Sunday, August 28, 2016

Rauner signs bill to allow McHenry, Lake counties to consolidate units of local government



August 25, 2016

By Mindy Ruckman

A new law signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner on Aug. 5 gives McHenry and Lake counties the authority to consolidate and dissolve units of local government within their boundaries, a power granted to DuPage County in 2013.

McHenry and Lake counties now have the power to cut costly units of government – which could result in lower tax bills for county residents, whose property taxes fund local-government operations.

On Aug. 5, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed into law House Bill 229, which gives McHenry and Lake counties the authority to consolidate and dissolve units of local government within their boundaries. This is an expansion of a 2013 law that only applied to DuPage County.

The 2013 law allowed the DuPage County Board to dissolve or consolidate units of government that are not cost-effective or do not provide a unique service to taxpayers. Since this law passed, DuPage County has eliminated four units of local government, and has consolidated the services of others. DuPage County’s success even gained recognition from Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti as her Task Force on Local Government Consolidation and Unfunded Mandates recommended the expansion of DuPage County’s authority to all counties in Illinois.

In fact, that is exactly what HB 229 was intended to do. However, the bill that was signed into law is much more modest in reach than the measure state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, originally introduced in the General Assembly. The provision that extended government-consolidation and -dissolution powers to all 102 Illinois counties was cut to include only McHenry and Lake counties. The bill was also was changed to exclude conservation districts from McHenry and Lake counties’ dissolution and consolidation powers.

Despite the watering down of the bill, this marks a step in the right direction for Illinois. McHenry and Lake counties now have the ability to get rid of wasteful and duplicative units of government and give much needed relief to residents suffering under the weight of some of the highest property taxes in the nation.

This is also a step toward reducing the number of local governments in the state. Illinois has over 7,000 units of government – more than any state in the nation. And many of these, such as townships, are duplicative layers and do not provide taxpayers with any unique services. For example, the city of Elgin, just to the south of McHenry and Lake counties, has at least 16 units of government that its residents fund through taxes.

Efforts to reduce unnecessary layers of government shouldn’t stop here. The General Assembly should give all Illinois counties the authority to consolidate and dissolve local-government units. Illinois taxpayers desperately need these cost-saving reforms.

Above is from:

Recent RR Star article had M. Newhouse running unopposed for Boone Co Board.—What about William Randall (I)?


It is corrected now but has damaged been done?

Muggy, sticky weather could bring bountiful fall harvest for Rockford area farmers


By Adam Poulisse
Staff writer

Posted Aug. 23, 2016 at 4:26 PM
Updated Aug 24, 2016 at 2:28 PM

ROCKFORD — Heat and humidity can be rough on us, but this year's weather conditions are ideal for Brent Pollard's soybean and corn crops.

"The crops, especially the corn, really like that warm, moist weather," said Pollard, 35, who serves on the Winnebago-Boone Farm Bureau board of directors. "It's been a pretty good growing year for corn."
Pollard also grows soybeans, corn, wheat, alfalfa and, for the first and last time this year, barley on his Centerville Road farm in Rockford Township.
"I think this is one of the best-looking soybean crops I've ever had on this farm," he said.
Because the weather has been so cooperative, bumper crops are expected across the region, generating an abundance of goods come fall.
But if the crop yield is high, prices will go down.
"Based on the market and the growing conditions, we're probably going to grow more bushels of corn and soy this year and still have less revenue than last year," Pollard said. "The price is going to go down (because) we have so much of one crop."
Early ear count indicates above-average corn production, unless severe weather or other agricultural issues occur, according to Nikki Keltner, program coordinator at the University of Illinois Extension for Jo Daviess, Stephenson and Winnebago counties.
"We look to be in great shape," she said. "A lot can happen between now and harvest."
Pollard is up to his chest, literally, in soybeans; the stalks are about 5 feet high now, and they're covered with pods.
"The old wives' tale for soybeans is August rain makes soybeans great," Pollard said. "We're getting the rain now for the pods to stay on the plant."
Marshall Newhouse, a Capron farmer, Boone County Board candidate and member of the Winnebago-Boone Farm Bureau, said he expects this to be "one of the top five years for corn" in terms of production.
"We've had rain when we need it for completing the kernel fill," Newhouse said. "We've not had tremendous storms with high winds or hail to damage plants. If you drive around the country, crops are looking exceptionally healthy."
However, the season didn't begin so fruitfully. Inconsistent warm weather mixed with cold spurts left some farmers worried they were in for a repeat of last year, when the season started strong but the crops petered out from lack of moisture.

"It's been a little bit of a roller coaster," said Jeff Heinsohn, a farmer based in Kirkland who also owns land in Rockford and Harvard. "We were wet and cool in May, then dry in June; we were 4 inches below rainfall. On the 21st of July we had a big rain event and it swept the area with 1 to 2 inches of rain, which made a huge difference in this crop."

A bushel of corn in the state cost $3.58 in April, $3.68 in May and $3.82 in June, according to the University of Illinois. A bushel of soybeans cost $9.04 in April, $9.76 in May and $10.20 in June.
At this rate, we're looking at somewhere in the $3 range for corn, and $10 for a bushel of soybeans, Heinsohn said.
"It'll all depend on how it all finishes out," he said.
Ang Daniels and her family raise cattle and grow corn, soybeans and hay on 1,800 acres in Garden Prairie.
"The humidity, that's good for the corn," Daniels said. "We've had moisture at the right time."
"As long as we don't have strong winds," she added. "I'd hate to have a tremendous storm come through."
But a good harvest is "a plus and a minus," Daniels said, because bumper crops affect the commodity price.
"If you got an influx, then it's going to affect your prices because there's no shortage for it," she said. "There's enough to fit demand."
Adam Poulisse: 815-987-1344;; @adampoulisse
By the numbers: Commodities price per bushel over the years
June 2012: $13.90
June 2013: $15.10
June 2014: $14.40
June 2015: $9.58
June 2016: $10.20
June 2012: $6.37
June 2013: $6.97
June 2014: $4.49
June 2015: $3.58

June 2016: $3.82



Here is paragraph containing the “running unopposed” that appeared in the printed version.  The story was a front page story with this error occurring on the continuation page, A4.



Bill Hatfield’s View: Boone County works to treat all nonprofits fairly

  • My View: Boone County works to treat all nonprofits fairly

  • This opinion piece was printed recently in the Rockford Register Star and is available on line at:
  • By Bill Hatfield

    Rockford Register Star

    By Bill Hatfield

    Posted Aug. 27, 2016 at 10:00 AM

  • Bill HatfieldBill Hatfield
  • By Bill Hatfield

  • Posted Aug. 27, 2016 at 10:00 AM

    In recent years a small group of vocal citizens has chosen to pressure the Boone County Board of Health, the Boone County Health Department and the County Board for continued special treatment at the expense of taxpayers and local businesses. They discovered that their not-for-profit status entitles them to the county code fee waiver for food permits.
    Fee waiver history: No waiver in the 1975 code. No waiver in the 1981 code. In 1987, a fee waiver was introduced for “nonprofit organizations such as: school districts, hospitals, day care centers and churches.” In 1995, the County Food Code was updated to comply with new state requirements.
    In that update the definition changed to “Bona fide not for profit organizations” based upon a conversation with the Illinois Department of Revenue that anyone having been issued an “E” tax number was an exclusively charitable organization and therefore “Bona fide not for profit.” The Board of Health then adopted the “E” tax number as the definition of an NFP but neglected to have it officially changed in the County Food Code.
    Instead of seeking consistency in the county code and calling for a fee waiver from all county fees, the group has concentrated on retaining the special treatment and is calling for elimination of the department. BCHD is an NFP organization that benefits Boone County citizens through a variety of services; many of which are either free or a reduced rate.
    Much revenue brought into the county through multiple state and federal grants can only be received by a “certified” local health department. Grants make up 44.9 percent of the department budget while the local taxpayer levy represents 24.3 percent. For every local tax dollar received, BCHD brings in $1.84 through grants, almost doubling the local tax contribution. A BCHD report is published annually, which gives a summary of services offered. At least 40,000 local citizens are impacted by BCHD services annually.
    Some false statements and wrong assumptions found in previous letters from the group are addressed below:
    BCHD wants to charge all nonprofits: BCHD seeks to remove special treatment enjoyed by some at a $20,000 annual expense to the local taxpayer. County code also waives food permit fees for NFPs located outside the county/state. The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club is a bona fide NFP established in California. Local taxpayers will subsidize them and other such groups if they apply for a Boone County food permit.
    Fees, no rhyme/reason: Actual costs incurred by BCHD for evaluating, permitting, educating and inspecting food facilities determine fees. The low risk permit cost was $162.21 in 2015. This baseline cost is adjusted to cover additional inspections/education/time required for establishments posing a higher risk of food-borne illness to the public. Illinois Department of Public Health Food Sanitation Code “risk” criteria are used by all Illinois health departments to determine minimum food management certification, education and inspection requirements.
Health Department says, "We are in the red. We need more money. We need more fees, now!": BCHD has never made that statement.
2013 wage increases: In 2013, the Health Department was unable to hire replacements for necessary positions due to noncompetitive wages. Adjustments brought wages in line with surrounding counties for similar positions.
Cindy Frank's 55 percent pay increase (2013): Published budgets show the administrator was paid $78,250 in 2013 and $80,116 in 2014; less than a 2 percent increase.
Administrator salary 2017: Administrators must meet qualifications required by Illinois statute that limit the ability to find and hire persons approvable by IDPH for the position. $90,675 is a maximum number in a proposed budget.
Combining jobs/layoffs: The balanced 2017 budget combines three management positions into two. Both remaining positions will assume more workload, responsibility and hands-on client contact activities day to day. Several BCHD vacated positions remain unfilled.
Money from taxes: Taxpayer money currently subsidizes all NFP food permit/education/inspection costs due to the NFP fee waiver. NFPs pay all other fees in the county code, from $5 clerk fees to $2,500 annual liquor licenses.
Volunteer organizations give back: The value of NFPs is not at issue. The issue is that everyone choosing to conduct an activity that causes an expense to the taxpayer must reimburse for that expense or choose to conduct an activity that has no cost to the taxpayer.
88 percent salaries and benefits: According to the Bureau of Labor Standards Economic News release, June 9, formula, the 15 workers at the department should have cost $1,322,977 in salaries and benefits. The department paid $979,852.
$500,000 in untapped grant money: All grants have requirements that must be met prior to grant expiration. There is no such thing as “untapped grant money.”
Food-borne Illness: BCHD has been required to assist in numerous food-borne illness investigations that occurred elsewhere. The only illness originating in Boone County recently was an outbreak at a closed event where volunteers were used and no permit was required.
Overtime: Employees who work weekends and evening hours are compensated by taking the equivalent hours off during their normal work week.
Crusader Clinic: BCHD works very closely with Crusader Clinic. Crusader can only offer medical services to those persons who are enrolled with the clinic and can afford a copay. Those who don’t qualify are referred to the Health Department for medical services.
Bill Hatfield is director of Environmental Health for the Boone County Health Department

Native Americans fight No Dakota pipeline


With echoes of Wounded Knee, tribes mount prairie occupation to block North Dakota pipeline

Los Angeles TimesLos Angeles Times

Los Angeles Times

William Yardley


Jon Don Ilone Reed, an Army veteran and member of South Dakota's Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, poses for a photo at an oil pipeline protest near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in southern North Dakota, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016. Reed said he fought in Iraq and is now fighting "fighting for our children and our water."© James MacPherson/AP Jon Don Ilone Reed, an Army veteran and member of South Dakota's Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, poses for a photo at an oil pipeline protest near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in southern North Dakota, Thursday… REPORTING FROM ALONG THE CANNONBALL RIVER, N.D. - Long before Lewis and Clark paddled by, Native Americans built homes here at the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri rivers, using the thick earth to guard against brutal winters and hard summer heat. They were called the Mandan people.

Now, Native Americans are living here again. They sleep in teepees and nylon tents. They ride horses and drive quad cabs. They string banners between trees and, when they can get a signal, they post messages with hashtags such as #ReZpectOurWater, #NoDakotaAccess and #NODAPL. For weeks, they have been arriving from the scattered patches of the United States where the government put their ancestors to protest what they say is one indignity too many in a history that has included extermination and exploitation.

It is called the Dakota Access oil pipeline and it could carry more than 400,000 barrels of crude oil a day from the Bakken region of western North Dakota across South Dakota and Iowa to connect with an existing pipeline in Illinois.

The 1,100-mile pipeline, which is estimated to cost $3.7 billion, is nearly halfway complete. But construction on a section that would sink beneath the Missouri River, just north of the reservation of the Standing Rock Sioux, has been halted under orders from the sheriff of Morton County, Kyle Kirchmeier. He said protesters, nearly 30 of whom have been arrested in recent weeks, were creating safety issues.

Yet the protesters say they are creating something very different - new resistance against what they say is a seemingly endless number of pipelines, export terminals and rail lines that would transport fossil fuels across or near tribal reservations, risking pollution to air, water and land.

"Every time there's a project of this magnitude, so the nation can benefit, there's a cost," Dave Archambault, the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux, who was among those arrested, said in an interview. "That cost is born by tribal nations."

Archambault and other native leaders have been caught off guard by the support they have received. What began with a handful of natives establishing a prayer camp along the river this spring has now drawn international environmental groups and prompted Hollywood celebrities, including Susan Sarandon and Shailene Woodley, to join them, whether here or in a protest last week in Washington, D.C., or on social media.

"Inspired by the Standing Rock Sioux's efforts to halt the Dakota Access Pipeline," Leonardo DiCaprio posted on Twitter this week.

Lawyers from Earthjustice are representing the Standing Rock Sioux in a legal effort to stop construction of the pipeline. They claim that the Army Corps of Engineers violated the National Historic Preservation Act when it approved the project and that a more stringent environmental review should be done. They say the pipeline and its construction would damage ancestral sites of the Standing Rock Sioux and put the tribe's water supply at risk.

On Thursday, nearly three dozen environmental groups wrote to President Obama, who visited the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in 2014 with Michelle Obama, saying the Corps approved the project using a fast-track process, known as permit 12, that was inadequate given its size and the many sensitive areas it would cross.

The Corps of Engineers argued in court in Washington this week that the Standing Rock Sioux and other parties had ample time to express concerns during a review process and that the pipeline was properly approved. Energy Transfer Partners, the Texas company building it, says the pipeline will increase the nation's energy independence and that it is a safer means of transport than rail.

The judge over seeing the case, James A. Boasberg of United States District Court, said this week that he will rule no later than Sept. 9 on a request by the Standing Rock Sioux to stop construction and reconsider permits the project has received.

The pipeline has met resistance elsewhere along its route, including from farmers in Iowa concerned about soil damage and property owners whose land is being taken by eminent domain. But nothing compares to what has taken hold here between the rivers.

Nantinki Young, who goes by Tink, is a member of the Rosebud Sioux tribe from South Dakota; she runs the cook shack here. Winona, who did not give her last name, is Penobscot. She left Maine on Monday and drove 2,100 miles to put together a recycling program for the hundreds of new residents of the protest camp.

And then there is Clyde Bellecourt. He is Ojibwe. He came from Minnesota, but may be better associated with Wounded Knee, S.D. Not the massacre in 1890, but the standoff in 1973, when the group he helped found, the American Indian Movement, suddenly became a household name, the image of Indian activism.

He is 80 now. Sitting in a folding chair not far from the Buick where he keeps copies of a flyer promoting his new memoir, he likes what he sees.

"My life is almost over, but there's fresh energy here," he said. "Save the children - that's what this is all about."

Protesters have vowed to stay at least until Judge Boasberg rules and potentially much longer. Monitors from Amnesty International have arrived. An employee of the federal Indian Health Service established a first aid tent. Vans carpooled people to showers.

Members of the Standing Rock Sioux formed Spirit Resistance Radio, at 87.9 FM, to broadcast updates. An Art Market opened to sell handmade crafts. There was talk, lighthearted for now, about establishing a school that would teach children at the camp site in native languages.

The Morton County Sheriff's office has blocked one of the main routes to the camp from Bismarck, the state capital, forcing some protesters to drive a lengthier route to the site. Law enforcement is planning to escort school buses that travel through the area, though protesters say they want nothing but peace and prayers.

People have been practicing nonviolent direct action tactics, preparing to try to stop construction should it start again. A lawyer from Colorado working pro bono asked protesters to fill out forms "if you think that you have a clean record and you want to be arrestable."

Jasilyn Charger, 20, is among a group of young natives who ran together from North Dakota to Washington to protest the pipeline. She remembers the early days of the protest, when just a handful of people prayed by the river.

"When we started this, people thought we were crazy," she said. "But look at where we are today."

Don Cuny, 65, was among those impressed with how robust the camp had become. Like Bellecourt, he was at Wounded Knee when natives led a 71-day standoff in the town on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. That effort was driven in part by a goal to rewrite treaties with the government.

"This kind of reminds me of back in Wounded Knee," said Cuny, who goes by Cuny Dog. "Except that I'm gaining weight. At Wounded Knee, I lost weight."