Four Republicans – all but one a newcomer – and one Democratic candidate are running for District 3 of the McHenry County Board.
Each party has one incumbent – Nick Provenzano for the Republicans, and Kathleen Bergan Schmidt for the Democrats. Rounding out the candidates for the district’s four open seats are GOP challengers Michael Walkup, Joe Gottemoller and Mary McClellan – all three of whom are lawyers. A second Democratic candidate, Lori McConville, dropped out of the race, citing time and job commitments.
All 24 seats on the County Board are up for grabs Nov. 6 because of post-census redistricting. District 3 still will cover Nunda and southeastern McHenry townships, but now will include four more Algonquin Township precincts on top of the one it already holds.
The County Board earlier this election year signaled its desire to freeze its levy for next year’s tax bills and not collect a 3 percent increase it is entitled to under the tax cap. Candidates split along party lines when asked by the Northwest Herald whether they would freeze it again in a non-election year for 2014’s bills.
Provenzano, a government affairs director, said he would repeat the freeze, as did the other three Republican candidates.
“Those we serve have had to tighten their belts, and with revenues down, the county must do the same,” he said. “We have the unique responsibility of being as efficient, effective and affordable as possible because we’re not spending our money – we’re spending the public’s.”
Bergan Schmidt, a former college history instructor and one of only two Democrats on the board, said it is far too early to tell whether another freeze will be economically feasible for the county’s 2014 budget year.
“Just as the devil is in the details for proposed state legislation, the devil is in the details for any projected budget and its accompanying tax levy,” she said. “Even one year in advance, it is not reasonable to be supporting such a future freeze for what is now unknown.”
Bergan Schmidt and the Republican candidates found common ground in opposing a referendum, spearheaded by Democratic state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, that will ask voters whether they want to change county government to a county executive form. Under an executive form, voters elect an executive to handle the day-to-day operations of county government. An executive has wide-ranging powers under Illinois law, including veto power over board legislation and the power to draft the county budget.
Walkup, like Bergan Schmidt, supports the idea of popularly electing the board chairman – right now the 24-member board elects the chairman to a two-year term after each general election. Walkup unsuccessfully implored board members to put a competing referendum on the ballot calling for popular election, which is done in most other collar counties.
“The much more powerful [executive] position that would be authorized by the Franks referendum could not be modified by the board as its sweeping powers are set by state statute, leaving no way to check a dictatorial and/or corrupt holder of that office,” Walkup said.
While the GOP candidates dislike the Franks referendum, they said the county had no business lobbying against a Franks bill that would have forbidden governments under the tax cap from collecting more property taxes in years when their total assessed values decline. The McHenry County Board is part of Metro Counties of Illinois, a lobbying group that joined other government lobbying groups in opposing the bill.
Some candidates said they support using lobbyists in certain circumstances, but McClellan said the county should consider abolishing lobbyists in favor of working more closely with its state lawmakers.
“County taxpayers do not get much return on the public money spent on the lobbyists who are working both sides of the fence,” she said. “We should be talking directly to our representatives to achieve the goals we have, not paying a middle man.”
Gottemoller said that he would improve the county’s business climate if elected. He said county ordinances, which are in the process of a major overhaul, are not business-friendly, and cited the ongoing struggles of a couple to turn their Hebron vineyard into a winery.
“The county’s planning authority is used to stifle the creation of jobs and growth in our local economy,” he said. “The winery was held up because the zoning ordinances was not designed for the modern-day use of a winery. The County Board reviewed the ordinance language for months while the business owner was forced to wait it out.”
District 3’s boundaries change slightly under the new map, and now include Algonquin Precincts 21,49, 50 and 67 from District 1.
The district is the only one that lost two incumbents prior to the November election. Barbara Wheeler, R-Crystal Lake, is running unopposed for the Illinois House of Representatives in the new 64th House District. Mary Donner, R-Crystal Lake, lost by 49 votes in the March primary.
On the Net
Visit Election Central at NWHerald.com/election to learn more about the races, candidates and issues in the Nov. 6 election.
McHenry County Board districts have changed slightly because of post-census redistricting. Visit http://shawurl.com/4q2 to see the new district boundary maps.
Visit the McHenry County Clerk’s website at www.co.mchenry.il.us/departments/countyclerk to view sample ballots, lists of candidates and polling places.