The disappointment was far greater than the expectations. As expected the Illinois Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal of the citizen group Stop The Mega Dump.
That decision effectively ends any direct appeal of the siting application process employed in the expansion of the DeKalb County Landfill in Cortland. I am far from alone in my firm opinion that this process was dishonest in its intent and was carefully designed to minimize the public’s meaningful participation or any objection to the expansion. To expect the general public to match the legal resources of a Fortune 500 company in a process that restricted their access to the elected representatives is an affront to any form democratic government.
But there is now a small group of residents-living-closest-to-the-landfill still praying the Illinois courts will consider their argument that a conflict exists in the Illinois Compiled Statutes and that they followed the more current law contained in what is referred to as the Illinois Township Code to deny the expansion with the authority properly granted them. The Cortland Township Electors Association are trying to raise at least $60,000 to hire an attorney to represent them to get a permanent injunction against Waste Management of Illinois’ landfill expansion application.
Here’s some background…
The Illinois Environmental Protection Act of 1970 created the Illinois Pollution Control Board to set environmental standards for pollution control facilities and the state, and to judge violations of those standards. The Act also created the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to enforce the Board’s standards for these facilities through inspections and monitoring programs and to issue permits for various kinds of facilities and equipment covered by the regulations.
In 1986, the Act was amended to allow counties that have signed a delegation agreement to share in the responsibility of inspection and enforcement of nonhazardous waste management sites such as landfills, transfer stations, compost sites and open dumps.
On July 7 1993 House Bill 2120 (main sponsor was Joel Brunsvold) passed Illinois General Assembly and became Public Act 88-0062. The amendment was a one word change. This Section does
not apply to refuse disposal facilities regulated by the Illinois Department of Public Health and the county in which the facilities are located. The word NOT was removed. There was little or no debate on the bill at any time during the 88th session (1993-1994).
However there were two hotly debated issues concurrent to the bill’s passage. There was an attempt to eliminate township governments (failed). And there was the Bartlett Balefill. That was a huge fight to site a landfill in unincorporated Cook County. Downstate legislators were angered that unincorporated Cook County was getting treated differently in the landfill siting process than other Illinois unincorporated areas.
Joel Brunsvold died in 2010. It is not beyond the realm of possibilities that Brunsvold, who was a supporter of townships and angered with the Bartlett Balefill legislation, took advantage of a low profile bill to give townships new meaning and rural residents protection from Chicago’s garbage.
Not everyone agrees with my opinion. Take Eric Olson over at the Daily Chronicle for example. He opines that township government is useless anyway so Frankie Benson and the Cortland Township Electors Association should just give it up and townships just done away with. His predecessor, Jason Schaumburg, had about the same view on townships.
I’ve always been a supporter of townships because of the powers granted to the Electors at their Annual meetings and the potential that has for engaging voters with their government. In the past my opinion has been instead of eliminating the township form of government let’s get rid of the gerrymandered county districts replacing those board members with the township supervisors. That approach is not new.
From the Illinois Association of County Board Members, the County in History:
[...] In this form of government, each township elected a supervisor for a four-year term. The supervisors then constituted the county board, much as their counterparts did in colonial New York three hundred years ago. The township form of county government was the most prevalent form in Illinois, having operated in eighty-four counties until 1972 (55 ILCS 5/2-3001 et seq.).
But Olson, Schaumburg and I are not in total disagreement. I think the Brunsvold Amendment to the Illinois Township Code was written for this very circumstance — to give residents a tool to prevent being railroaded for the rights and revenues from tipping fees. This is the townships in Illinois’ fight. Any registered voter is an Elector in their township and should have a say over accepting someone else’s unwanted garbage. To be forced to accept it because others could use the revenue is more suited for a mafia movie than an act of local government. If the more than 1400 townships in Illinois allow this contest to go unchallenged because Frankie Benson, Richard Hahin and a couple of their neighbors can’t raise the funds necessary for legal representation then township government has failed in its core responsibility to protect the rights exercised by its residents and should be abolished.
Of course by that logic the DeKalb County Board should be eliminated.
It should be noted that the Cortland Township Board of Trustees also passed a unanimous resolution against the landfill expansion before the siting application public hearing. It, too, was ignored. More recently the Cortland Township Board, with the urging of trustee Stephen Ward, moved to a “more neutral” position on the landfill. He didn’t disclose at the time that he was being considered as a nominee to replace Ken Andersen who resigned as District 3 (Cortland) representative on the County Board. He didn’t get the nomination.
The Illinois Appellate Court and the Illinois Pollution Control Board ruled that the voters and taxpayers of DeKalb County relief from the Rule 172 process was to vote the board members out of office. District 3 voters did just that — soundly rejecting Riley Oncken’s bid for re-election. The new county board including all of the candidates that campaigned as opposition to the landfill expansion promptly reappointed Oncken to the board as a show of respect to their constituents.
Unfortunately the wallaroo that could do a better job went missing over in Kingston.
Get Involved. Click the badges below and ask for their help.
From Frankie Benson:
Please send contributions. We’re asking that you sit down and write a check today. It is going to take $60,000 to get this case to the Illinois Supreme Court. So far we have nearly $20,000 spoken for. If you would like to donate anonymously, please call the number above. Be sure you have contact information, such as name and address or at least a phone number on your check or money order. Upon receipt of your check and legible mailing information, I will send you my signed promise to return your contribution if for any reason we do not get this case into court.
Make your check out to:
Cortland Township Electors Association
18711 Chase Rd.
DeKalb, IL 60115
We sincerely thank you for anything you can do to help in the fight to stop the DeKalb County Landfill Expansion.
So feel free to call me (Frankie Benson) or write with any questions you may have: