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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.

JMZ January 10, 2013 at 05:38 AM
Well, Jeff I have to hand it to you. Usually I get upset reading your work because I don't see eye-to-eye with your liberal views, but NOT THIS TIME! The only thing I would disagree with is the reason you mentioned in your headline saying "...And Geneva Township Trustee Robert Kovacs' recent pronouncement is the best reason to do it!" I think the reason should be that it's a waste of money! My money, your money, everyone's money. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.
Jeff Ward January 10, 2013 at 01:17 PM
JMZ, And guess what! The people who will pass judgment on Mr. Carreiro's petitions include the township supervisor and two trustees. Whaddaya think his chances are? When...I mean...if he's kicked off the ballot, Carreiro says he'll run as a write in and that effort will be a first for me. Jeff
Martha Hanna January 10, 2013 at 02:23 PM
Wow this is amazing...I just wrote my Kane Co Board member on this subject. I think we shoule tackle township government and combine some of the townships in Kane Co. The subject always gets turned down. Why? The taxpayer will save money if we do this....maybe Chairman Lauzen can start a debate. I live in a small pocket of Kane Co here in Batavia. When we do get snow, our little street gets plowed like a million times. I was actually going to stay up all night to get an actual count of how often the Batavia township plows my little street, but so far this winter I have not had a chance to do so...hopefully we will get some snow soon. But I always think to myself that the guys plowing my street could be out plowing other areas in the city.
John R January 10, 2013 at 06:09 PM
I recently attended the November and December Township meetings. The next one is Thursday January 17th, 7pm, at the Geneva Township Offices. They meet on the third thursday of the month at 7pm. Rarely does anyone from the public attend these meetings. I think they were a bit surprised that I showed up to observe. The meeting in November was interesting. That was the meeting that they set salaries for themselves and the other paid staff. Jeff you are correct about the insurance but I think your off on the trustee's pay. They pay themselves $120 a meeting so I'm not sure where you came up with the the $7,000 number for trustee's???? Anyways, it really bothers me that they would challenge Geoffrey Carreiro signitures. All the elected Township positions are running unopposed. By Kovacs logic anyone running unopposed should have his/her signatures challenged including himself. I've actually considered doing that just to see if they are on the up and up. But not sure what the process would be. Attending the meetings was an interesting experiance to say the least. Some off color comments from trustee's, they pay bills, baby sit the senior center, and fund the accessor's office..... It was honestly a bit strange. I have other obsearvations but I'm about to run out of characters. Jeff is right we should be having a debate about weather or not this level of government needs to exist. Rice
Koshka January 10, 2013 at 08:48 PM
Jeff might want to spend some time at the senior center asking its members what they think of the center and their "baby sitters" (as insultingly defined by engaged citizen Rice..if they are baby sitters then the seniors must be "babies"). Jeff (and Rice) could tell the members that they think what they get from the center could be better delivered by social service agencies - you know the ones who can't pay their bills because they are clients of a bankrupt state. I would love to watch those babies respond. There is not another facility in the region that so regularly and creatively delivers services to the senior community of Geneva Township. Jeff your comments about the electoral process splayed out into an uniformed slap at the senior center. Go spend some time there before you carry on.
John R January 10, 2013 at 09:55 PM
Koshka, Go to a meeting! I'm not saying to cut the funding off for the senior center. The senior center is a wonderful asset for our community. I've toured it and have seen that it is well used and loved by the members. But go to a meeting. Do we really need this board???? The trustee's have even discussed it among themselves. They made some off the cuff comments about the need for their board at I think it was the December meeting. This board is exactly how Jeff W describes it. We should figure out a different means of funding the senior center and the assessor's office. Serious consideration needs to be given to the idea of eliminating this board. It's not a new idea and it's been floated before. If you go to a meeting I think you will be surprised at how some of the trustee's conduct themselves. There were at least three comments, by one trustee in particualar, that were very inappropriate. This board has problems. It's great that we fund the senior center through them but they need to get it together.
Koshka January 11, 2013 at 12:13 AM
There is a funding method for the senior center. The township is a taxing unit and spends funds on the senior center as well as other things. There is not a better funding source than being supported by a taxing unit. The elected board is required by state law to supervise the expenditure of the funds. Now it may well be that some individual trustees do not handle their responsibilities well. I hope you run for the board. I bet you would be good at it.
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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