I once had an editor-type person whose hard-and-fast rule was to tell us reporter-types that a “present” vote is the same as a “no” vote.
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After all, the number of “yes” votes it takes to approve something doesn’t change. A “present” vote does not add to the “yes” column. So it is just a weasel-ish way for political people to avoid taking a hard stand on an issue.
WHILE I AGREE with that particular editor’s concept that political people are capable of behaving in a weasel-ly manner, it seems that “present” doesn’t always mean “no.”
For the Cook County Board on Wednesday literally gave us an instance where “present” meant “yes” without actually having to take the embarrassment that a “yes” vote would have caused in this particular circumstance.
The specific instance was a measure meant to cut the compensation provided to the county’s Zoning Board of Appeals – which oversees zoning matters in unincorporated parts of Cook County.
The measure passed, but there was one part of it that failed – the idea that individual zoning board members should be limited to $20,000 per year for their work rather than the $12,000 limit that other such boards get.
THE IDEA WAS that the zoning board usually has more meetings in a given year, and should get more overall (even though the base of $500 per member per meeting would be applied to all appointees – regardless of board).
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In the end, the county rejected the $20,000 limit and went with the $12,000 limit – even though some said that might mean the zoning board would hold fewer hearings; which would require some people to travel farther to have their issues dealt with.
That $20,000 limit had five supporters and nine critics, with one county commissioner (Joan Patricia Murphy of suburban Crestwood) voting “present.”
Yet once the clerk announced the 5-9 vote, two of the commissioners who spoke out in favor of a $20,000 limit suddenly said they wanted their votes changed to “present.”
IT SEEMS THEY don’t want to be on the losing side of an issue. They probably didn’t want some future opponent concocting some nonsense campaign ad saying they voted to pay more money for positions that, by their own admission, were “political plums” used to reward friends.
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So the vote went into the books as a 3-9 vote, with three others present. John Fritchey, D-Chicago, and Timothy Schneider, R-Elk Grove Village, were the two last-minute changers whose “present” vote shouldn’t be taken as opposition to the idea that these political appointees probably don’t need to be relying on the county for their health insurance or any additional credits towards their eventual pension.
Although I’m convinced the most honorable individual on the county board on Wednesday might well have been Commissioner Jerry “the Iceman” Butler. For he was the one who voted against everything on the grounds that none of these positions should be salaried, or per diemed, or compensated in any way!
“Pro bono. Nada,” said the man who gave us, “For Your Precious Love,” before adding, “They should all be pro bono.”