County Board starts term on bitter note

Despite losing two seats in the General Election, Winnebago County Board Republicans managed to obtain chairmanship of all nine standing committees at a Dec. 4 organizational meeting. In addition to holding the nine chairs, the GOP holds a majority on each committee.

Going into the meeting, Democrats thought they’d mustered enough support to be granted chairmanships of Health and Human Services, Public Works and the Finance or Public Safety committees.

Democrats walked away empty-handed, however, vowing to take over more board seats in the next election.

“Before the meeting started tonight, Dave Yeske (R-2) was supposed to be with us, and Mary Ann Aiello (R-9) was supposed to be with us,” explained incoming board member Doug Aurand (D-3). “They both went with the other side for committee chairmanship.”

Democrats had promised Yeske the Zoning Committee chairman in exchange for his vote. Republicans, however, gave him the seat, and Yeske never had to cross the aisle.

GOP leaders made sure Aiello was granted chairmanship of the Health and Human Services Committee without having to side with Democrats.

“I know that she was supposed to be with us, but she wasn’t,” George Anne Duckett (D-12) said. “I don’t know what happened, ’cause they’ve treated her like crap.”

Duckett was cut from the Finance Committee despite her years of service there. Phil Johnson (D-8) is now the only Democrat remaining on the five-person committee. The new committee members, including Chairman Tom Owens (R-1), have never served on Finance before.

Suffering defeat, Winnebago County Democrats declined offers to chair other committees.

“You’ve got Republicans sticking it to Democrats, just because they have the power to do it,” Pete MacKay (R-5) charged. “They don’t have exactly an overwhelming majority, because I certainly don’t consider myself one of those guys.”

MacKay hoped Aiello would join him across the aisle so Chairman Scott Christiansen would have been forced to break the tie.

Aiello was unavailable for comment prior to publication.

As a result of the new committee structures, MacKay said Republicans may lose as many as six seats in the next election two years from now.

“I thought we would start off on a better road,” Duckett told The Rock River Times, “but it looks like our path is going straight to hell.”

John Ekberg (R-10) said he also fears the new board may have started off on the wrong foot.

“I really believe in bipartisan work, and it seems like the outcome that we see,” Ekberg said, “is not very conducive for trust. We have a whole lot of work to do together, and if we’re bitter about what happened, it’s gonna slow down progress.”

“It’s the way the cookie crumbles,” new County Board member Karen Elyea (D-11) said. “The Democrats pushed them [the Republicans] into the corner and let them take their king. If you have a chance to take the king, you take it. The Democrats are going to get better with a new style of negotiations that don’t include ‘all or nothing’ demands. I think there’ll be a follow-up story to these developments.”

The new County Board will have its first regular meeting Dec. 14

From the Dec. 6 – Dec. 12, 2006, issue

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