Kane County crowd clashes with Lauzen over finance resolution

  • A crowd filled the Kane County boardroom, the lobby and spilled down the steps of the Kane County Government Center Building A Tuesday afternoon, as the county board committee of the whole talked about sending a resolution to state authorities about improving the state's finances.

      A crowd filled the Kane County boardroom, the lobby and spilled down the steps of the Kane County Government Center Building A Tuesday afternoon, as the county board committee of the whole talked about sending a resolution to state authorities about improving the state's finances. Susan Sarkauskas | Staff Photographer

  • A member of Northern Illinois Jobs With Justice spoke in protest Tuesday of a resolution the Kane County Board is considering sending to state officials regarding ways to improve the state's financial condition.

      A member of Northern Illinois Jobs With Justice spoke in protest Tuesday of a resolution the Kane County Board is considering sending to state officials regarding ways to improve the state's financial condition. Susan Sarkauskas | Staff Photographer

 
 

Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen insisted Tuesday -- again and again -- that the county board committee of the whole was not discussing a resolution supporting Gov. Bruce Rauner's turnaround agenda.

Instead, he said, he wants the board to craft its own resolution that is positive in tone, calling for changes in how the state addresses its financial problems. He said it should be built by consensus and not be divisive.

"I don't think that it is any secret that what Gov. Rauner has proposed is controversial, but what we are doing today is very different than that," Lauzen said.

But many of the people in the audience, which spilled out of the room and its lobby, then down the stairs, still protested. Some said parts of the proposal were code for what Rauner has proposed, such as allowing counties and towns to establish empowerment zones with right-to-work regulations and to opt out of having to pay prevailing wage rates for public projects. Both are seen as anti-labor union measures. Leadership from several unions, including operating engineers, the Fox Valley Labor Council, an AFSCME retirees' local chapter and two local teacher unions, spoke to the board.

Lauzen took the committee point by point through the 21 paragraphs of the proposed resolution, asking after each if any board members disagreed.

He also asked their opinions on four questions about the identity and role of public-employee unions, including whether they believed union campaign contributions unduly influence elected officials, whether term limits should be enacted, and whether public-employee unions should be considered the same as industrial and trade unions.

Fellow Republican Barb Wojnicki disagreed that they weren't talking about the governor's plan.

"We are definitely talking about this because of the Illinois Turn-Around. Otherwise, what are we doing here?" she said. Lauzen quickly disagreed. "We are not discussing that document. It is not on the agenda," he told her.

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Board member Drew Frasz, a Republican, disagreed with the whole exercise.

"Rauner ran on this agenda. He won decisively in Kane County. He came to this building and stood before us and asked this board on the resolution they (Rauner and staff) provided.

"It sounds like a lot of my colleagues are not happy with proceeding down the road of generating consensus. I would love an opportunity to vote on the Rauner agenda proposal presented to this board," Frasz said.

The proposed county resolution may be useless, board member Phil Lewis said, because it is not "decisive" enough.

And Brian Pollock, chairman of the board's legislative committee, warned against implicitly criticizing lawmakers, or telling them how to conduct their business. He said he fears it could hurt, among other things, a bill Kane County has pending to charge a fee to pay for expansion of the Kane County Judicial Center.

"It (Lauzen's presentation) all sounded very innocent and sweet, but it felt to me so controlled and so controlling," Mary Shesgreen of Elgin, a member of Northern Illinois Jobs With Justice, told the board. "The range of dialogue was so narrow. That troubles me. You are calling for consensus within the most narrow imaginable framework."

She said the county should be calling for a graduated income tax and for increased taxes on corporations.

The committee did not vote on the resolution, Lauzen will take their comments in to consideration and present a resolution to the board's executive committee.

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