Guest Column: Jackson Oaks voting procedure explained

Editor’s note: The following guest column is in response to the Letter to the Editor, “There goes the neighborhood—How things are done in Rockford,” (July 27-Aug. 2, 2005, issue) by Martha Kunz, former secretary of the Jackson Oaks Neighborhood Association.

In response to “There goes the neighborhood—How things are done in Rockford,” the following is an attempt to make corrections and present the truth about the Jackson Oaks Association:

First, the Jackson Oaks Association is not just a watch group. It is a group that “shall strive to encourage and promote civic and community programs and projects which contribute to the general welfare” of the group and Rockford. (Article II, By-laws)

The police have attended meetings in the past, but the president always presided over the meetings.

Nominations for new officers were held at the April meeting. People were informed that their $5 annual dues had to be paid before voting. Told they could both pay and vote at the May meeting, many residents came 30 minutes early to pay their dues. Seeing this, Martha Kunz (then secretary) said that this was illegal and stormed out of the meeting. Members who turned out for the election demanded to vote as scheduled. The other officers remained and participated in the election. Three new officers were elected.

However, the losers complained bitterly to the Mayor’s Office, and the community unit of the police department, claiming that the election all but one officer participated in was illegal. At a May 31 meeting of all parties, plus the community police officers and a city attorney, another election was agreed upon—for officers and board members this time—and parameters were set for how the nominations and election would be handled. Two main points of contention were agreed upon: 1) There would be no rewriting of the By-laws until after the election, and 2) Absentee ballots would be allowed as people may be ill, house-bound, working, on vacation, or attending other events.

The absentee ballots I delivered to the police department were completed by the voters, put into envelopes, SEALED and SIGNED by the voters, who included their addresses on the envelopes so their eligibility to vote could be determined before the envelopes were opened. The police brought these ballots to the election.

Almost 800 fliers were hand delivered while campaigning for a slate of candidates I’d gathered from a wide variety of ages, occupations, renters, landlords, property owners and business owners. It was a great experience because it gave me an opportunity to speak to many area residents and hear their concerns for our area.

It is true that no former officials were re-elected. It is also true that the new officers received a 75 percent endorsement from the community. Speaking for myself, in May I won by approximately 33 to 23. In July, I won 85 to 29. And despite Martha Kunz’s claim on your pages that absentee ballots “made a difference in the outcome of the election,” I had more than enough votes to win the election without absentee ballots. Martha admitted as much in a July 25 e-mail to our newly-appointed newsletter editor, “I am happy that she has the job and agree that she won without the help of the absentee ballots.”

I’m glad that the “do-over” election encouraged more residents to join, and I thank all of our members for supporting Jackson Oaks Association. On behalf of the new officers, we look forward to being of service to our community.

Mary Thiesen is president of the Jackson Oaks Association.

From the August 17-23, 2005, issue

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