Cheers to Mercer County for looking into hiring someone to do the jobs best handled by a trained professional. This week, county board member Larry Stone proposed hiring a part-time administrator to be the "go to" person to centralize payroll and oversee staff, claims and grant writing. "It's time we all start pulling in the same direction," he said.
He's right and that is one of the reasons why we've suggested Rock Island County taxpayers would benefit similarly from hiring a professional administrator under the direction of the elected county board. Personnel issues and planning, in particular, are areas where we believe governments benefit from the skills of people trained in those fields. The need for planning is obvious in the many fiscal challenges facing RICO. And this week's resolution of a theft case invovling a former assistant RICO Highway Department foreman reinforces the need for profesional staff supervision.
According to State's Attorney John McGehee, the ex-employee used taxpayer resources to complete a landscaping project at his home. In a plea deal, he was to serve probation, resign his job, return wages he was paid while on administrative leave, and levied a fine. He also was placed in a program which will wipe charges from his record if he stays out of trouble. Not everyone is happy with such leniency. But we'll take Mr. McGehee's word that the ex-employee is not being treated differently than the 36 others who have been accepted in the year-old program which we support.
What concerns us is keeping it from happening again. Mr. McGehee says investigators were unable to determine if this was an isolated incident; he called it the "strongest case" for prosecution. Would there be such unanswered questions if a professionally trained administrator had been on the job?
Mercer County has its own concerns, for example, the upcoming trial of Treasurer Mike Bertelsen. The call for a county administrator is a wise reaction to that issue and others. We hope Mercer County endorses Mr. Stone's idea and that Rock Island County will follow its example.
Jeers to a new Illinois law that, for whatever reason, too many aren't bothering to observe.
We've stopped counting the number of drivers with cellphones pressed to their ears despite a law outlawing the practice. It's worse when government workers are doing it. For example, when the driver of an Illinois Department of Transportation truck is talking on a handheld phone at a busy intersection, it raises serious concerns over whether state employees have been apprised of the safety concerns backers say necessitated the handheld ban. (And, for the record, he's not the only one spotted yakking on a cellphone while driving a government vehicle.)
Holding a phone didn't impair the IDOT driver we saw. Indeed, his ability to maneuver that huge truck one-handed was impressive. So if he was breaking the law, he was doing it very capably. But the fact that he was doing it at all raises the question: As a major proponent of the handheld cellphone ban, is the Illinois Department of Transportation practicing what it preaches? If not, why not?
Cheers to the city of Rock Island for committing $200,000 in tax increment financing to help upgrade Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse. The $359,700 renovation of the theater at 1828 3rd Ave. and the next-door Speakeasy are the kinds of things TIFs were designed to make happen. Indeed, given the amount of revenue Circa generates for the TIF, many of the dollars it will get were put there thanks to its efforts. The beautiful art deco building and the entertainment it provides make it a Q-C gem. We salute aldermen for helping polish it.