If happy tea party members are the barometer of success for the Congress elected in November, then Friday's third annual Kane County Taxpayer tea party revealed there's still a high-pressure system blowing through the nation's capital.
When asked how they felt about last week's $38.5 billion budget deal to avoid a government shutdown, tea party supporters all had just one thing to say:
Congressman Randy Hultgren is one of many freshman lawmakers sent to Washington, D.C., in November. To be sure, all people present who stated an opinion said Hultgren is a vast improvement from the ousted Democratic who proceeded him, Bill Foster. But Jeff Danklefsen, who had his own short bid for the 14th Congressional District seat, summed up the opinion of the crowd.
"If they were cutting that ($38.5 billion) per week, we would have something," Danklefsen said. "So they're not doing the job we sent them there to do."
Everything from the federal deficit to the Federal Reserve rankled the small crowd in the basement of a Geneva restaurant Friday evening. But property taxes headed to local schools and poor voter turnout for the recent local elections were repeated themes throughout the evening.
Bob McQuillan, a frequent critic of the Geneva Unit District 304 school board, told the audience local schools are mired in long-term debt and continue to inflate teacher and administrator pensions at the ends of careers, even to the point of paying thousands of dollars in fines for doing so. McQuillan said local schools don't need to be as highly rated as New Trier.
"We can't afford a New Trier," McQuillan said. "The question is, can we even afford what we have? The only benchmark that really matters is once students go out into the real world, how do they perform?"
Newly elected East Dundee Trustee Allen Skillicorn urged the Kane County tea party to spend less time focused on national issues and more energy on local problems. Skillicorn said a low level of local activism is the only reason the Kane County Forest Preserve District was able to pass a $30 million tax increase April 5.
"If we can focus on the local issues, that's where we're going to get the reforms we want," Skillicorn said. "Even though we have all this momentum, have we affected change locally? Local levels of government don't have accountability."
Danklefsen explained the tea party movement isn't so much about a flat-out hatred for any taxes as it is about reversing what many in the movement see as increasing government intrusion into everyday life.
"They tell us what kind of car we can drive," Danklefsen said. "They tell us what kind of light bulbs to use. Now it's health care. They don't stop until they have everything we had. We see politicians as modern day pirates looting the people."