Democrats, Lauzen relationship hits new low over Longmeadow Parkway funding
The injured relationship between Kane County Board Democrats and the board's chairman, Republican Chris Lauzen, entered the week as a light sprain but left on crutches after Lauzen described recent Democratic lobbying efforts as "pathetic."
The confrontation occurred during a meeting of the board's legislative committee, which is co-chaired by Democrats Jarett Sanchez and Matt Hanson. The committee's focus during the state budget process was securing about $45 million for the Longmeadow Parkway to avoid the need to for a toll bridge to complete the project.
There are still pools of money in the state budget not yet attached to specific projects, but no money has been earmarked for Longmeadow so far.
"What are you fellas doing to gain $45 million?" Lauzen asked Sanchez and Hanson.
"What would you like to do?" Sanchez replied.
"I've offered suggestions," Lauzen said. "There's no response (from you). I don't think a smile is sufficient when I ask what are you doing."
Sanchez and Hanson then described their efforts to work with the county's transportation staff to get Longmeadow funds out of the pool of dollars IDOT received in the new budget. They said the staff has longtime relationships with IDOT officials that are stronger than the alliances the board's Democrats have with state lawmakers.
Lauzen wasn't satisfied with that answer.
"That misses the point," he said. "What you're describing is what happens at a staff level. This is a political matter. We have 15 politicians in Springfield who represent us, who are paid to do their job for Kane County. We want a result."
Sanchez said he's happy to meet with Lauzen to discuss strategy. He said Lauzen made no effort to include himself in the committee's lobbying during the state budget process.
"The capital bill has passed," Sanchez said. "Now we need a different strategy."
"We're still at the starting line when people are already finishing," Lauzen responded. "People are getting allocations. Yet we are saying we are formulating our strategy."
That's when Hanson stepped in.
"You use people and work against us rather than work with us," Hanson said. "All you do is throw stuff up on a big screen to try and pants us."
"Pathetic," Lauzen responded.
"What's pathetic?" Hanson asked.
"That answer," Lauzen said.
In an interview, Lauzen said he'll try to work with the Democrats on the board. He has no other choice. There is a 12-12 split in Democrat vs. Republican membership. He also challenged any notion Longmeadow doesn't deserve more state funds because the project will get done even without more state money.
"Anyone who thinks that is grossly out of touch with what our constituents want," Lauzen said. "Go ask any of them how they feel about tolls."
Lauzen appears headed for a Democratic challenge for his chairman seat. Aurora Township Democratic Central Committee member Greg Elsbree is expected to announce his candidacy at an event Monday night in Aurora.