Tuesday's goofy and contentious McHenry County Board meeting is also the first it recorded to put on the Internet for posterity.
The County Board has been wanting for years to increase transparency through live-streaming its meetings for home viewing, and creating an online archive of them. Tuesday's meeting was the first it recorded on audio (video cameras will be debated down the line).
And what a first meeting it was.
The three-hour audio contains the bizarre 30-minute debate over how to handle amendments to the winery ordinance, an angry outburst after an attempt to cut off a County Board member's microphone, and a smackdown by the county parliamentarian over an attempt to – no kidding – make an amendment to an amendment to an amendment to an amendment to the liquor ordinance.
Two old sayings come to mind with the County Board attaining its webstreaming goal after Tuesday. One has something to do with laws being like sausage, and the other with being careful what you wish for.
If you do in fact want to listen to how sausage is made, you can find the audio file of the May 15 meeting at www.mchenrycountyil.iqm2.com. The county is still working the bugs out, though.
If you have better things to do, here are a few of the things that I couldn't fit into my winery story that ran Wednesday. I'll blog tomorrow about the microphone flap and other interesting happenings from the debate over a HUD waiver for a controversial housing project.
ONE BUSINESS SCARED OFF – The County Board's handling of the creation of a winery liquor license has scared off at least one potential future business.
Don Schellhaass, who owns the RowSchell Ridge Vineyard outside of Marengo, told the County Board during public comment that he at one time had a vision of opening a winery. But he said watching the ordeal that vintners Jeff and Sue Pankow have gone through just to get the license type helped him decide to prune that branch.
"That option is no longer in my plans, especially with what Jeff and Sue have endured so far to this point," Schellhaass told board members.
As I wrote in Wednesday's paper, the Pankows aren't optimistic about their dream of turning their small Blue Star Vineyard south of Hebron into a winery.
They appear to have gotten a glimpse of what could be in store for them going to the Zoning Board of Appeals for a conditional use permit, going back before the County Board for approval of said permit, and going back to the Liquor and License Committee for the actual license. Reading between the lines, Pankow told me he sees a small group of opponents having more opportunites to kill the project through death by a thousand cuts.
We'll see whether the Pankows stay in the fight or throw in the towel. I blogged here that the Pankows' troubles could help the county Democratic Party fight the Republican campaign message that it's the Democrats who are killing growth and innovation through red tape.
Schellhaass was one of eight people who spoke Tuesday night regarding the Pankows – six supported the winery idea, including two of the Pankows' neighbors, while two urged the County Board to move cautiously.
MAKING AMEND(MENT)S – The board parliamentarian stopped what would have been a record for amendments since I started covering county government four years ago.
Assistant State's Attorney Jana Blake stopped board member John Hammerand in mid-sentence when he tried to amend an amendment proposed to amend the winery amendments to the ordinance amending the liquor ordinance. (If I got this sequence wrong, I can hardly be blamed.)
"You're not going to make an amendment to an amendment to an amendment to an amendment. That's not going to happen," Blake told Hammerand, politely but firmly.
The record number that I have witnessed was an attempt to make an amendment to an amendment to an amendment over a conditional use permit for a farmer's market. Maybe it's an agritourism thing.
Blake replaces former assistant state's attorney Jamie Rein, who went into private practice. Confidential to Ms. Rein – don't you miss these meetings just one teeny tiny bit?
I just noticed that the meeting in which that record was set took place two years ago tomorrow, so I wish everyone an early Happy Amendment to an Amendment to an Amendment Day. Let's see those shameless opportunists at Hallmark come up with a card for this one.
RHUBARB QUESTION ANSWERED – A number of my readers latched on to a sentence in my May 9 winery story in which I mentioned that the liquor committee took time to debate whether rhubarb – which is used in some flavored wines – is a fruit or a vegetable.
The committee had debated at length whether to ban wines made from vegetables (mmmmmm ... Chateau Brussels Sprout). Readers who reached out to me used the rhubarb debate as a textbook case of government run amok.
For the record, Don Schellhaass – who besides growing grapes is the retired director of the University of Illinois Extension Office and therefore knows a thing or two thousand about agriculture – informed the County Board that rhubarb is in fact a vegetable.
GONZO COUNTY JOURNALISM – As a disclaimer, Mr. Craver wants it to be known that his Hunter S. Thompson-inspired title for this blog post does not mean he condones covering meetings under the influence of alcohol or illicit substances.
"I was driving down Fleming Road to the county's Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee when the drugs began to take hold ..."
We can't stop on Fleming Road! This is bat country!
Senior Writer Kevin Craver can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.