Downsizing the Rock Island
February 13, 2015
Was honored to speak to the Rock Island County Branch of the NAACP
meeting last night.
very important to educate the public on this issue so that people
understand the options on the table for reducing the number of
county board member, what positive benefits might exist and also
identify the unintended consequences if the board size is reduced.
If the public wishes to downsize, that leaves
two new choices:
• Board reduction in 2018 with multimember districts or
• Board reduction in 2022 in a normal decennial census
reapportionment which would allow single-member districts.
As an elected official, I have a duty to
listen to the will of the people but also to bring to light
potential concerns that have not been addressed. Speaking to the
NAACP meeting last night was very helpful to identifying and
understanding their views and feelings on
this issue in the community.
Concerns I heard
related to county board reduction-
• Risk of disenfranchisement
• A decrease in the number of people of color on the board
• Dilution of minority voice
I will not be a part of “selling a bill of
goods”. It is my obligation to flesh out issues and inform our
county board members as well as the voters of all facets of this
issue including unintended consequences. I have been committed to
finding the truth behind this issue. I was told that the board
could not be reduced outside decennial reapportionment- I did not
believe that- I said that was wrong- I was proven correct.
When I was proven correct, the parameters of
downsizing were set so that the only path was so narrow that it only
can be done with multi-member districts. I was the first to point
out the obvious concerns to rural and minority representation.
If you want more information, last August,
County Board Member Don Johnston and I appeared on “The Cities with
Jim Mertens” to discuss this issue:
Here is a link to the
handout I gave to members:
When I was running for election in 2012 a
friend of mine who is somewhat removed from our politics in this
county (as he is a Mexican national ) gave me this advice: “all you
need to do is look out for the people.” And that is what I will
November 3, 2014
Letter to the
editor published in The Rock Island Argus, The Dispatch, and The Quad City
I wanted to keep you updated on a new wrinkle in the downsizing county
board issue. My printed documents were purloined from me in January 2013
have turned up in a political attack ad. This seems contrary to
the current revisionist history that everyone on the Rock Island County
board has been in favor of investigating if the board can be
downsized. They were not.
I was fought on many levels and hit obstacles from my initial request to
put this issue on the agenda, to the committee level where information
was presented to me in committee without any prior review, to outright
attempts at intimidation and threats if I would not cease in my
efforts.to follow through on my pledge to follow the will of the
people on this issue.
But I would not have imagined that documents would be taken without my
permission, withheld from me without my knowledge, and would not be
returned to me but instead would be used in bald face lies in a
I suspect I join many in seeing the end of this political ad season.
But more importantly, those who fought against following through on the
downsizing issue were not successful, I prevailed and the Attorney
General Opinion was written in agreement with my original statement that
the board could be downsized prior to 2022.
When elected in 2012 to the county Board,
I pledged “that the people clearly spoke that they wanted the board to
be 15 members, and I am going to do everything I can do to support
I embarked on answering the question of
“CAN” the county board be decreased prior to 2022 which became a fight
with elected officials in Rock Island County. Intimidation and
threats were made by a county board member insisting I stop or “people
are going to get hurt” and “I should be very careful.”
Documents on downsizing were taken from me
after a board meeting in January 2013 to later surface in a political
advertisement paid for by “Mike Smiddy for State Representative”
containing allegations against me and Jim Wozniak regarding a request
made for information compiled on private time, where no county resources
or county email were used. In my time on the county board, no one
has ever asked me to lie. Nor have I ever lied during my public
Jim Wozniak and I fought for and followed
the will of the people. That fight continues in false political
attack ads. Politicians should run on their record rather than
manufacturing falsehoods about elected officials. Democracy is not
served when those committed to people are besmirched with falsehoods for
I was proven correct that the board could
be downsized prior to 2022 and Jim Wozniak was serving the public by
adhering to the will of the people.
October 10, 2014
Committed to placing
downsizing issue on ballot as soon as possible
I am committed to put a referendum on the ballot to give
the people a voice to downsize the Rock Island County Board PRIOR to the 2022
decennial reapportionment. I will educate the public on the pros and cons to
this and they will have the final say.
Short speech at Ronald Reagan Barbeque
on October 10, 2014
September 9, 2014
Referendum I presented at full
county board meeting brought to Governmental Affairs
The referendum I drafted and made a
motion to move to Governmental Affairs for placement on the next available
Link to Governmental Affairs Packet
Alternate Link to Governmental Affairs Packet
August 13, 2014
Interview on Jim Merten's "The
Cities" on WQPT
The Illinois Attorney General has ruled
that the board can be downsized prior to 2022.
County Board Member Don Johnston and Drue Mielke discuss the released opinion from the Attorney General that states
the board can be downsized sooner than 2022 if the "method of election" is
changed by the people.
Watch the interview here:
August 9, 2014- Full
County Board Meeting
Motion made by Drue Mielke for
referendum to downsize board
The Illinois Attorney General has ruled
that the board can be downsized prior to 2022. I took the next step to put
a biding resolution on the next ballot and to begin drafting in Governmental
Link to September 9 2014 county board minutes
May 11, 2014
WQAD News 8 examines the
WQAD News 8 reporter Shane Simmons
asks what happened to Rock Island County board downsizing issue, finds
out who's holding up the process, what it costs to run the current board, and
compares what's happening in Rock Island to Scott County.
Monday, May 12th, 10pm WQAD News 8.
"We are going almost a year out here and I've not heard anything. It
certainly isn't going away. The people demand an answer because they should."
Our State's Attorney requested a new opinion from Attorney
General Lisa Madigan last March. That question asks if a county board can be
reapportioned at a time other than a non-decennial census.
I have had bipartisan support to ask for an update on this request last October
with fellow Rock Island County Board Member Scott Terry. This request was
denied but now one year has passed. The issue remains
open and is not forgotten.
March 20, 2014
Your Rock Island County Board
Report- District 22 Newsletter is currently being distributed
I have hand delivered 90% of my
district. If you haven't received a newsletter, you can view below.
I will deliver an updated newsletter to the homes that I could not reach before
the primary on March 18, 2014.
You can view the newsletter here:
Spring 2014 Rock Island
County Board District 22 Newsletter
February 27, 2014
We haven't answered the Downsizing question /
County could benefit from county administrator
Update Speech given April
23rd at the Milan Community Center
On Tuesday, April 23rd, I gave
an update on the county board for the annual Lincoln Day event. Here's a
portion of what was presented in my speech:
So far, it’s been a busy year.
The issues we have had before us include:
- The threat
of a lawsuit over the condition of the court house
- The public
building commission referendum
- The task of
working on a new referendum to address the court house
referendum regarding single member districts- a question that confused the
voters and obscured the will of the people
issues in the county highway department
- The Clean
Line Wind Farm Transmission Line issue that affects Chris Filbert’s district
and all rural district.
- Working to receive a new
opinion from our Attorney General on downsizing- not an opinion from 1974
and awaiting its 40th anniversary.
I have been
busy working on several issues specific to my district.
But in addition, despite much pushback, I continue in my pursuit to answer
the question whether the county board can be downsized before 2022.
I am obligated to answer this question as 72% of the electorate voted in
favor of board member reduction. I am pledged to do my job to assure we
listen to the voters.
I have received veiled threats to intimidate-- and it only tells me I am on
the right path and doing the right thing. I won’t back down from doing what
I think is right.
I am not here to protect the few or to feather my nest. I am here to serve
As Abraham Lincoln said “Right makes might, And in that faith, Let us to the
end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.”
I believe that. It gives me strength.
I continue what I started on the Coal Valley Village Board.
Informing residents in my district by sending out a county board report
to everyone in my district and maintaining my web site.
Continuing to work to assure that I give voice to the vulnerable and
oppressed in my district, who do not have a voice.
Continuing to assure that the laws set in place to protect residents are
also applied to those who need protection the most.
received an email last week thanking me for real, visible progress that
is occurring. By far….I didn’t work alone. But I assured that progress
On the county board--- we’ve moved the mark.
We’ve moved the mark- by offering leadership that looks out for the
real interests of the residents rather than the interests of the
We’ve moved the mark- by providing
honest and accountable government rather than machine politics and
business as usual.
we still have a long way to go…
We are looking forward to even better days for our Rock Island
County Board as we deliver on our promises of:
Government that is
- and Adheres
to the Will of the People
In closing… I would like to tell you what a tremendous honor it
is to serve on your Rock Island County Board!
April 13, 2013-
The oath I took-
I won't be intimidated from my obligation to serve
am continuing to do my job to represent everyone in my district. That
includes follow-up on the non-binding referendum in November. Our
State's Attorney has been very helpful and responsive to my follow-up
request. I am pleased to report that progress is made in the
letter being sent to our Attorney General to provide an updated opinion
on downsizing the county board. Thank you, Mr. McGehee, for your
hard work during these very busy times in the county.
From other areas though, I have received tremendous push back, threats,
and veiled threats if I persist in getting the answer.
want to tell everyone that I am not
intimidated nor going to back down from my obligation to serve the
people who voted for me and to whom
I took an oath to fairly represent.
I ran for office to be fair, to bring honesty
and accountability to the county board and to assure ALL people
in my district are represented and have a voice. I have
convictions that I believe in. We may not all agree, but I
listen to all sides and will represent everyone in my district
and will vote with the will of the people in my district. This
is why it is so important to me to send a letter out to everyone
in my district and ask for feedback.
The video below is from early last year.
It tells who I am and why I accepted the challenge to run
for county board.
I haven't watched it since I got elected but it still applies
March 29, 2013-
Notes on the Single Member
This referendum was put on the ballot in October by the past county
board. It was in reaction to the citizen's putting a non-binding
referendum on the ballot stating "Shall Rock Island County elect 15
county board members from 3 districts with 5 members each?"
I am not sure why the November 6th referendum even mentioned single or
multiple districts. It's direction was to decrease the size of the
You may view the discussion on this topic from the minutes of the
October 2012 county board meeting here.
Excerpt from county board minutes on this referendum.
I have just included the portion that dealt with the issue but the full
minutes are on
The reason given by the past board for adding this was "to help
alleviate misinformation and confusion on the existing question on the
ballot regarding possible reduction in board members."
It is my opinion that adding this referendum to our ballot on April 9th
was in reaction to the November 6th referendum but not a service to the
residents. I believe this referendum should have been removed as it
confuses the voter (they just voted on this in November) and it will
likely REMIND the voter that nothing has happened in response to their
last vote. I have had several residents tell me it angers them to be
asked again. I don't like when voters get
Rather than looking at ways to follow the will of the people in looking
at possible paths to downsize the board prior to 2022, we are now
looking at similar issue. I was the only board member to aggressively
pursue whether it is POSSIBLE to downsize the board outside the
mandatory reapportionment. I believe it can be done and no one has
presented evidence other than opinion from the Attorney General in 1976
that it cannot.
When I ask the downsize question, I don't get a "no." I have gone to
Springfield and spoken to the Illinois State Board of Elections which
agrees that the board could be downsized in 2016. When I ask the
question, I get "well, it would be difficult but with a skillfully
worded referendum, having all board members terms ending on the same
time, and the county board passing an ordinance reflecting 15 members"
it can be done. That's not a "no". Should the board be downsized? That's
not the question I am working on. I am working on "can" not "should".
But to follow the will of the people in the last vote, I feel obligated
to follow through and pursue downsizing that 72% said to do.
I support single-member districts as I wish to assure the rural areas of
our county maintain the districts that represent them.
But, I find this question to be empty and not meaningful or helpful.
It's my opinion that this referendum should have been removed given that
72% voted to downsize the board and this just muddies that issue.
Personally, I favor single member districts but I served on the Coal
Valley Village Board for 6 years as trustee and we all were serving
at-large, meaning we had "one district".
Here's what I see as the pros and cons:
Pros for single member districts:
person in which to contact
board member would have a smaller district in which to concentrate
Smaller districts make it easier for "the average guy" to campaign
to be a public servant
Cons to single districts:
really can't think of any. I think single member districts work.
Pros to multi districts:
have more than one person representing you which implies that you
can contact the person with whom might likely best understand your
Cons to multi-districts:
Representation to rural districts may be diminished. Those districts
would be combined with suburban districts
Candidates would have a much larger area
to campaign, which would drive up campaign costs which implies
people like me would find it difficult to enter that arena of public
December 7, 2012-
Over the last year, I went out to meet everyone in our district- many
people who I represented
on the Coal Valley Village Board and many that live in Moline and South
Moline and Coal Valley townships.
During the campaign, I have stressed that as an elected official, I
represent ALL residents-- including the
vulnerable who do not always have the loudest voice. It was a close
election and in my acceptance speech I stressed that now that the
election is over I become the representative for all. On the Rock
Island County Board, I pledge to continue my mission to assure that the
vulnerable in our community have a voice and to be
accountable in how our county is run.
There were many issues in this campaign but the one that stands out the
most is the public’s will to decrease the size of the Rock Island County
Board. I will work with my fellow members on county
board to begin the work that will achieve this goal.
We have much to do to make Rock Island County even better than it is.
Your thoughts and prayers were very much appreciated during the campaign
and I ask for your prayers and ideas as I become your new Rock Island
County Board member for District 22. Please feel free to contact me. I
Ready to serve,
Interview with Drue Mielke and County Board Member Don Johnston on KWQC
reporter Johnna Klossing interviewed Rock Island County Board Member Don
Johnston and myself on the day after the election.
4:00 airing on Wednesday, November
on Wednesday, November 7th