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Commissioner Ginny Storlie again selected as board chair

There was a meeting of the Cook County Board of Commissioners Tuesday, Jan. 8. The following discussion and action items occurred during Tuesday’s meeting.

Board Chair
The first order of business for the Cook County Board of Commissioners in 2019 was the swearing in of the three commissioners who won or retained their seats in the November election. Dave Mills, Bobby Deschampe and Ginny Storlie were on the ballot and will serve on the county board for the next four years. Mills is the only new commissioner on the county board this year.

After the swearing-in ceremony, the commissioners voted on a board chair for 2019. Ginny Storlie, who served as the chair in 2018, will again be the board chair this year. Storlie was nominated by Commissioner Myron Bursheim to retain her position as the board chair.

Mills nominated Commissioner Heidi Doo-Kirk to serve as board chair in 2018. After Storlie collected the necessary votes to remain as board chair, it eliminated the need to have a vote on Doo-Kirk.

Valerie Marasco, Cook County’s director of emergency management and public information, sent an email to WTIP on Tuesday explaining the voting process of selecting the board chair, as the process evidently caused some confusion among the public. Marasco said the method for election of officers that Cook County uses is akin to the ‘voice vote’ described in Robert’s Rules of Order.

This is the method of election in mass meetings, or in cases where the election is not strongly contested and the bylaws do not require election by ballot, Marasco explained. When there is more than one nominee for a given office, candidates are voted on in the order in which they were nominated. When the nominations have ended, the chair repeats the nominations and continues, requesting votes in favor on the first nomination. In the first vote where the candidate gets a majority of ayes, the election is complete and that candidate is successful.

After selecting Storlie as chair for 2019, the commissioners elected to have Bursheim remain as vice chair for the upcoming year, a post he also held in 2018.
 
Art Gallery on County Road 44
Also near the start of Tuesday’s meeting was an opportunity for citizens to address the commissioners. Local resident Steve Frykman spoke during the public comment period Tuesday. Frykman is the owner of an art gallery and small business located on County Road 44. A renewal of the required permits to legally operate his business was an agenda item that was discussed later in the meeting. Frykman and his wife, Sharon, were given one year to show that their business would not be a disturbance in the quiet, rural setting on County Road 44 where it is located. Frykman said the first year of operation went well and that the business was in compliance with all of the requirements under the interim-use permit granted in 2018.

Later in the meeting, the board reviewed the interim-use permit that was granted in July 2018 to the Frykmans and their home-based art gallery and business located on County Road 44. The first review of the permit and its stipulations was scheduled for review at the start of 2019.

Last summer, Bill Lane from the county’s land services department said a number of neighbors in the area adjacent to the art gallery wrote in support of the plan, while others voiced concerns about promoting or showcasing an art studio on the dead-end road. After approximately six months of review, Lane said there appears to be no issue with the Frykmans, both with meeting county rules and regulations and with regard to any concern from their neighbors.

The board approved the business on County Road 44 moving forward on a unanimous vote, with the understanding it will be reviewed annually for at least several more years by the planning commission.

In other news from the land services department, Lane said there were four local residents interested in serving on the planning commission but only three seats to fill. With a list of qualified applicants to select from, Lane said it was up to the county board to choose the three people to fill the seats on the planning commission.

After discussion, the three people selected to serve on the planning commission are Greg Mueller, John Schloot and Judy Motchenbacher. 
 
Committee of the Whole and Public Comment
In more news from this week’s meeting of the county board, the commissioners and County Administrator Jeff Cadwell discussed the role and value of holding committee of the whole meetings once a month. The county hosted this format of meetings on the third Tuesday of each month starting at 5 p.m.

Committee of the whole was created to have an in-depth conversation about topics or important items facing the county. It also allowed for direct communication during a public comment period at the start of the meetings. However, turnout from the public has been low at committee of the whole meetings and discussion during the public comment period seems to stray from the core purpose of the committee of the whole format, according to some of the commissioners and Cadwell. The purpose of committee of the whole meetings is to have a discussion without the need to take a vote on some of the most important issues facing the county, not for extended public comment periods, Cadwell said. With that in mind, Cadwell suggested the county host a series of workshops or listening sessions specific for public comment or hearing from local residents.

The board discussed a number of ways they can work to improve how they respond to statements made during the public comment period. One option is to host town hall meetings where commissioners could engage in conversation with the public rather than view the committee of the whole format as the only opportunity for such direct communication.

For 2019, the committee of the whole meetings will no longer take place at 5 p.m. as they did last year. They will now take place after the human services meetings on the third Tuesday of each month. This means the meeting will typically start at approximately 10:30 a.m.

At the end of Tuesday’s meeting, the board again discussed the option to record the committee of the whole meetings, as they were not recorded in 2018. After discussion on the topic, the board opted to record committee of the whole meetings in 2019.  

Meanwhile, county staff and the board will discuss other opportunities for the public to have a discussion outside of a regular board meeting. Commissioner Bursheim said the board could host quarterly town hall discussion meetings or as needed throughout the year.

The idea behind the changes made Tuesday is to separate county business, including committee of the whole meetings, and public discussions or town halls at separate dates.

The board has faced scrutiny from some local residents in recent years for not responding during public comment periods of public meetings. County Attorney Molly Hicken encouraged the board to keep their current practice of not immediately responding to public comments during regular meetings as they might not have all the facts they need readily available.

At their next meeting, the board will likely discuss the format and schedule for town hall or other meetings to have direct communication with the public.

YMCA Funding
In an agenda item that was not added until the meeting started, the county board opted on a 4-1 vote to spend more than $50,000 on new equipment for the YMCA in 2019. Cadwell said the local YMCA needs new equipment as the current athletic gear and property has started to age and wear, including stationary bicycles.

Commissioner Deschampe expressed frustration that the county will provide funds to the YMCA but not for other buildings or facilities the county owns.

“Everything just keeps getting pushed down the road,” Deschampe said.

Deschampe was the only vote against spending money on new equipment at the YMCA.

Newspaper
And finally, the county board opted to have the Cook County News-Herald as their official legal newspaper once again in 2019. The local newspaper will charge the county $9 per column inch to run legal notices. By contrast, Cadwell pointed out that nearby Lake County is charged $4.40 per column inch to run their legal notices in their selected newspaper. Cadwell said this varying cost between the two neighboring counties could serve as an example of the fact it simply costs more to do business in Cook County when compared to the rest of the state.

When voting to support the motion to select the News-Herald as the county’s legal newspaper, Commissioner Doo-Kirk said “we don’t have a choice.”