Guest Column: Freedom of speech — for whom?

By Mona Marcinkowski
Fox Ridge Subdivision Resident

Ted Biondo has the luxury of being able to state his opinion whenever an issue arises. The Open Meetings Act (OMA) and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) were put into place for exactly the reasons Ted Biondo is complaining about.

He states that “if elected officials could meet privately without all those pesky ‘bureaucrats’ looking on”. WELL, Ted, you are a “bureaucrat” and you CHOSE to run for the county board. You CHOSE to represent your constituents and Winnebago County.

Based on what I have been reading and all the comments regarding this, it makes me wonder exactly what brought on this tirade with regard to the OMA. Were there discussions regarding this?

If the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Zoning Committee and the Winnebago County Board do not have the time to read over material that is given to them, and they are placing a vote determining the outcome, then request that the vote be held over, not a difficult thing to do. Something you have the power to do.

If our “elected” or “appointed” members do not have the time or energy to do what is expected of them, then step down. If you are not fully informed on what you are voting on, then don’t vote. If you feel that a discussion or meeting is warranted to discuss what you are going to vote on, then you have no business representing us. If you need help or direction in determining your vote, then step down. It is your job to know what is going on when you enter the room to vote on something that will affect a lot of citizens.

We are a country of laws. That is the way it is. But it is very sad to read when an elected official, for whatever reason, prints an article such as the one Ted did in the Rockford Register Star on Dec. 14 with regard to a law that was enacted to protect the citizens.

Ted Biondo states “Open Meeting Act hinders transparency of elected boards.” What is being “hindered”? You give the appearance that you are incapable of making a competent decision based on information given to you. You choose to blame the “staff” which, in this case, is the Zoning and Planning Department of Winnebago County. They do, in fact, receive all of the evidence, documents and whatever else is required to be submitted to the Zoning Board of Appeals. Within their packet is also conveniently a “Staff Recommendation” Report. This is based on their determination of material that they allow to be submitted. So, what you are receiving is their “recommendation.” Do you take the time to read what is given to you? Do you stop by the Zoning Department and pick up your “packet” in a timely manner? AND, if you do not have the time to review the material that you have been given, then don’t cast a vote. If you are being pressured, then why did you vote?

I commend Linda Grist Cunningham and Chuck Sweeny in defending the Open Meeting Act (OMA) and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Without these two laws, the average citizen, myself included, would not be able to obtain any information with regard to Winnebago County. We have a right to know what is going on, and you have a responsibility to keep us informed with “transparency” in what is going on. What you vote on should not benefit you in any way. It should be something that will benefit Winnebago County, not just a few “chosen ones.”

Ted, maybe you and any of our current “elected” officials who seem to have a problem with OMA and FOIA need to reconsider running in the next election. You evidently do not have the time or energy to do a job that you have been elected to do. Let someone else step up to the plate and represent us. Maybe they will take the time to know what they are actually “voting” on.

From the Dec. 21-27, 2011, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!