Study: DuPage County Board members largely agree with Cronin

It's long been understood that most DuPage County Board members agree with Chairman Dan Cronin and his policies.

Now there's proof of how much sway the Elmhurst Republican has over the GOP-dominated board.

Fifteen of the 18 board members have sided with the vice chairman and, by extension, Cronin more than 88 percent of the time when there's a divided vote, according to a new report from the University of Illinois at Chicago and College of DuPage.

The study also found it's extremely rare for county board members to disagree in the first place.

The researchers examined votes taken from December 2014 to November 2017 and found only 59 of 2,753 roll call votes were divided.

Each divided decision was analyzed to see which board members cast the same vote as the vice chairman, who serves as Cronin's floor leader. John Curran was vice chairman until he left the board in July 2017. Jim Zay has since become the vice chairman.

Issues with dissenting votes include hiring lobbyists, zoning approvals and some purchasing agreements.

Still, nine county board members voted in agreement with the vice chairman 100 percent of the time between December 2016 and November 2017. Six others voted in agreement with him at least 92 percent of the time.

Cronin said the results show board members are working together.

"From my perspective, it is essential that every member of the board, regardless of their opinion or political affiliation, feel that they are free to express their thoughts and be heard on issues important to them," Cronin said.

"I believe the voting record reflects the determination of each of our 18 members to work well together, even when they disagree," he said. "And our achievements in consolidation, reducing the footprint of government, budgeting and operating efficiently are the result of this dedication."

Zay agreed that board members often work out their differences on issues before a final vote is taken.

"We're professionals," he said. "We can compromise on issues."

Even Elizabeth Chaplin - the board's only Democrat - says she tries to work with Republican colleagues most of the time.

According to the study, Chaplin agreed with the vice chairman on only 29 percent of the divided roll call votes between December 2016 and November 2017.

Chaplin said many of her dissenting votes were related to pay increases for elected officials, lobbying contracts and the budget. She said she also opposed hiring vendors who have made numerous campaign contributions to county board members.

Still, she said, "I try to be a team player when I can."

The report's primary author says one benefit of the cohesion is it helped Cronin push to dissolve some units of local government.

"Part of Dan Cronin's thing is to consolidate local government, and that's really hard to do," said Melissa Mouritsen, an assistant professor of political science at COD. "I can give you 10 examples of where it was tried in Cook County and the politics made it impossible. But he (Cronin) has been able to do that."

Jim Zay
Elizabeth Chaplin
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