It didn’t take long for some members of the McHenry County Board to come around.
A day after state Rep. Jack Franks filed a petition to place a referendum on the November ballot asking voters if they’d prefer to change the county to an executive form of government, more than a few County Board members changed their tune on whether to seek their own referendum.
Franks, the Northwest Herald and others encouraged the County Board months ago to put a referendum on the ballot asking voters if they’d prefer to popularly elect an at-large County Board chairman.
Under the current system, voters elect their County Board representatives by district. Then every two years, the board members themselves select their chairman.
The current system is OK, but this newspaper’s Editorial Board – and I – have favored giving voters a choice. Do voters want to maintain the status quo, or would they prefer to select the board chairman at the ballot box? In Kane and many other collar counties, the county board chairman is elected directly by voters.
But a majority of County Board members preferred the status quo and balked at placing a referendum on the ballot.
They should have trusted voters.
Undeterred, Franks gathered more than enough signatures to get his own referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot. But this referendum is not just about popularly electing the chairman. Voters will be asked whether they want to change county government to an executive system.
If a majority of voters approve, a popularly elected executive would serve four-year terms, effectively replacing the county administrator. The county executive would have a wide range of responsibilities and power. He or she would prepare the budget, recommend department heads, and have veto power on County Board votes.
Because of Franks’ actions, County Board members are calling a special meeting Thursday to reconsider their own referendum decision.
While most prefer the status quo, some at least think that a popularly elected chairman is better than an elected executive.
The board has until Aug. 20 to decide whether to put its own referendum on the ballot.
If it does, voters will have the confusing proposition of deciding on two referendums regarding county government.
Doesn’t that sound like fun?
The Northwest Herald, of course, will do our best to help voters make sense of each of the dueling referendums – if, in fact, there are two – so you can make informed decisions at the poll.
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Welcome back: The grand reopening of the Spring Grove Fish Hatchery is quickly approaching.
Ron Erdmann of Spring Grove emailed me last week seeking volunteers to help out at the Sept. 15 event.
Built in 1914, the hatchery closed in 2005 because of budget cuts. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources was prepared to sell the hatchery land until legislation passed that allowed the village to buy it for $1.
With the help of a couple of state grants, a three-quarter-mile gravel-based walking trail was built around the 20-acre lake. New fishing piers were constructed, fencing was put in around the ponds and the visitors center was renovated.
The reopening celebration will be from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 15. Admission will be $5 for adults, $3 for children. Billy’s Catering is providing food.
Visitors will be able to tour the grounds and the visitors center, according to Sandy Rusher with the village of Spring Grove. A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be at 2 p.m.
If you are interested in volunteering for the event, email Rusher at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Welcome back II: I received an encouraging voicemail message Thursday from Jane Farmer, executive director of Turning Point.
Farmer had been out since suffering a stroke in April while vacationing with family in Georgia. I wasn’t able to connect with her, but in her message she said she’s feeling better and back working part time at McHenry County’s only shelter for victims of domestic abuse.
That’s great news. Farmer and all of the staff and volunteers at Turning Point deserve our thanks and support for the vital services they provide.
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Bringing home gold: Congratulations to Crystal Lake native Amy LePeilbet and all of her teammates on the U.S. women’s soccer team.
A defensive starter, LePeilbet was a major contributor to the team’s gold medal-winning performance at the London Olympics.
In addition to shutting down some of the world’s top strikers throughout the Games, she made a key block of a shot in the closing minutes of Thursday’s final to help preserve a 2-1 victory over Japan.
The 2000 graduate of Prairie Ridge High School is believed to be the first Olympic gold medalist from McHenry County. That’s quite an accomplishment.
Congratulations also to 2007 Jacobs graduate Evan Jager, who finished sixth in the Olympics 3,000-meter steeplechase event. He might not have medaled, but the Algonquin native made quite a showing given that he just started competing in the event in April.
I might be getting ahead of myself, but how does Rio de Janeiro sound in 2016?
• Dan McCaleb is senior editor of the Northwest Herald. He can be reached at 815-526-4603 or by email at email@example.com.