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Petition 12-P-1483 gets much attention

Published: Wednesday, July 11, 2012 4:59 p.m. CDT

Petition 12-P-1483 is a big issue in Lee County. People have taken strong stands on both sides of Petition 12-P-1483. It'll take months for the county to decide on 12-P-1483.

OK, I know what your question is: What is Petition 12-P-1483?

It's the proposal by Mainstream Renewable Power for dozens of wind turbines in southwestern Lee County.

But you wouldn't know that from this week's agenda for the county's Zoning Board of Appeals, which is considering Mainstream's application. It read, "Continuation of hearing on Petition 12-P-1483 for Special Use."

Fortunately, a lot of people are watching this issue closely, so the vague wording probably didn't keep anyone away.

The state Open Meetings Act requires that public bodies post their agendas ahead of time. But it doesn't include provisions requiring any degree of clarity in agenda items.

Still, every public body should have the goal of keeping their constituents in the loop. Vague agenda items do the opposite.

Let me give you another example from Lee County this week: An agenda for the Administrative Services Committee included the item, "CIRMA update."

I have acronym-phobia, so I was already at a disadvantage. During the meeting, someone asked what the initials stood for. No one appeared to know for sure, except County Assessor Wendy Ryerson. It stands for Counties of Illinois Risk Management Agency.

It's a self-insurance management program owned by a number of counties, including Lee. Over the last several years, it has greatly lowered the counties' insurance costs, officials say.

That's good news, but from reading the agenda, who would have known that was the subject matter?

A little clarity would have gone a long way.

To be fair, Lee County is not the only agency guilty of unnecessarily vague agenda items.

Months ago, we pointed out that the cities of Morrison and Dixon included ordinance numbers on their agendas, without giving the subject matter. Both appear to have changed that practice.

Apparently, not everyone is excited with efforts to make more government information available to the public.

This week, County Board member John Ferrone, R-Dixon, disputed the idea that the county needed to provide more information on its website. That was after a watchdog group gave the county a failing grade for transparency on its site.

Vern Gottel, R-rural Sterling, disagreed with Ferrone. He wanted to put as much information as possible on the site.

Ferrone wouldn't hear of it. He said people should come to the county and find the information.

"What did we do before computers?" he asked.

Well, people had to go to the courthouse. But we do have computers, as Gottel pointed out.

Shouldn't we take advantage of the technology we have?

Here's another version of Ferrone's question: What did we do before automobiles?

We didn't get to places quite as fast.

Sauk Valley Media reporter David Giuliani covers the Whiteside and Lee county governments, Morrison and other smaller communities. He can be reached at dgiuliani@saukvalley or at 800-798-4085, ext. 525.

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