Unintended consequences of reducing size of county board
First, the Winnebago County board relinquished its role in the Forest Preserve District and the constiuents voted for an independent board to handle the job. How’s that working out for you so far?
The Rockford Register Star has an ongoing poll which askes almost daily, “If you had a do-over, would you still vote to create a separate board of commissioners to govern the Winnebago County Forest Preserve District?”
The options include, “Yes. The controversies the board has dealt with are just part of normal growing pains for a new entity. No. The board is a mess and I see no hope for it. And Undecided. Let’s see what happens after the election.”
Then the county board voted to reduce spending and improve its accountability by reducing the size of the board from 28 to 20 members, by reducing the number of representatives from 2 in each of the 14 districts to 20 single member districts.
So, while reducing the board members by 8, six districts were added, so the unintended consequencies were not as obvious as one might think.
Republicans controlled 20 of the 28 seats prior to this decision, and following this weeks election, Republicans will control 13 of the 20 County board seats when new members take their seats on December 3.
Unlike the Democrats in Springfield, run by Chicago, the county board equitably distributed the reapportioned districts with both parties having input into the process and placed an equal number of both parties against each other in targeted districts to reduce the number of members by eight.
The unintended consequence of the election Tueday night, coupled with the reapprotionment process, is that the Republicans were reduced from 20 to 13 and the Democrats will be reduced from 8 to 7.
The Republican caucus lost the equivalent of 7 of the 8 seats reduced! Since the total members are reduced by 8, the percentage only decreases from 71.5% to 65% but …
The committee chair positions will still be picked by the majority Republican caucus, however, the committees will be smaller or combinations of committees is a possiblity, to lessen problems with committee quorems or conflicting times, since there are only so many hours in the day, board members and staff have jobs and limited number of days in any given week and board members are usually assigned multiple committees to attend.
Also, the possibility exists that three members of the Republican caucus could threaten to vote with the Democratic caucus creating a tie vote holding hostage the county board on a given issue, which was almost impossible with a 28 member county board.
Also, budget amendments currently require a two-thirds vote, which may need to be amended, so that the hostage scenario may be less likely to occur.
Rather than leading to a more efficient process, this decision might lead to inefficiencies due to unintended consequences reminiscent of the new Winnebago County Forest Preserve District.