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Letter: Never Forget that DuPage County Officials Have Set Their Sights on Our Open Land

Forest District commissioners must fight to keep DuPage Forest District separate from the County Board or risk huge step backwards to 1988.

I am reading about this Deb Conroy (D-46th Elmhurst) legislation to eliminate the DuPage County Forest Preserve District commissioners' pay and the bill to move over their responsibilities to the DuPage County Board members. This does seem like a huge step backwards in time, to 23 years ago.  

In 1988, the County Board commissioners and committees eagerly thought that an incinerator on Forest Preserve district property would solve their revenue problems. I became a Board Member of CHASE, the citizens group that fought this county plan, and then the "Landfill Beyond our Lifetime" plan. The idea 21 years ago then was to fully separate the County Board from the interests of the Forest Preserve District lands so that the county could not make money from the Forest Preserve. I remember all the details. The Legislature felt the same way then because we told our state representatives and Illinois state senator often.  

I am absolutely astonished that the Legislature members today think it differently. The two entities should remain separate!  

I was the minivan driver for then new State Rep. Kirk Dillard in 1992 when it came time to show him our point-of-view at Green Valley Forest Preserve Landfill. I have not changed my mind.

The current plans to dissolve any feature about the Forest Preserve District members is completely counter to the then widespread belief that the DuPage County Board and its commissions should indeed be separate from the DuPage County Forest Preserve. Their interests were not the same then and it took the Illinois Legislature, led by Rep. Kirk Dillard then, to pass legislation that was applauded by really everyone in the early '90's.  

The plan then was that the Forest Preserve should be separate from the county government; the persons elected to each district would be reduced and NOT wear two hats. This is why there are six districts today since 1994, each with three County Board members, a total of 18 County Board members. The Forest Preserve interests would be established by one commission member elected at large from each of the six county districts.  

All this was deemed well and safe then—almost 20 years ago. Now, what has happened that the County Board members have forgotten this? I have not.  Most of the County Board members then, for or against the continued use of the landfill, are still with us in their respective districts. They have not forgotten the passion that went into this fight and subsequent legislation in Springfield.  

Within the last decade for example, the county received land from the Forest Preserve in Greene Valley for a shooting range.

Forest Preserve commissioners: the temptations exist. The job you were elected to work for—and if necessary FIGHT for—cannot be dissolved. Your elected office was planned for 20 years ago. I urge you to be mindful of what I was a part of that you and the other commissioners and Forest Preserve president are in a leadership position to worry about, because county officials have their eyes and plans on our open green space. 

The Forest Preserve lands cannot be discussed by any county officials this decade to solve their physical management problems or revenue shortfalls.   This is easy: In 1992, we called "Flora and Fauna." We said it often. Now fight to keep our peace. I did. We all did.  

—Frank Fletcher-Broucek, board member, Citizens For a Healthy And Safe Environment, Woodridge

Jane March 14, 2013 at 02:22 AM
An Amendment to this salary bill was filed today by Conroy. It will only become effective after a binding referendum. The referendum required submission of a 500 signature petition. (a lot less than normally required for a county-wide referendum petition) http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?DocName=09800HB2377ham001&GA=98&SessionId=85&DocTypeId=HB&LegID=74170&DocNum=2377&GAID=12&Session=
Dan March 14, 2013 at 02:45 AM
Could Rep. Conroy add a similar binding referendum to HB1522 the storm water utility fee bill so DuPage County citizens will have the same voice that the citizens of Peoria County will have?
Jane March 14, 2013 at 02:54 AM
Excellent suggestion, Dan. Her office in Villa Park. (630) 415-3520
Ghost of Joseph Napier March 14, 2013 at 02:18 PM
Doubtful. The Storm Water Utility Fee is the latest way to generate millions of dollars of taxes that can be called something other than taxes, and can be collected from tax exempt properties.
Robert Kolb March 21, 2013 at 06:22 PM
Jim- I couldn't agree more! Term limitations, would largely eliminate complacency, the possibility of fraud, and backroom (good ole boy) dealings. I think adequate compensation should be paid for these positions, so that they are meaningful. Unopposed political races in our city are sad, and disease the good government process. Robert K Kolb, Candidate for 5 th Ward Alderman

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