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Our View: Consolidation movement gaining steam

Published: Monday, March 6, 2017 1:29 p.m. CDT

It’s hard to know what to make of voter moods when only about seven percent of registered voters came out for a primary election that, locally, only featured township races.

The low turnout was expected, and probably a few points higher than expected. Unless people live in rural parts of McHenry County, where township services are more obvious, particularly when it comes to road maintenance – the general feeling toward township government ranges from a shrug to anger over why township government exists.

The biggest surprise from Tuesday’s election was the dethroning of Algonquin Township Highway Commissioner Robert Miller who enjoyed the support of many high-ranking Republicans and, by most accounts, has been a dedicated and effective highway commissioner for decades.

What’s dogged Miller for many years is the nepotism in the highway department that also employs his wife and sons-in-law in what critics deride as a family business. Miller was within his rights to hire his own employees, but by doing so he opened himself to that criticism. Conversely, he also spreads a great deal of goodwill though his volunteer efforts.

In spite of the strong GOP support. Miller was defeated by firebrand and McHenry County Board member Andrew Gasser who, despite anyone’s opinion of his style, is unrivaled when it comes to shoe-leather, door-to-door politics, which seems to be very effective, particularly in a race where low turnout is guaranteed.

“It wasn’t my victory. It really was a victory for the silent majority,” Gasser said. “This isn’t about me at all. It’s all about the people. They spoke very loudly, very clearly and very decisively, and now it’s up to those who won tonight to govern.”

Maybe so. It definitely isn’t about qualifications. Only 145 votes separated them. We know little of Gasser’s qualifications to lead a road district. While it’s not necessary as a supervisor, he lacks the legal driving qualifications to operate much of the highway district’s equipment.

Perhaps there’s something more symbolic in Miller’s loss. Miller also happens to be the president of the Townships Officials of Illinois, and his defeat against an opponent who favors township consolidation might indicate that a movement toward eliminating or certainly consolidating township government has gained a foothold.

That’s something the McHenry County Board hasn’t adequately covered, but it’s not a dead issue in the minds of many voters who are looking at all possible avenues to shrink government and their exorbitant property tax bills.

The combination of Gasser’s election and last fall’s election of McHenry County Recorder Joe Tiro, who won on a platform of consolidation, is proof voters aren’t giving up that fight anytime soon.

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