When Anna May Miller, R-Cary, was allowed to make one last comment, Hill called a point of order to Koehler – the question was called, meaning discussion was over, meaning it was time to vote.
At that Oct. 18 meeting, it was Nick Provenzano, R-McHenry, who called the question on the salary issue. Before that, I could not remember the last time that a County Board member called the question to end debate and bring an issue to a vote. Now it’s happened two meetings in a row.
Senior Writer Kevin Craver can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.