County Board Approves Referendum to Consider Separating Rest of Illinois from Chicago


Published on April 15 2019 6:42 pm
Last Updated on April 15 2019 6:44 pm
Written by Greg Sapp

The Effingham County Board Monday voted to pursue a referendum to separate the rest of Illinois from Cook County.

The draft resolution has been modified from the measure approved out of committee earlier this month. This is the wording of what was approved by the Board on Monday: "Shall Effingham County collaborate in discussions with the remaining 101 counties of the State of Illinois, with the exception of Cook County, the possibility of forming a new state and ultimately seeking admission to the Federal Union as the 51st state, pursuant to the provisions of the United States Constitution?"

The question is streamlined somewhat from the earlier measure. The matter would have to get on the March 2020 election ballot and would have to ultimately be approved by the Congress to be enacted.

The proposal is borne out of the frustration of many that those in charge in Springfield don't seem to care what large portions of the state think about the issues. Add to that the vast majority of the state's population is in Chicagoland and that almost all of the state's leadership lives in Cook County, and the frustration continues to build.

Effingham County State's Attorney Bryan Kibler offered a word of caution. Kibler suggested that in earlier resolutions approved by the Board, there has been snickering, even resolutions against the Board's action by other governmental bodies, but that is an indication "that they are listening". He said that a resolution to discuss separating from Chicago might be viewed similar to a filing of divorce papers, and "they might completely tune us out". 

Local resident Shirley McEvers contended that the idea doesn't make sense from an economic standpoint, that the state funding the county receives would be less if it's independent from Chicago.

County Board member Heather Mumma argued that she's "hearing from constituents, and this is what they'd like to see."

Local resident Matt Pals contended that "if you get two more counties, or four more counties, or 10 more counties, then they (Chicago) will have to listen."

Area St. Rep. Brad Halbrook is asking for the numbers on what a separation from Cook County would mean economically. Kibler suggested waiting for action on the question until after those figures are available. He said it could be December or even January before the question would have to be passed and placed on the ballot, so why not wait to see whether Halbrook can come up with the numbers on what such a separation would mean.

The Board went ahead, though, with the vote on Monday. The voice vote was 7-2 in favor, with "No" votes heard from Republican Joe Thoele and Democrat Doug McCain. Thoele said, "I don't think this is an Effingham County issue, this is a state issue."

The Board also voted to approve a resolution declaring the state's Firearms Owner Identification Card unconstitutional. Local residents Eric Pals and Charles Heuerman spoke in favor of the move, Pals citing the Second Amendment's wording concerning infringement of rights to keep and bear arms. Heuerman said he's tired of seeing others "nibbling away" at others' rights.

The vote to approve the resolution, again on a voice vote, appeared to carry 8-1, again with Thoele the only No vote, again saying that he'd like to stay with local Effingham County issues. 

Kibler, on this issue, said, "it is within the purview of the Board to do such things" as act on the FOID card question.

Other business went fairly quickly.

The Board allocated $1,000 each for fireworks at the Watson Homecoming and at Edgewood Fest; agreed to placing artisan booths north of the Veterans Memorial during Farmer's Market; placing a lactation room in a 10x10 foot room at the County Government Building and making that room a single purpose room; declared May 2 as Law Day 2019; amended the salary schedule for employees whose unions have de-certified; and added a one-day bereavement for aunts and uncles for non-union employees. August 23 was designated for a summer picnic.

The Board approved three fire district trustees: Elwin Stuemke for the Altamont district, Gary Horn for the Dieterich district, and Steven Rudolphi for the Watson district.

Three county bridge projects were approved. One is the Winterrowd Bridge, near the Winterrowd community in the southeast corner of the county with the Feds covering 80% of the $360,000 cost; another is the West Township Bridge, west of Mason, with the County only having to cover 4% of the $275,000 cost; and the third is a preliminary engineering agreement for the Bishop Church Bridge, west of Bishop Church. 

Also Monday, County Clerk Kerry Hirtzel reported that the final numbers of the recent election showed 26.89% voter turnout, with the final official results expected Tuesday; County EMA Director Pamela Jacobs reported 42 people participated in a recent weather spotter class; Mumma reported zero deaths at the animal shelter in the past year; and Board Vice-Chairman David Campbell reported that a second loan of recaptured grant funds has been completed paid off by a local developing business.