Appoint clerks in Des Plaines, Wheeling: Yes

Voters in Des Plaines and Wheeling get to decide whether to keep or abolish the elected position of clerk.

Under the proposed change in Des Plaines, the city manager would appoint a clerk. In Wheeling, the village president would appoint a clerk with the advice and consent of the board of trustees.

Having an elected clerk position may have made sense in the early days of these towns, which then were small communities with small governments that often operated informally. Over the years, however, the cities and their governance structures have grown in size and complexity, and the requirements of record keeping have become a management job that requires significant skill.

Electing someone to a low-profile, part-time job paying a few thousand a year that is largely ceremonial while most record-keeping duties lie elsewhere in the administration makes no sense.

The change, if approved by voters on March 17, would take effect in the municipal elections in the spring of 2021.

Of the two proposals, we like Des Plaines’ better — making the appointment an administrative duty that is part of the city manager form of government. The mayor, city clerk and city manager all support the change.

“Many other suburban towns have appointed, rather than elected, city clerks,” City Clerk Jennifer Tsalapatanis said, adding she is not interested in the position.

In Wheeling, village President Pat Horcher said that if he is reelected, he would work with the village manager to appoint the deputy clerk, a trained professional, subject to the consent of the village board, he said.

We feel voters should enthusiastically support these moves to simplify government.

Lake Villa District 41 upgrades: Yes

It was almost a year ago that voters in Lake Villa Elementary District 41 hammered a two-question, $50 million ballot issue to expand, renovate and maintain the district’s five school buildings.

A resounding three-quarters of voters opposed each question. Too expensive, too confusing, too little consensus in the community and on the school board, were reasons later cited for the thumping.

So, district officials revised the request after holding dozens of public meetings to solicit input and discuss building and maintenance needs.

The result is a more streamlined pitch for authorization to sell bonds and fund school projects in a proposal that district officials say is less expensive, easier to understand and has more support.

Voters will see one request to authorize borrowing $30.7 million for projects at four buildings — bigger ticket items include new safety and security work at Hooper and Palombi schools and a new roof at Martin school. Dropped from this proposal was a request for $4.4 million in work at Joseph J. Pleviak Elementary School, which the district owns but doesn’t use. Planned cafeteria renovations are now more modest.

The school board was divided a year ago in voting to put the questions on the ballot, but for this proposal, the support was unanimous. And, the vocal organized opposition in the community has mellowed, and former opponents now say their concerns have been addressed.

One constant is that the district’s outstanding debt will drop as money borrowed in 1997 and 2000 is paid off. If no projects were proposed or money borrowed, the tax bill for the owners of a $250,000 house would fall by $773 annually. The decrease would be $368 per year if the referendum request passes and the money for projects is borrowed for 15 years.

This proposal provides money to address needs in aging buildings while being more in line with what the board and the community will support. We recommend a yes vote.