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It's Time to Eliminate Township Government

And Geneva Township Trustee Robert Kovacs' recent pronouncement is the best reason to do it!

In eight years of facing down that glowering keyboard, I’ve never heard anything quite like this. And remember, I’ve caught ‘em in outright lies, I’ve caught ‘em with their hand in the cookie jar, and I’ve caught ‘em making remarks that’d make Mel Gibson blush.

Art Linkletter was wrong: It’s politicians who say the darndest things, not kids!

When attempting to explain why he was trying to throw the only township clerk candidate off the ballot by a petition challenge, Geneva Township Trustee Robert Kovacs provided the Chronicle with this fascinating logic:

I found 19 problems (signatures), and I am contesting it. I want him off the ballot. I don’t know him personally; I don’t know if he is good, bad or mediocre. If I can remove him from the ballot, then the trustees and I will be able to interview potential candidates for the position and select someone who will do a good job.”

Yikes!

While you have to give him credit for having the cojones to say something like that out loud, please allow me to translate it from politician-ese; “Screw the voters! We want to completely subvert the electoral process by continuing to dole out these patronage plums out to the folks we deem worthy. And by 'worthy' we mean the insiders who will further our own political ambitions.”

“But Jeff — it’s only the township clerk! They don’t get paid anything! Who cares who gets the gig”

Wrong!

Townships, water reclamation districts and fire protection boards are where they bury the bodies. Those connected folks know no one casts as much as a cursory glance in that direction so they can proceed uninhibited.

But the truth is, the Geneva Township clerk gets $8,200 a year for essentially showing up to 12 meetings. The paid staff does most of the work. If you’re counting, that comes to $683.33 per gathering.

Nice work if you can get it!

Not only that, but the trustees, who do even less than the clerk, make seven grand a year, the supervisor gets another $15,000, and the township highway commissioner pulls down $12,000.

In contrast, a Geneva alderman makes a mere $3,600 with no benefits for doing five times the work. When was the last time you called your township trustee with a problem?

Speaking of benefits, what the township really wants you to ignore is that the supervisor and clerk get 14 grand a year in health care benefits. That’s right! The township takes your tax dollars to give less-than-part-time workers the kind of benefits we can only dream about.

Don’t believe me? The township budget is online. Oh! And by the way, that brings the clerk’s monthly tally to $1,850 per meeting. Kinda makes you wanna run, doesn’t it?

So here’s what happened. With current Township Clerk Barb Olson quietly retiring, the supervisor and trustees figured no one would bother to run and they could dangle that patronage plum in front of someone who might someday return the favor.

But when Geoffrey Carreiro filed those last-minute papers, he threw them into complete conniptions. So they figured they’d do their darnedest to knock him off the ballot and set their myopic world straight once again.

And they’re so used being flying under the radar that Mr. Kovacs made the mistake of telling the press the truth.

Before we continue, we should also note that Mr. Carreiro committed the cardinal sin of failing to read my columns. You see, he needed 156 signatures to run for clerk and submitted only 162!

What’s our petition rule of thumb class? That’s right! Get double the required signatures because it staves off these kind of challenges. There is something to be said for the theory that if you can’t get something as simple as your petitions right, you probably shouldn’t be running in the first place.

So what’s the bottom line, you ask? Though they’ll deny it until they’re blue in the face, it’s time to eliminate urban township government because it’s redundant. It only adds another level of management to services already provided by other entities.

Yes! Townships provide emergency assistance and ours runs a senior citizens center, but we’d get a much bigger bang for our property tax buck if we delegated those funds and responsibilities to social service agencies.

Do we really need a commissioner of highways for a barely more than 10 miles of township road? Either KDOT or Geneva Public Works could do the job for less than half the cost.

The only township office that should survive in some form is the assessor. Can you imagine what would happen if the city of Geneva got to make the call on property tax disputes?

Eliminating Geneva Township means that $897,000 annual budget could be cut in half, if not more. Dispensing with the elected official/paid staff overhead alone would save us $155,000 right out of the gate.

But best of all, it means one less place to bury the political bodies.

Since it’s bad form for journalists to get directly involved these movements, perhaps some enterprising Genevan could look into how this might be accomplished. I’d certainly support their efforts.

The only problem I can see with this proposal is we might miss some of Mr. Kovac’s more interesting edicts.

CC January 11, 2013 at 12:49 AM
I read another article where Robert kovac said he didn't want Geoff in the office because he doesn't know him. He said he had two other people in mind. Well Mr. Kovac, if you have two people in mind they should have gone door to door and gotten the signatures. Geoff Carreiro is a young financial advisor trying to get involved in the community. We need to shake up the township government and stop the corrupt people who are trying to shoe in their friends.
Mike B. January 11, 2013 at 05:46 PM
So Jeff, now that you're a Kane County employee, does this column mean that Chris Lauzen and Kane County are about to push for dissolving township government?
John R January 11, 2013 at 08:08 PM
Calling TAXFACTS - McQuillan/Moffat Or any other community leaders willing to take a leadership role in respects to the brewing "Townshipgate". What is going on with this body of government? To me it appears to be exactly what Jeff W. describes it to be. I could add a bit of color, from my meeting experiance, to anyone that would be interested. Is this acceptable to Geneva residents? Our power to affect national politics is limited but locally let's clean it up. Rice
Bob McQuillan January 12, 2013 at 04:51 AM
John I have also had similar experiences with the Geneva Township Board of Trustees over a number of years. The biggest problem is that their monthly meetings are rarely attended by residents and that leads to a sense of entitlement. I did attend the challenge hearing yesterday afternoon because I circulated petitions for Geoff. While the challenge was eventually upheld, the reason the petitions were challenged in the first place is very questionable. In the past, many township candidates did not have enough signatures and their petitions were not challenged. Why did Mr. Kovacs feel the need to file a challenge? His public remarks seem to indicate he wants "his own person" as the clerk. When elected positions become appointed positions the taxpayers lose. Recent actions on salary, medical benefits and this petition challenge begs the question, is the township becoming a "good old boy's club?" The next Township meeting is next Thursday starting at 7 pm at the Township building. Maybe it is time that the actions of the township should be questioned or at least followed. Trust with verification is not a bad policy.
John R January 12, 2013 at 05:21 PM
Bob, I truly appreciate your response. The other day was thinking of how I'm beginning to really understand your frustration and irritation with some of the local political bodies. I think I'm getting it. It feels like kovacs and the Township board in general are essentially daring the public to care. The reasoning behind the challenge is exactly what's wrong with certain public bodies. They wanted him off the ballot so that they can award someone to the clerks position. I'd be willing to make a wager that Kovacs already has someone picked and appointed. After the last meeting had ended they ran a little.... I'll call it a head fake at me. Kovacs made a big deal out of reminding the current clerk, Barb Olson, to get her petitions filed. Jeager jumped in and they had a bit of dialog among themselves about the filing date etc....Barb looked a bit uncomfortable but ultimately played along and affirmed that she had the petitions ready and would remember to get everything filed on time. I wished everyone a Merry Christmas and went on my way. But I was chucking to myself because I already knew that Barb was not running. A good source had relayed to me that she was diffently not going to seek another term. I wasn't interested in the clerks position so I was a bit amused that they would go to such extremes to throw me off. Now I know what they were really up to. There next meeting is on my calender and I'm going to try to make it. John Rice

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