Will Co. GOP thwarts Cool County effort
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain firstname.lastname@example.org June 20, 2013 6:40PM
Don Moran during the Will County Board monthly meeting at the Will County Office Building in Joliet, Illinois, Thursday, February 21, 2013. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 22, 2013 7:00PM
JOLIET — One day before the official start of summer, a Cool County designation for Will County went up in smoke.
At Thursday’s meeting, the county board voted 13-12 to reject a resolution designating Will County as a “Cool County” for its environmental policies. The 13-12 vote was along party lines with 13 Republicans voting against the resolution and 12 Democrats voting for it.
Don Moran, D-Romeoville, said the defeat was due to “some paranoia on the other side of the aisle” and partisan politics.
But Chuck Maher, R-Naperville, disagreed.
“One doesn’t have to say you’re cool to be cool,” he said. “In fact, as soon as you say you’re cool, are you really?”
Maher said the county board is environmentally conscientious because it’s the right thing to do.
“We don’t need to go in and pat ourselves on the back to do this,” he said.
If Democrat Jackie Traynere, of Bolingbrook, had been at the 26-member board’s meeting the vote likely would have been tied at 13-13 and County Executive Larry Walsh, an Elwood Democrat, would have been able to cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of the measure. Traynere was out of town, fellow Democrats said after the meeting.
The effort to name Will County a Cool County was led by Cool Joliet, a local environmental group that has been successful in naming Joliet a Cool City and DuPage County a Cool County.
But the group’s intention to designate Will County a Cool County for its recycling, energy efficiency and land use plans has been fraught with problems from the start.
Republicans didn’t like the fact that Cool Joliet is affiliated with the Sierra Club, a group that is opposed to coal-burning power plants. Will County has two such plants, and GOP board members said they wanted to support the industry and the jobs it provides here.
After Thursday’s vote, Moran read a letter from Charles Parnell, vice president of public affairs for Midwest Generation, the company that runs the coal-burning plants in Joliet and Romeoville.
In the letter, Parnell lauded Will County for its conservation programs and congratulated Will County for achieving “Cool County” recognition. So Midwest Generation had no problem with the designation, Moran said.
But by then, it was too late and the vote had been taken.
Throughout the process, the resolution seemed to be confusing to board members. Some called it an award rather than a designation. Curt Paddock, director of the county’s Land Use Department, was the lead proponent. He said it fit with the county’s own land use plans, which say the county will collaborate with local community groups on environmental issues.
But Maher said Paddock was the only person talking to the board about the designation. No one from Cool Joliet ever directly addressed the board or presented a document of its own, he explained.
“We had no certificate, we had nobody come to the board and give us an award. We had nothing officially in writing.”
He also noted that Will County launched many of its environmental initiatives, including a methane gas production unit at the county owned Prairie View landfill, while Republicans held the board majority.
Jan Gehrig, president of Cool Joliet, said she was very disappointed with Thursday’s vote. But she said the group’s work would continue.
“We can still work with the county. We don’t have to have a resolution,” she said.