Taking a page out of big wind energy’s playbook, Lee County’s ad hoc committee, given responsibility to review the Lee County wind farm regulations, has put a “gag” order on citizens more stifling than wind energy agreements that farmers sign. The wind companies let farmers speak positively about wind farm experiences.
Committee and Zoning Board Chairman Ron Conderman says his committee doesn’t want any public discourse at its meetings, no experiential testimony, only peer-reviewed research. Banning public dialogue in the deliberative process flagrantly violates the spirit of the open meetings act, if not violating the law itself.
Mr. Conderman stated the committee would do nothing except as directed by the county board. The public access counselor at the Illinois Attorney General’s office, with responsibility to see that governing bodies comply with the Illinois Open Meetings Act, may take issue with this approach. I certainly do.
To carry out his assault on free speech, committee minutes of Nov. 4 quote Conderman as saying: “This committee will not be taking comments or testimony from the public. Public hearing was held on July 8, 2010, at the meeting of the Lee County Zoning Board of Appeals specifically for the purpose of allowing the public to voice their opinions and/or concerns on record. The public is welcome to attend these meetings of the Lee County Ad Hoc Committee; however, they may only listen.”
Conderman said, “The public can share their concerns with any member of this committee, but there will be no public comment allowed during the meetings of the Lee County Ad Hoc Committee.”
According to the Telegraph, Nov. 18, 2010, Conderman asked constituents to “put their concerns in writing and allow the committee to rely on peer-reviewed research, rather than circumstantial testimony.”
Hello?! Have you never heard of the Brady Bill, Amber Alerts or Erin’s Law? Anecdotal evidence good enough to inspire an act of the U.S. Congress or the Illinois General Assembly will not pass muster with Mr. Conderman and his committee.
The peer group his committee should be concerned with is the 36,000-plus member Lee County residents peer group. He’s not obligated to a group of high-paid experts who agree to collaborate on behalf of the wind energy industry, or is he? Whose business is the committee doing, anyway?
What’s the problem? When you selectively control the input of evidence to an investigative committee, you necessarily skew the pool of evidence available to evaluate a decision.
The committee has been called biased because of its engagements in dialogue with the energy firms for personal benefit. Members of public bodies are honor bound to disclose any financial interests that may influence the decision-making process.
May committee members disclose interests, and recuse themselves as appropriate. This may be someone’s idea of good government. It’s not mine.
Note to readers – Bob Logan has served as Franklin Grove village president since 1993. He has participated in many community organizations.
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