July 15, 2024

Eye On Illinois: Who draws lines on what is germane to government body’s authority?

“Germane to its authority.”

That phrase is important to keep in mind as McHenry County Board members consider new rules.

Shaw Media’s Claire O’Brien reported on the issue Wednesday, and while the way the county handles proposed speed limit changes going forward is interesting, the meat on the bone is whether the board will enact a rule keeping members from discussing and voting on issues that aren’t “germane to its authority.”

The example from Joe Gottemoller, a Crystal Lake Republican, was the ongoing military conflict in Israel and Palestine.

“We don’t do a lot of foreign policy analysis” in the county, Gottemoller said.

That didn’t stop the Chicago City Council from spending significant chunks of January engaging in what The Associated Press called “weeks off rowdy public meetings with disruptions from demonstrators” before adopting a ceasefire resolution, a symbolic gesture attainable only with the mayor’s tie-breaking vote.

The entire situation fairly attracted the attention of national commentators who pointedly implied the council must have been able to take such action because it first solved all the city’s other problems. In that spirit, it makes sense for McHenry County officials to put up some guardrails: their time and other resources are not unlimited, and effort debating Hamas comes at the expense of focusing on at-home practical matters like livestock farm zoning requirements or drainage ditch maintenance.

But the “germane” argument gets a little fuzzier when it bleeds into official county proclamations, which also have proved controversial. A nonbinding declaration on Women’s History Month in March spurned a mild kerfuffle, as would be expected with anything that sniffs the fringes of “identity politics.”

It’d be easy to ban the board from engaging in anything performative, but that could include even benign topics like students of the month.

Government efficiency is a worthy goal. But so is forcing elected officials onto the record.

ON THIS DAY: Drummer Louie Bellson was born 100 years ago today in Rock Falls. He grew up in Moline, won a nationwide contest as a teenager and in the early 1940s toured with some of the biggest names in jazz, including Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington, who called Bellson “not only the world’s greatest drummer… the world’s greatest musician.” The pioneer of the double bass drum setup, Bellson’s work is heard on more than 200 albums, his composing credits reached four digits and he wrote more than a dozen percussion books.

Rock Falls still celebrates its native son with an annual music festival (this year’s was June 8) and a sign outside his Eighth Avenue birthplace, and anyone can take a deep dive on his legendary career – including a video of a “Tonight Show” performance – at louiebellson.com.

• Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Local News Network. Follow him on X @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.

Scott Holland

Scott T. Holland

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.