Endorsements: 'No' on electing Warrenville fire board
Residents of the Warrenville Fire Protection District will be asked April 7 if district trustees should be elected rather than appointed. Seems like a slam-dunk vote for democracy, right? Adding to the likelihood of a yes vote is the fact that 1,600 residents of a close-knit community signed petitions to force the binding proposition. Despite all that, we'd like to offer another view.
As of now, DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin appoints Warrenville fire board members, as he does for more than 40 agencies, including a half dozen fire districts and others as obscure as mosquito abatement districts and as high-profile as the county election commission. We've heard of few problems with this arrangement, so why the need to change things in Warrenville? Yes, fire districts are high on Cronin's agenda for possible consolidation -- part of his crusade for fewer units of local government to avoid duplication of efforts and higher costs. He says the Warrenville district has fought the county's efforts "to bring transparency and accountability" and that it declined to sign an agreement to adopt an ethics policy.
Supporters of letting Warrenville residents pick their own fire district trustees have a simple answer: "We as citizens have very little input -- unless we go through Mr. Cronin -- as to who our district trustees would be," said William Mennell, one of the leaders of the petition drive. "The people should be able to pick who is spending their money." We certainly can't argue against that logic, but we do question how much time residents have -- throughout Illinois -- to keep a careful eye on the myriad units of government in our state (more than 6,000, easily tops in the nation).
We're not suggesting Warrenville's fire district will be led by unaccountable leaders if the right to elect them is brought home. Nor are we suggesting the Warrenville district is a prime candidate for consolidation. We are suggesting, though, it will never happen if the chairman's appointment ability is taken away. So, we suggest Warrenville residents -- for the admittedly long-term and possibly difficult-to-obtain goal of keeping open options to have less government in their lives -- vote no on electing their fire district board members.