Boone County has elected its new board; now members will vote among themselves and select the next county chairman. The chairman has the power to appoint more than 100 individuals throughout the county to these positions and committees;planning commission, zoning board of appeals, building board of appeals,board of review,and the health department’s board. This is a very powerful position.
Our current chairman will retire after eight years, but his policies will continue. With a usual 8-to-4 approval vote by the board, he has appointed, in some cases, multiple family members, cousin, and friends to these influential positions with terms lasting one to five years, thereby extending the current chairman’s political position on matters for years to come.
The chairman appointed or didn't appoint elected county board members to the seven standing committees, which run the central government. If you didn’t support his position on matters, you were likely overlooked for a committee position where you might have presented opposition to his plans.
These seven committees direct the future of our county, how it will grow, what projects get done and who gets their budgets approved. Our current financial situation has evolved over the past eight years. Decreased tax revenue and increased demands from our county departments with little or no effort to conserve spending has brought us to this deficit-crisis.
The chairman, his supporters on the board and some of the farming sector decided no one could have a big turbine. Now the opportunity to provide clean industry is gone. The wind farms would have provided a much-needed revenue resource. Individual landowners had a choice. Not now. Individual rights gone.
The chairman’s invitation to “bring on the train” blindsided our citizens and left them scrambling to protect their homes and property. There was no individual right to say, “Not on my land.”
The chairman’s decision to end the City-County Planning Department. and the Belvidere-Boone County Regional Planning Commission was financially irresponsible. It has cost the county twice the money to have a planning department and has ended our grant money from the state. State grant money for regional planning helped both the county and the city in carrying out plans for future growth, and that included infrastructure to bring industry to our area. Board members Branson, Freeman, Shultz and Ward voted against that insanity.
The new chairman must understand finance, work well with the county administrator, all members of the board, be able to negotiate and bring clean industry to our area. It will require a person who has an open mind to the needs of our county and a vision for its future. He must represent all 54,000 citizens, not special interest groups or just those of the farmers. He must conduct open and transparent government.
A good start would be for the city and county to come together and restore the City-County Planning Department and the Belvidere-BC Regional Planning Commission. It would be financially beneficial for both. Any industry that comes to the county or the city will bring tax dollars to both governments. The city is within the county and common sense says, “WORK TOGETHER.”
Toria Funderburg is a 40-year Boone County citizen.