We have mixed feelings about state Rep. Jack Franks’ attempt to put a referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot asking voters if they want to change the McHenry County Board to an executive form of government.
On the one hand, we think voters should decide how they want to be governed locally.
On the other, we don’t think a political feud should be the driving force behind seeking such a change. And we have little doubt that Franks’ longstanding feud with County Board Chairman Ken Koehler is part of his motivation for seeking the referendum.
Franks needs to gather at least 500 signatures and file by Aug. 30 to get the question before McHenry County voters.
If he does and a judge certifies Franks’ petition, voters will be asked to decide whether they’d prefer to elect an executive at large to run the county’s day-to-day operations.
Under the existing system, voters elect their board representatives by district, then the seated board members select their chairman. The board also hires and supervises a county administrator who runs the daily operations.
If this referendum gets on the ballot and is approved, voters still would elect their board representatives by district, but all county voters also would elect an executive who would lead the board and run daily operations. The county administrator position no longer would be needed.
Will County is the only Illinois county with an executive form of government. As it is in Will County, Franks’ petition seeks an executive form of government without home rule and the additional taxing authority that comes with it.
We have supported the idea of a countywide election of the board chairman at the ballot box. Franks initially tried to get this change before voters, but it required the County Board to call for a referendum. The County Board balked.
We’d have preferred the County Board trust voters enough to decide whether they wanted to maintain the status quo or elect the board chairman at large.
We still have much to learn about the executive form of county government in Illinois, and will help to educate readers if the referendum makes it to the ballot.