County combines campus precincts for spring votes; Democrats still in conflict

County combines campus precincts for spring votes; Democrats still in conflict

URBANA -- Nine polling places near the University of Illinois campus will be consolidated into one for municipal elections on  Feb. 26 and April 3, under a proposal given preliminary approval Tuesday by the Champaign County Board.

Also Tuesday, three Democrats who had been named vice chairmen and assistant deputy chairs of board committees by new board chair Alan Kurtz, turned down their appointments.

A statement to Kurtz signed by Champaign Democrats Lloyd Carter, Josh Hartke and Rachel Schwartz, said they "have no wish to feed the misperception that you are governing as a Democrat and not as head of a Republican-led county board. We worry that you cut a deal with the Republican caucus in order to fulfill your own ambitions without being open about it."

Last week Kurtz upended fellow Democrat Michael Richards, who had been the choice of the Democratic caucus, by working with all 10 board Republicans and two other Democrats, to win the board chairmanship.

In their statement Carter, Hartke and Schwartz accused Kurtz of maneuvering "behind the scenes, while lying to us about what leadership role you desired within the board. You enticed other caucus members to do the same, and to misrepresent themselves in the same way when asked where their support lay. We feel that these actions not only betray us as fellow caucus members, but the voting public of Champaign County at large who elected Democrats to govern as a majority. Our roles as vice chairmen or liaisons in this administration would only serve to legitimize your deceptive power grab."

Three other board members appointed as committee vice chairmen are Republicans -- Aaron Esry at environment and land use, Jeff Kibler at policy and Diane Michaels at finance.

Kurtz, who said he was surprised by the announcement, said he would defer filling the other committee vice chairs until the Dec. 20 meeting.

"I can only say that it's a sad day when representatives of a district would put their personal agendas before their constitiuents' concerns," he said. "Fore me I can only say that we move forward. I legitimately won with a majority of this board, with both Republicans and Democrats. We need to put this behind us."

The polling place consolidation plan, presented by County Clerk Gordy Hulten, would save the county an estimated $8,000 to $10,000 by merging nine polling places in Champaign and Urbana with a single voting station at the Illini Union. The idea already has been endorsed by the UI Student Senate.

The precincts, generally populated with students, frequently have low voter turnouts for municipal elections.

"I don't anticipate more than 300 voters for either of those elections" from the nine precincts, Hulten said.

The Illini Union already has been used by students for early voting, he said, and it would be more convenient to publicize a single, centralized polling place for UI students living in the area between Lincoln Avenue on the east and the Canadian National Railroad tracks on the west.

The nine precincts covered include City of Champaign 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 and 8 and Cunningham 2, 3, 4 and 5.

After concerns were raised by board members about elderly voters living at Skelton Place, the polling place for City of Champagn 7, Hulten promised to work with managers at the public housing complex to encourage residents to vote early by mail or to make some other arrangment to ease their voting at the Illini Union.

The full board is scheduled to give final approval to the proposal at its Dec. 20 meeting.

The board, meeting as a committee of the whole, also forwarded without recommendation an invitation to spend approximately $14,000 to join a consortium of governments and groups that plans to petition the U.S. EPA to designate the Mahomet Aquifer as a sole source aquifer. The designation would require review of any federally funded projects over the aquifer to ensure that they do not pose a contamination threat.

The board also gave tentative approval to several appointments and reappointments, including Deborah Townsend and Julian Rappaport to the county mental health board, and Don Uchtmann to the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District board.

Urbana Democrat James Quisenberry said the board has scheduled a Jan. 29 study session regarding the county's nursing home, including its future financing, nursing home rates and related topics.

Only one of the board's 22 members, Champaign Democrat Lorraine Cowart, was absent.

Before the meeting the board's Democats met in caucus and elected Richards as caucus chair and Pattsi Petrie as vice chair.

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rsp wrote on December 11, 2012 at 10:12 pm

"We feel that these actions not only betray us as fellow caucus members, but the voting public of Champaign County at large who elected Democrats to govern as a majority."

I'm wondering if these people are qualified to serve. They don't seem to understand that they are elected individually and not as a group. There just happen to be more of one group than the other. Don't they have an oath of office, to serve the taxpayers? These people are more concerned with their own egos. They have misrepresented to the public that they can represent the interests of the voters. 

wayward wrote on December 12, 2012 at 7:12 am

"I can only say that it's a sad day when representatives of a district would put their personal agendas before their constitiuents' concerns,"

Whereas removing Mike Richards as task force chair had nothing to do with Kurtz's personal agenda?  Uh huh.

".... We need to put this behind us."

As Jim Dey's article pointed out, there were hard feelings for years after Wysocki became CB chair in 2004.  Is Kurtz really clueless enough to think that other Dems will just magically forget about the situation if he declares it's time to move on?

rsp wrote on December 12, 2012 at 8:12 am

How many meetings will they still go to and get paid for but not contribute to because their feelings got hurt? At what point can the voters expect that their representatives to be finished having their pity party?

Because I don't think they are in touch with reality. This whole notion that we vote because we want to elect one party doesn't hold water. Too many people split their votes. Or they don't vote for everyone who they could vote for. 

What exactly do they think they are going to get by refusing appointments? By obstructing the process? Do they think Kurtz will step down? Are they going to keep this up until the next election? 

wayward wrote on December 12, 2012 at 9:12 am

How many meetings will they still go to and get paid for but not contribute to because their feelings got hurt?

Realistically, they're not refusing to contribute to CB meetings.  They're declining to serve as vice chairs on committees that would presumably meet at other times.  So if they aren't on those committees, they wouldn't be getting paid for those meetings anyhow.

ChiefIlliniwekForever wrote on December 12, 2012 at 10:12 pm

Committee appointments were made Tuesday night.  AS the article states, there were three Assistant Deputy Chair and Vice Chair appointments that weren't made do to the chosen persons declining the position.  These three persons are on a committee.  The only way they won't get paid is if they don't come at all.  Everyone on the Board has at least 3 meetings a month to attend; one standing committee meeting, the COW (Committee Of the Whole) meeting, and the full Board meeting.

wayward wrote on December 12, 2012 at 11:12 pm

OK, so they were basically giving Kurtz the finger?

ChiefIlliniwekForever wrote on December 13, 2012 at 9:12 pm

I'd have to say I agree with that.

Danno wrote on December 12, 2012 at 4:12 pm

More gerrymandering?

bluegrass wrote on December 17, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Their fear of feeding a misconception has exposed the reality that they are putting partisanship ahead of their duty.  You were elected to help make decisions about local jails, the sheriff's department, roads, bridges, nursing homes, some land use and zoning issues and the like.  This is county government, not the Senate floor in Washington, D.C.

Besides, I thought democrats love it when politicians reach across party lines.  I thought that was the only way to work together to really solve problems.  I thought it was the only way forward.  Compromise, I say!!  Oh wait, that's only when the other side does it.

Sid Saltfork wrote on December 17, 2012 at 7:12 pm

What is done is done.  They should get down to the job that they were elected to do.  I agree with you, Bluegrass.  They need to compromise, and do the work.  This two party bickering does not get problems solved.

Local Yocal wrote on December 17, 2012 at 8:12 pm
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The three democrats will serve on the committees and represent their constituents as members of the committees and the county board. Their refusal to go along with "Big Al's" appointments was a correct decision to not support what was essentially a power grab by Al ala Steve Beckett years ago. Al is a sellout and will do anything to be in charge. It's all about him and he is the worst of good 'ol boy politics. Like Betz before him, he will lie to your face and snicker later at not getting caught for the backroom deals he negotiates. Kurtz will vote yes to sending the county's budget into further debt, (currently at $50 million) by building another jail. Which may be what this is all about. Richards and others were listening far too much to reason and analysis when it came to the jail question, and the appointments and power grabs recently were a way to gain control of those conversations and decisions from the public and experts.

wayward wrote on December 17, 2012 at 9:12 pm

Kurtz chose to become county board chairman in the way that he did, and he also chose to summarily remove Richards as head of a task force.  If he indeed wants to "move forward" and "put this behind us," it seems to me like it's now up to him to find a way to make that happen.  After all, he's the chairman now.