Madigan: RI County board size changes can be made now

Originally Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2014, 6:07 pm
Last Updated: Aug. 11, 2014, 6:08 pm
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By Tyler Langan,

ROCK ISLAND -- The size of the Rock Island County Board can be changed without waiting for the next federal Census in 2020, according to the Illinois Attorney General's office.

Rock Island County State's Attorney John McGehee told the board's Governmental Affairs Committee on Monday that a letter from Senior Assistant Attorney General Lynn E. Patton said a Constitutional provision granting counties the right to change methods of choosing board members outweighs a state statute providing the changes can be made only every 10 years, in the wake of the Census.

The board has 25 members, elected from single-member districts.Various proposals for reducing the size have been discussed, but none have gotten any traction in the face of the law providing changes can come only every 10 years.

Now, with the attorney general's office saying waiting isn't necessary, the first step toward changing the number of board members would be the board proposing it to voters in a binding referendum, according to Drue Mielke, R-Coal Valley, who was among board members who sought an opinion on the issue.

Mr. McGehee said simply cutting the number of board members would not constitute a change in the county's method of electing board members, so any proposal should any change would involve creating multiple-member districts.

Mr. McGehee said he will find out if the referendum must run on a general election ballot or if it can be conducted during a primary election. No action to alter the size of the board was taken during the committee meeting.

Board member Scott Terry, who has proposed dropping 10 of the 25 members, said he needs to talk with his constituents to see if they support reducing the size of the board by creating multiple-member districts.

"I think what people want is a smaller board but to retain a single member district," Mr. Terry said. "I'm going to listen to my constituents and see what they have to say about that."

Mr. Mielke said he's been a champion for reducing the size of the board since he ran in for the county board in 2012. He is glad to see the issue gaining traction.

In an advisory referendum in 2012, Rock Island County voters, by a 9,276-4,958 margingsaid they favor changing to a system with five districts, with each district choosing three board members.

"I would work with someone if my district was larger, and I had a democrat elected with me. I would think it was a good thing," Mr. Mielke said. "I work with Scott Terry — he's a Democrat. I work with him whenever I can. We don't agree on everything."


Local events heading

  Today is Wednesday, Sept. 17, the 260th day of 2014. There are 105 days left in the year.
1864 -- 150 years ago: We are told league merchants have paid no attention to the prohibition on selling ammunition, but continue to sell just as before the order was issued.
1889 -- 125 years ago: The Rev. R.F. Sweet, rector of Trinity Episcopal Parish, left for the East to visit his boyhood home in Boston before attending the general convention of the Episcopal Church in New York.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Dr. E.A. Anderson was named to succeed Dr. E.L. Kerns as head physician of the Modern Woodmen of America, and moved to Rock Island from Holdingford, Minn.
1939 -- 75 years ago: One week late, because of the outbreak of war, Dr. E.L. Beyer resumed his work as professor of romance languages at Augustana College. Dr. and Mrs. Beyer left Germany on the last train to the Belgian border.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Employees in Turnstyle stores in Moline and Davenport will vote Oct. 2 in an election set up by the Chicago regional office of the National Labor Relations Board. Employees will vote either for the Retail Clerk International or for no union.
1989 -- 25 years ago: Rock Island High School is considering a step to help teen moms stay in school and get their diploma. The school board is expected to vote tonight on instituting an on-site child care center.

(More History)