Local Editorials

Our view: Voters deserve option on McHenry County Board chairman

Referendum to elect County Board chairman divides members

McHenry County voters deserve to decide how their County Board chairman is elected.

It's that simple.

Maybe voters will decide to keep things as they are. Currently, voters elect their representatives to the County Board by district, then every two years the board members themselves decide who their leader will be.

Maybe voters want to change the current system, and be able to directly elect the County Board chairman during a countywide election.

Either way, voters should have that choice. It's up to the current County Board to give that choice to voters, and it needs to do so.

Jan. 22 is the deadline to get a referendum on the April 9 ballot, so the board is running out of time. There is no election in November this year, so if the County Board does not get it on the April ballot, the next opportunity won't be until March 2014.

Tonight is the last scheduled meeting of the County Board before the Jan. 22 deadline passes. It must have meaningful discussion on the topic tonight and either vote to put a referendum on the ballot or, if need be, schedule a special meeting prior to Jan. 22 to get it done.

One outstanding question that must be resolved is whether, if voters decide they'd prefer to elect the chairman at-large, whether the chairman comes from among the 24 current members of the County Board, or whether the position becomes a 25th member of the board.

While we think the County Board is too large as it is, initially the County Board chairman should be a 25th member of the board. It's the only way to maintain a fair amount of representation among the county's six board districts. If voters decide they want to elect the chairman, a future board can figure out how to best reduce its size.

During the runup to last November's general election, the vast majority of candidates running for McHenry County Board said they would, if elected, vote to put a referendum on the ballot.

Board members can't let one of their first acts of 2013 be to break a campaign promise.

Get a referendum on the ballot.

Let voters decide.

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