Mary Mahady has a lot of questions about the effect of township consolidation, but she isn’t getting any answers.
The McHenry Township assessor is running for the 32nd District Senate seat soon to be vacated by McHenry native state Sen. Pamela Althoff. In the lead-up to the November election, the Democrat has been sitting front row for a volatile campaign to consolidate the township’s highway department and ultimately collapse townships under the county government umbrella.
That campaign has included trustees approving a binding referendum for voters in November asking whether the highway department should be eliminated.
That same board – led by Trustee Bob Anderson and a slate of candidates who ran on a platform of “tax revolt” – voted this month to slash the salaries of elected officials in half.
At meetings, Anderson has skirted questions about his motives. He contends that a cost study is not necessary.
“It gives government a bad name,” Mahady told the Northwest Herald in an interview at her Johnsburg office. “They’re trying to erode it from the inside. If you can’t get a law or you can’t get a referendum passed to get rid of the township, why don’t you just chip away from the inside and show people you don’t need it?”
To Mahady, Anderson’s anti-township campaign – a crusade he sparked in the early 1990s – is about one thing: fulfilling a shortsighted agenda that preys on misinformation and manipulation of voters.
“They have an agenda,” Mahady said. “They are going to push, and if they answer the questions, people will not agree with them. The information they would supply would not support their agenda, so people wouldn’t support it. It’s better to have people thinking it’s about lowering their taxes when really it isn’t. It’s about getting rid of townships.”
The fight against townships in McHenry County started long before infighting engulfed Algonquin Township – the poster child of a proposed bill from state Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, which could allow township officials to put a binding referendum to voters to eliminate townships with a majority vote.
In 1994, Anderson spearheaded a referendum to eliminate the county’s townships the only way state law allowed – by switching from a county board to a three-member panel of county commissioners. By a 3-1 margin, voters defeated Anderson’s referendum to abolish townships in the November election.
To Mahady, townships matter.
“Township government is the closest to the people. They could come in here and talk to someone. They can get an answer. They don’t have to wait two weeks to get an appointment,” Mahady said. “[As elected officials], you are the people who know the area, who are part of the community, who are working in conjunction with your neighbors to make it a better community. You have a vested interest.”
Mahady characterized the movement as “incredibly upsetting.”