'The ongoing absence of a Champaign County Board member may be the next issue to divide board members, including majority Democrats.
Tanisha King-Taylor of east Urbana, who was elected to the county board last November, has taken a job at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.
She recently announced on Twitter that she would become interim chief inclusion officer with the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine at Ohio. Ohio University is about 370 miles from Urbana.
But King-Taylor asked board chairman Giraldo Rosales, a Champaign Democrat, on May 20 whether she would be able to participate in board meetings electronically and without being in attendance.
Rosales said he told her it wasn’t allowed under county board rules.
He said he hasn’t heard from her since and noted that King-Taylor hasn’t attended any board meetings since.
“She has not notified me at all what she’s going to do,” Rosales said.
King-Taylor told The News-Gazette in a brief email exchange that she is “out of town temporarily and will continue representing District 10 constituents.”
She did not say how long she would be at Ohio, nor whether she would try to attend board meetings.
“I will keep abreast of issues and developments before the county board and consult with constituents and experts/knowledgeable authorities as I have in the past and will fulfill my responsibilities as a county board member,” she said.
Rosales cited county board rule XIII C as the basis for his determination that King-Taylor could not participate remotely in board meetings: “Every member of the board present shall be given the opportunity to vote on all questions. There shall be no ‘absentee’ or proxy’ voting on any question.”
“We should all follow the rules. We cannot allow an electronic exception,” Rosales said. “We have never made an exception before, not for Lloyd Carter or Jenny Putman or John Jay (all past board members who missed meetings during illnesses) or anyone else who couldn’t attend. We had board members in rural areas who probably would have wanted to participate electronically during snowy or poor weather.
“If you begin to change the system, it can unravel and it begins to become a mess because if you allow it for Tanisha, you have to allow it for 21 other members.”
King-Taylor’s absence from board meetings, if it persists, could become an issue for Democrats who have a 13-9 majority on the board, Rosales said.
“If she’s not there, they’re down to 12 votes. I don’t always vote with the Democrats either so they could be down to 11 votes,” he said. “They’re stuck in a quagmire.”
King-Taylor’s county board seatmate, Urbana Democrat Chris Stohr, said she told him she would monitor county board meetings online. So far, he said, her absence hasn’t been problematic.
“Although she has missed a few meetings, there have been few items where her vote would have been decisive or determinative. None of these were substantive,” he said.
“I expect to be away from the county for work-related responsibilities on occasion as I have in the past, and as have other members of the board.”
Rosales said the county board rules are “very clear to me although to some it may not be clear. I’m just trying to be fair, open and above board about this.”
It’s not clear how the predicament will be resolved, Rosales said.
“It may be up to the voters,” he said of King-Taylor’s constituents in County Board District 10, which includes most of Urbana east of Race Street. “The voters put her in.”
King-Taylor began serving on the county board last December after defeating Republican David Weisiger in the November election, 5,300 to 2,212.
State capital bill
Gov. J.B. Pritzker mentioned several times during his appearance at the Illini Union last week that his Rebuild Illinois capital improvements program was a product of bipartisanship.
“We did it in the very best traditions of our democracy. You should be proud of this,” Pritzker said. “A bipartisan commitment by all involved to better the lives of people all across the state of Illinois. Truly bipartisan. I don’t know how long it’s been since that really happened. But I’m very, very proud to have worked across the aisle.”
Indeed, the roll call on the Rebuild Illinois bill (HB 62) showed that only six of the Senate’s 19 Republicans voted against the plan, as did 18 of the 44 House Republicans.
All area senators voted for the capital bill — Democrat Scott Bennett and Republicans Jason Barickman, Bill Brady, Dale Righter and Chapin Rose.
The roll call in the House was somewhat different in that members of the conservative, so-called Eastern bloc (Reps. Brad Halbrook of Shelbyville, Chris Miller of Oakland and Dan Caulkins of Decatur) voted against the capital bill while other area Republicans — Mike Marron of Fithian, Tom Bennett of Gibson City and Dan Brady of Bloomington — voted for it. Democrat Carol Ammons of Urbana was recorded as absent.
The major source of funding for the capital bill is the doubling of the state gas tax. That was supported by 12 Senate Republicans, including Barickman, Brady and Rose but not Democrat Bennett nor Republican Righter. In the House, Ammons was recorded as absent; Marron, Bennett and Brady voted yes; and Halbrook, Miller and Caulkins voted no.
Gaming expansion also will pay for the capital bill, and on that vote Sens. Bennett, Barickman and Rose voted yes while Brady voted present and Righter voted no. In the House, Ammons was recorded as absent; Marron, Bennett and Brady voted yes and Halbrook, Caulkins and Miller voted no.
Pritzker and Frerichs
State Treasurer Mike Frerichs of Champaign was at Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Rebuild Illinois announcement last week at the Illini Union and got a shoutout from the pudgy chief executive.
“You always say you stand tall for Illinois,” Pritzker said to the 6-foot, 8-inch Frerichs. “It’s funny. I know and I stand short and squatty for Illinois.”