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McLean County Nixes Vote On Election Offices Merger

Eric Stock
Mike O'Grady, far right, of the Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council presents a report Tuesday to the McLean County Board Executive Committee.

McLean County voters outside Bloomington won't have a say in whether the county’s and city’s election offices should merge.

The County Board’s Executive Committee voted 5-3 on Tuesday against an advisory referendum that would have been placed on the November ballot.

The panel approved advisory questions on whether the state’s elected officials should face term limits and whether the state should enact a new property tax to help pay the state’s pension obligations.

Board member George Gordon, D-Normal, opposed asking county voters about merging the county clerk’s election operations with the Bloomington Election Commission, noting a petition drive is already underway to create a similar binding resolution for Bloomington voters in November.

“If we are trying to avoid public confusion, this isn’t the way to do it,” Gordon said.

Board member Jim Soeldner, R-Ellsworth, said he would be fine with dropping the ballot question if the petitioners gather enough signatures to get it on the Bloomington ballot, but he said the county’s voters have a right to be heard.

“I think that any time you have the opportunity that we have to take the temperature of the voters in the county, I think we should do that,” Soeldner said.

Board member Erik Rankin, D-Bloomington, said the proposal to consolidate the BEC and county’s election offices is a “terribly worded question.”

“Who isn’t going to say, 'Consolidation, that sounds like less government,'" Rankin said. "So must people are going to be like, 'Yeah, sure consolidation.' If that’s what you are going for that’s fine, but you are asking a leading question."

Gordon suggested voters be given an additional option: to create a countywide election authority, a nonpartisan office that would be run similar to the BEC.

Term Limits

The committee voted 6-3 to give county voters a chance to weigh in on whether statewide elected officials should be subjected to term limits. The proposal would only be advisory.

Board member William Caisley, R-Normal, said targeting only state lawmakers for term limits seems to be a double standard.

“Do you suppose that some members of the public would think this is kind of hypocritical for us to put this question on the ballot with respect to state officials but not county officials?” Caisley asked.

Gordon backed the proposal, saying he doesn’t see any hypocrisy.

“You don’t have to propose term limits that apply to absolutely everybody,” Gordon said. “If somebody wants to point it out that maybe it should apply to us too then, fine, you want to do the wording (of the proposal) then go ahead.”

Property Tax

The committee voted 5-4 to support a ballot question on a proposed 1 percent residential property tax.

Soeldner proposed the ballot question, saying he was troubled by a recent Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago report which suggested such a tax to help pay down the state's pension debt.

“It’s funny to me because I think that because if you listen to the news, there’s no one crying more about the burdensome property taxes than our state legislators,” Soeldner said. “But I think that’s where (the proposal) would start.”

Board member Paul Segobiano, D-Bloomington, voted no, suggesting voters would never approve such an increase.

“If by some reason this makes the ballot, then we ought to be able to make snowballs in hell someday,” Segobiano quipped.

The bank claims the state’s pension debt could be paid in 30 years through the new tax.

The property tax and term limit questions will go before the County Board on July 17.

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
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