How about a little history lesson?
The Stephenson County Zoning Office published legal notice in the Journal Standard in mid-October 2006 announcing public hearings to be conducted by the county Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) regarding the proposed Lancaster and EcoGrove wind farm projects. The hearings were held and the ZBA’s recommendations sent to the “full” County Board for final determination in early November 2006.
On November 30, 2006 the County Board, in defiance of the ZBA’s recommendations, voted to approve both wind farms. The process from soup to nuts took fewer than 45 days.
In an effort to “streamline” the process, the county Zoning Office introduced a change to the process that eliminates the now required ZBA hearing. The change also removes the final determination from the hands of the 22 members of the “full” Stephenson County Board and delivers that determination into the hands of a single individual, the director of the Stephenson County Zoning Office.
So, if one wished to stand before those bodies whose reason for existence is to make decisions that will affect the nature and quality of life in this County and be accountable to the citizens of the County for those decisions, those avenues will be closed.
The particulars of this change will not significantly reduce the 45 days consumed last year. The particulars of this change will only eliminate you, me, and everyone else in this County who expects our democratically elected political leaders to have the courage to stand before us and deliver decisions that we may or may not find tolerable.
This petition was to serve no purpose other than to keep us all in the process. To keep our political leaders in the process. To keep accountability in the process. No more, no less.
Why should we all be included? Simply because when you lose a right within a political process you may never get it back. And for me, every right and privilege afforded me by this democracy in which I live is precious.
On the night of September 12, 2007, Mr. John Vogt, Illinois State’s Attorney for Stephenson County, described the work he and an intern in his office did on the petition presented to the County Board in July of this year. Mr. Vogt was serving in his capacity as legal counsel of the Board. He was not representing me or any other citizen of Stephenson County.
Mr. Vogt determined that 1,387 of the total 1,706 signatures on the petition forms were acceptable…81% of the total. Of those signatures he eliminated, 125 were discarded as being illegible. Each of those 125 illegible on the petition forms had an accompanying Stephenson County address and a telephone number.
As a reasonable person, if after expending all that time and energy, my efforts left my count five signatures short of the required 5percent of all Stephenson County landowners and I had before me 125 illegible signatures with addresses and telephone numbers, I would make just a little more effort to contact those 125 illegibles to verify if they had indeed signed the petition. At an 81 percent acceptance rate, odds are very good that 101 of those illegibles are Stephenson County landowners. But if only 5 of those 125 illegibles (4 percent of the total) are landowners, the required 5 percent would be met.
Mr. Vogt did nothing with those 125 illegible signatures.
Several members of the County Board praised him for his efforts, congratulated him for a job left unfinished. Mr. Vogt failed to deliver a fully equitable determination. He decided to discard those signatures.
He decided he had done enough.
So I have lost a precious democratic right. You have lost a precious democratic right. We have all lost a precious democratic right. And none of us should thank Mr. Vogt for that!
Mike King has been a leading spokesman for Dakota residents opposed to wind-farm development in Stephenson County.
15 September 2007
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