Last November, U.S. voters sent politicians a strong message: “We’re sick and tired of ‘we know what’s best, despite what our constituents think’ elected officials.”
Unfortunately, some legislators are still ignoring us, and in Lee County, we don’t have to look very far to find them.
Lee County Board Chairman Jim Seeberg and Vice Chairman John Nicholson have provided us with an egregious textbook example of such officious behavior.
Lee County’s wind energy ordinances were designed to protect rural residents’ quality of life and property values by keeping wind turbines at non-threatening distances from their homes. When faced with growing public concerns that those 11-year-old ordinances were outdated, Seeberg and Nicholson urged their fellow board members to pass a 6-month moratorium on wind farm development. Subsequently, they commissioned a Wind Energy Ad Hoc Committee to review wind ordinances and recommend updated protective measures, such as lengthened setback distances from homes.
“So far, so good,” you say? But, not so fast; let’s first hypothesize how county executives, who don’t really want ad hoc committees to recommend protective changes, might make sure that none materialize. Hmm, they could blatantly pack the committee with a mega-majority of biased, anti-change members, and guess what? That’s exactly what the Lee County Board’s top executives have done.
Their eight appointees consist of all five members of the county’s zoning commission, a local wind company manager (who’s not even a Lee County resident), the manager of SVCC’s wind turbine project, and one person genuinely interested in protecting homeowners from irresponsible wind turbine placement.
Talk about a stacked deck. The zoning board has never, ever, voted to turn down a wind farm petition. There’s no way its members, moonlighting as ad hoc committeemen, are going to recommend realistic lengthening of turbine setback distances. Obviously, the two conflicted interest wind company protégés won’t, either.
Lee County’s egregiously biased ad hoc committee is so ludicrously unfair and undemocratically structured, that it’s best described as the equivalent of allowing seven foxes into a henhouse to devour one rooster.
As many concerned citizens have predicted, the first five wind energy ad hoc committee meetings were absolute charades, with the seven pre-ordained members being consistently obstructive to meaningful change, and only the remaining member, Mark Wagner, truly seeking fair treatment for rural homeowners.
Executive rule by pre-biased committee (let’s call it “executocracy” for short) is insidiously displacing traditional democracy in Lee County. That should concern all citizens, not just those whose quality of life is being trampled by our county chairpersons’ unilateral greed to harvest wind farm taxes. If these “executocrats” can get away with this current travesty, what’s to stop them from directing future bogus ad hoc committees to repeatedly recommend unfair legislation (property tax hikes, anyone?), which our board chairpersons then would convince (read “bully”) unsuspecting board trustees into passing?
Our county board needs to install new leaders who will practice and uphold true democratic principles and put a stop to the de-democratizing of Lee County by bully pulpit executocrats.
Note to readers – Jim Timble is chairman of the board of Bearing Headquarters Co., Broadview, and has lived in the Sauk Valley since 1990. He is a member of Lee County Informed, a group that advocates for wind energy practices that protect residents’ quality of life and property values.
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