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Our view: Put chairman referendum on the ballot

Voters resoundingly defeated Tuesday’s referendum to change McHenry County government to an executive form.

The issue of how the County Board chairman should be selected still looms.

Many voices have been calling for direct voters election of the chairman over the current system, in which the leader is chosen by fellow board members every two years rather than at the ballot box by voters.

Before gathering the signatures to place the county executive referendum on the ballot, state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, also called on the County Board to ask voters whether they’d rather elect the chairman countywide. The board’s refusal to do so led Franks to the county executive referendum.

This Editorial Board recommended a “no” vote on the county executive referendum.

Now that the executive referendum has been defeated, it’s time to revisit the alternative.

Mostly due to attrition, the McHenry County Board will have nine new members when it is seated next month.

Fresh perspective can be a good thing, and a great way to reach out to constituents is by asking them what they want.

If voters want more accountability for the board chairman and the ability to remove the chairman via countywide vote, then give them that option.

During candidate interviews with the Editorial Board, the majority of County Board candidates spoke out against the county executive referendum, but also said they would support placing another referendum on a later ballot asking voters whether they’d prefer to choose the chairman directly.

It’s time to stand by those words.

The 24 members of the McHenry County Board who will be sworn in in December will have more than just a voice – they’ll have the ability to make a motion and vote. It’s a simple question that voters should be allowed to answer with a simple ballot.

There are good arguments for and against direct election of a county chairman. Let the proponents make them. Just as we had meaningful dialogue on the county executive referendum, we can debate the merits of this other alternative.

Governments have until Jan. 22 to put referendums on the April 9 ballot. The new County Board should put this on there.

It’s time to trust voters to decide the issue for themselves.

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