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Let voters elect their representatives : Editorials : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Let voters elect their representatives

State Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego, should be commended for sponsoring legislation in Springfield which would allow voters living within the boundaries of the Fox Valley Park District to elect the agency's governing board.

The park district has an annual operating budget of more than $60 million and serves more than 200,000 people in Kendall, Kane and DuPage counties. Currently, the partisan-elected chairmen of the county board's in Kane and DuPage counties appoint the park district's seven-member board. Even though several thousand of Montgomery's Kendall County residents live in and pay taxes to the park district, the Kendall County Board chairman is not permitted to participate in the board appointments.

It's also important to note the park district is the only park district in Illinois outside the City of Chicago that has an appointed board. For example, voters living in the Oswegoland Park District have elected their own representatives to their park board since the agency was established in the 1950s.

Kifowit's bill, (SB 3387), which was passed out of a House Committee early last week, would change the current seven member appointed board to a seven member elected board beginning with the 2017 non-partisan local election. The bill would also establish three representative districts in the park district, with two board members elected from each. A seventh board member would be elected at-large.

We've long believed that Fox Valley Park District residents are deserving of the same opportunity to elect their own representatives to their park district board as their neighbors in the Oswegoland Park District and all the other park districts outside of Chicago in Illinois.

Allowing park district residents to elect their own representatives would also help shield the park district board from outside political influences. We've long been concerned that those now appointed to the board might find themselves feeling beholden to the party-affiliated county board chairmen who now appoint them to the board.

Back in 2011 we supported then State Sen. Chris Lauzen's, R-Aurora, effort to pass a bill similar to Kifowit's. Unfortunately, Lauzen's bill went nowhere. For the sake of the Fox Valley Park District's taxpayers we hope Kifowit finds success this spring with her bill.

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