Suburban leaders recognized for working to reduce government

Several state and local officials, including Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti of Wheaton, were honored Thursday for their efforts to reduce the size, scope and cost of government.

Sanguinetti, state Rep. Sam Yingling of Grayslake and Brent Frank, president of the Lisle-Woodridge Fire District Board, were among the recipients of "transformer" awards from Transform Illinois, a group of public officials, civic leaders and research institutions working to promote and support government efficiency reforms.

"This organization is dedicated to the proposition that we've got to do a better job with less revenue," said DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin, a member of Transform Illinois.

The group handed out the awards during its third annual fall conference in Oak Brook.

Sanguinetti got a State Transformer award for her work as chairman of the Illinois Local Government Consolidation and Unfunded Mandates Task Force. The panel made 27 recommendations, including six that became law.

"We're very proud of our efforts as a task force on consolidation and unfunded mandates," Sanguinetti said. But with most of the panel's recommendations yet to be implemented, she said, "there's a lot of work to be done."

Yingling also received a State Transformer award for sponsoring two measures that make it easier to abolish some units of local government.

The first gives counties the power to dissolve local governments that have boards appointed by those counties. The second gives townships in counties with less than 3 million residents the ability to seek voter permission to absorb road districts into their townships.

Both were signed into law in August by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

On Thursday, McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks accepted the award on behalf of Yingling.

Yingling said in a statement that reforming government is one of his highest priorities.

"From spearheading legislation that would enable voters to dissolve duplicative layers of government, working to expand our transparency laws, to making our government open and accessible, I have been one of our area's loudest voices on the subject of government reform," Yingling said. "That said, it will take all stakeholders working together to move forward."

Frank, from the Lisle-Woodridge fire board, received the Citizen Transformer award for negotiating an agreement with the Darien-Woodridge Fire Protection District.

In what was hailed as a first for DuPage, the neighboring fire districts agreed to share resources and operate as a single entity when responding to emergency calls.

The arrangement is going through a trial period that ends Dec. 31, 2018. In the meantime, the districts are sharing equipment and personnel and using seven fire stations. One station was closed.

"Their members ride on our trucks. We ride on their trucks," Frank said. "We're integrating very, very well. The constituents have seen a great response and really no change in services other than we're more efficient."

The Local Transformer award was given to the communities of Montgomery, Oswego and Yorkville for working to collaborate and consolidate services.

Illinois tops the nation in having the most units of government with nearly 7,000 taxing bodies.

During a panel discussion, McHenry County's Franks said residents are leaving the state because of the property tax burden.

"People are demanding we end business as usual," Franks said. "They are demanding that we consolidate and that we cut government."

  Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti of Wheaton received a State Transformer award Thursday for her work on the Illinois Local Government Consolidation and Unfunded Mandates Task Force. Robert Sanchez/
Sam Yingling
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