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McHenry County Board bashes state Rep. David McSweeney's township bill

Resolution in the works to oppose proposed McSweeney legislation

State Rep. David McSweeney has no interest in speaking with the McHenry County Board. 

The slice of input came from McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks during the board's Committee of the Whole meeting Thursday, when a bulk of board representatives demanded cooperation from the Barrington Hills legislator.

At the center of the board's ire is the Republican's proposed township abolishment legislation.

Drawing from his own 18 years as a lawmaker in Springfield, Franks said trying to get a legislator to listen to a county board is "sort of like beating our heads against the wall and hoping something changes."

District 2 representative Jeff Thorsen suggested that Franks invite McSweeney to McHenry County to talk with the board. The chairman said he already talked with McSweeney about that.

"He has no interest in that," Franks said.

“The only people I’m responsible to are my constituents,” McSweeney told the Northwest Herald. “My job is to do what I believe is best for my constituents, which is passing this bill.”

Franks suggested that board members with concerns about the legislation should contact McSweeney individually.

"I think it's a lot quicker; I think it makes a lot more sense," Franks said. "What I don't want to do is set a precedent that we are going to be trying to micromanage our legislators in Springfield who frankly don't care much what we think."

The township bill, filed as House Bill 348, spurred County Board representatives to share their biggest concerns in public during Thursday's meeting. McSweeney filed a similar bill in 2017 that former Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed during his final days in office. McSweeney filed a new bill almost immediately that contains the same power of the preceding proposal, creating a referendum process for voters to dissolve McHenry County townships at the polls.

"Right now, if this theoretically were to pass, it's garbage because it doesn't address all the concerns and all of the things that would happen strictly under this piece of legislation," District 5 representative Michael Skala said. "If we are able to pass legislation that gives and empowers the voters into doing something with their tax dollars with their township, then we should be in favor of that and allow them that opportunity, but the ramifications of a yes vote or no vote need to be clearly defined and clearly laid out so that the ramifications don't come in a big pile of doothat we all have to deal with."

McSweeney's motivation is unclear, Skala said.

"I have some really good clues," Skala said. "I think I have some pretty good ideas what his motivation is, but I don't know because he won't talk to me. Is it pure? My guess would be no, but, again, I couldn't tell you that."

Franks concedes with the sentiment that McSweeney's bill needs a lot of work.

"There are issues with this," Franks said. "But I think people need to let the process play out because there could be amendments, and there ought to be amendments."

Chris Christensen of District 3 doesn't trust the process in Springfield.

"I've heard since I've been on this board that consolidation is a good thing, and for two years I've been on this board, and I have nothing to show any resident of what it looks like, who's going to plow the roads, but yet, if I'm against it, I'm for higher taxes, which I'm not," Christensen said. "I'm just for good governance, and I just simply do not trust the process in Springfield."

He summed up his concerns about McSweeney's consolidation this way: "I wish there was a plan."

Franks joked: "I want to remind you what Winston Churchill said about democracy. He said it's the worst form of all governments – except for all the other ones."

District 6 representative Jim Kearns also weighed in.

"Mr. McSweeney doesn't give a [expletive] about McHenry County. I'm sorry, he doesn't. ... I have to be honest with you. I hate this with a passion. I hate this kind of government. This government that we have in Illinois has bankrupted every single citizen of this state. We are broke. And do we want to bring that to McHenry County with more poor legislation? No, we don't. ... Mr. McSweeney, I'm calling you out. It's a bunch of garbage what you've been doing in Springfield," Kearns said.

District 4 representative Pamela Althoff, a former state senator, said it's important that County Board members are involved in the shaping of legislation.

"It is our responsibility to represent the people who elected us, and if that is even to take action that falls on deaf ears, it is still our responsibility to be accountable to the people who elected us, and if we feel that Springfield is acting inappropriately, then I think it is our obligation to respond to that, and it's easier to respond earlier than later," Althoff said. "In all respect to the process, we are part of the process."

The County Board is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the McHenry County Administration Building, 667 Ware Road, Woodstock. Board members expect to vote on a resolution requesting that representatives get an opportunity to provide input to shape McSweeney’s bill.

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