Whatever Happened to the Party of Small Government?
“The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield, and government to gain ground.” -Thomas Jefferson
“I want to run McHenry County…being an executive able to really change fundamentally the structure of government.” -Jack Franks “The Download” WGN Radio (8/24/16)
So it comes as no surprise that Chairman Franks has enthusiastically embraced Representative David McSweeney’s bill (H.B. 4244), which would allow voters in (only) McHenry County to abolish a township by forcing a referendum onto an election ballot with a petition containing signatures of at least 5 percent of voters from a previous comparable election.
Think about that for a minute. On April 4, 2017, an election was held in Algonquin Township to elect sundry township-wide officials, and the average turnout of the 4 races was 5,956. If all it takes to put a dissolution referendum before the voters on a similar, off-peak ballot is 5% of the vote, then all it would take is for 298 people to allow proponents to force a vote upon over 90,000 of their neighbors to abolish the township. All of the Township’s functions would be taken over by the County.
H.B. 4244 is the legislative corollary to the old line “bad facts make bad law”. From a story in the Northwest Herald discussing the bill:
McSweeney’s bill follows on the heels of the in-house lawsuits, budget-busting legal fees and corruption allegations that have engulfed Algonquin Township.
“[Algonquin Township] is the best example of bad government,” McSweeney said. “It is a great example of a government that will hopefully be eliminated.”
Not that there’s any discussion in Rep. McSweeney’s bill of making proponents show how such a move would save taxpayers money. No, he’s using the current uproar over alleged actions of the previous road supervisor to create a larger and more centralized McHenry County government. Not that what’s going on in Algonquin Township is a model of rectitude, but once again we have a politician jumping in front of a parade as if he organized the thing. He’s making a naked appeal to emotion in order to avoid the heavy lifting necessary to prove his case.
Do you want to know what’s going to happen if this bill passes? You’re going to be one step further away from participatory democracy.
Last week, the McHenry Township Board met to consider adopting a motion to place a referendum on the November ballot to dissolve the Township’s road district and fold everything into the Township. It was pretty much assumed that a “yes” vote was a fait accompli. But a bunch of motivated citizens showed up and told the Board to prove their case. The final vote was 3-2 against the motion. Try doing that in front of the County Board with Jack Franks holding the gavel. In supporting McSweeney’s bill, Franks is quoted in the Northwest Herald: “We want to be a laboratory for the state.” The thought of that kind of power in his hands scares me to death.
It used to be you could count on Republicans to be the party of small government. There’s a principle long embraced by conservatives known as “subsidiarity”, which says that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority. Political decisions should be taken at a local level if possible, rather than by a central authority. Republicans used to believe in it; I still do.