In December 2009, Washington was a few months away from the enactment of Obamacare. In Dixon, Rita Crundwell still had more than 2 years to go before she was caught stealing millions of dollars from the city.
That month also marked the last time that every Lee County Board member attended a regular meeting.
Starting in April 2010, member Kathy Hummel stopped attending meetings, with others saying her health had taken a turn for the worse. By 2011, Hummel wasn’t returning calls from county officials, although there were reports of her being seen around town. It was unclear why she didn’t resign.
Her term expired Nov. 30.
Hummel missed meetings 32 months in a row – a little shy of 3 years. For 30 of those meetings, others also didn’t show. Hers was the only absence in just two of the meetings.
I looked through the minutes of the past 3 years of Lee County Board meetings to determine how many members were no-shows. During that time, the board held 36 regular meetings.
Here’s what I found:
• Six missing at two meetings
• Five missing at two meetings
• Four missing at two meetings
• Three missing at 11 meetings
• Two missing at 15 meetings
• One missing at four meetings (One happened before Hummel started missing meetings and another this past December, after her term had ended.)
The 27-member Whiteside County Board has a better record. For four of its meetings – May, August and November 2011 and July 2012 – the board recorded perfect attendance.
The board had 33 meetings from 2010 to 2012; it doesn’t meet during January:
Here’s the Whiteside County Board rundown:
• Five missing at three meetings
• Four missing at three meetings
• Three missing at six meetings
• Two missing at six meetings
• One missing at 11 meetings
• Zero missing at four meetings
The only time board members can officially exercise their power is at meetings, where they vote on issues. So if they don’t show up, their effectiveness amounts to nothing.
Seat of power vs. scent of pizza
Congressmen and senators don’t win elections by expressing their love for Washington.
Instead, they tell their constituents how much they detest the squalor of politics in the nation’s capital. And they promise to get back home as much as possible, where they can mingle with real people.
The truth is more complicated, though. As it turns out, Washington is quite addictive.
How else can you explain why these same politicos often stay in Washington after their political careers end?
Republicans Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have railed against Washington for years, but after they left Congress, they stayed inside the Beltway, forgetting about their reputed home states – Pennsylvania for Santorum and Georgia for Gingrich.
Republican Rep. Don Manzullo, who has a small farm in Egan in Ogle County, about 10 miles west of Rockford, lost his bid for re-election last year after two decades in Congress. Think he’s coming back home where the real people dwell?
Only part of the time.
Manzullo, who represented Lee, Ogle and part of Whiteside County, got a new job – on Washington’s K Street, where many congressmen end up after they leave politics. He will lead the Korea Economic Institute, a South Korean economic think tank.
This probably fits well with Manzullo’s experience: He was seen as the leading authority on manufacturing in Congress, and South Korea is a manufacturing powerhouse and an economic marvel.
Last month, Manzullo told the Rockford Register Star that he would split his time between Egan and Washington, where he bought a townhouse in 1996.
On the other hand, Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Colona, who represented the other part of Whiteside County, didn’t develop such a strong attachment to the Beltway. Schilling, who lost his seat after 2 years in the House, said he is looking forward to going back home to run his pizza joint in Moline.
In short, Schilling prefers the scent of pizza over the seat of power
David Giuliani is a reporter for Sauk Valley Media. He can be reached at dgiuliani@saukvalley or at 800-798-4085, ext. 525.