Commission recommends government reforms in Lake County

  • Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor supported the work of a commission that researched how to improve Lake County governmental operations.

      Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor supported the work of a commission that researched how to improve Lake County governmental operations. Russell Lissau | Staff Photographer 2017

 
 
Updated 1/16/2018 11:47 AM

A group studying ways to improve government accountability and efficiency in Lake County is recommending changes to the redistricting process and an investigation into possible office consolidations.

The Lake County Commission on Government Reform and Accountability also recommends continuing to have the county board chairman chosen by board members rather than voters.

 

County commissioners formally accepted the report and its recommendations during Tuesday's meeting in Waukegan.

Additionally, the board formed a committee to further discuss the recommendations and decide which to implement.

County board Chairman Aaron Lawlor, the driving force behind the commission's formation last year, urged commissioners to study the recommendations.

"Think about how your district views these reforms and how they would improve the lives of Lake County residents," said Lawlor, a Vernon Hills Republican.

Board member Judy Martini stressed the need for her peers to take the report seriously, too.

"It should not end up being a useless study on a shelf," said Martini, a Fox Lake Republican.

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The county board created the commission in March 2017. The group was charged with reviewing how the county board chairman is chosen, the size of the county board, the redistricting process and other aspects of county government.

Retired Lake County Judge Fred Foreman, a Republican, led the commission. Former Democratic state Rep. Kathy Ryg served as vice chairwoman. Other notable members included Democratic state Sen. Terry Link of Vernon Hills and former Republican state Rep. JoAnn Osmond of Antioch.

Lawlor said the first issue that should be investigated is the notion of a nonpartisan district mapping system at the county level.

Republicans and Democrats across Lake County, the state and the nation long have complained about the confusing and often party-driven ways political-district boundaries are created. Those boundaries will be redrawn nationwide following the 2020 census.

Lawlor has been an outspoken advocate of a fairer mapping process. Lake County could be a model for the rest of the state, he said.

Keeping the county board chairman a peer-elected position will require far less work.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Last summer, Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed legislation that would have required voters to elect the chairman. The legislation was championed by Link and vociferously opposed by the county board's members.

The Lake County Board is the only county board in the Chicago area that doesn't have an independently elected chairman.

The commission also recommended the board review all countywide elected positions and look for ways to consolidate offices or encourage collaboration.

From time to time, Lake County political candidates and elected officials have debated consolidating the Lake County clerk's office and the Lake County recorder of deeds' office. The commission's recommendation was not limited to those two offices, however.

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