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Is the end of the 4-hour County Board meeting era upon us?

It looks like McHenry County Board leadership and the rank-and-file have come to grips with the problem of unnecessarily long board meetings that are driving members and county staff nuts.

Of course, admitting that a problem exists is step one. Step two is figuring out how to fix it. County Board member Tina Hill said she intends to be a part of the solution.

As Tuesday’s meeting of the Finance and Audit Committee wound down, Hill said she intends to start calling the question at full County Board meetings once discussion starts getting too long and redundant.

Under Robert’s Rules of Order, officials can call the question if they feel that debate has dragged on beyond what is warranted. That person must be recognized by the floor and call the question – if the call passes by a two-thirds vote or more, discussion ends and the vote on the original matter will be taken.

Since the new County Board was seated in December and committees assigned in January, some board members and county staff have gotten fed up with meetings (not only the full board, but also some of its committees) that routinely stretch into three or more hours. I’ve blogged about the problem here, here and here.

Hill would join other County Board members who have stepped in to fill a leadership void at meetings. Mary Donner, R-Crystal Lake, has shepherded meetings along, and both Nick Provenzano, R-McHenry, and Bob Bless, R-Fox River Grove, have called the question to end long debates at the past two full County Board meetings.

Board Chairman Ken Koehler, R-Crystal Lake, acknowledged at Tuesday’s finance meeting that the problem “has got to cease.” He pointed out the recent and annoying practice of County Board members offering up amendments to amendments to motions.

Board members at an Oct. 18 discussion on members’ salaries in 2013 and 2014 proposed six amendments, and three amendments to amendments. But nothing tops the May 18, 2010, meeting in which County Board members spent two hours debating a conditional use permit for Stade’s Farm and Market. They introduced a dozen amendments, including, I kid you not, an amendment to an amendment to an amendment to the motion.

Hill, who is chairwoman of the Planning and Development Committee and keeps her meetings to about two hours, would be a good person to keep the County Board on topic and stop debate once a given issue is sufficiently beaten to death. But given that calling the question requires a two-thirds majority of the board, her success will be dependent on whether the Shut Up and Vote Party outnumbers the Run at the Mouth Party.
Senior Writer Kevin Craver can be reached at kcraver@shawmedia.com.

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