Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner came to the Metro East Sanitary District headquarters Tuesday morning to veto a proposed state law that would have required the sitting mayor of Granite City to automatically be named to the flood’s agency’s board of directors.
In doing so, he sent a political message to Democratic lawmakers.
The measure, introduced by Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, and Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Belleville, both Democrats, was seen by the MESD’s Executive Director Steve Adler as an effort to put “politicians first and taxpayers last.” A Granite City mayor could tilt the political majority of the board because Democrats usually win in this city.
But Haine has said that the proposal to require that the mayor of Granite City automatically be named to the board was necessary because: “There is a lack of competence. Funds are misspent. And the patronage.”
In a press statement released today, Haine said, “I am more aware than the governor is of past problems of the Metro East Sanitary District,” he said. “While the current board has accomplished good things, it is still mired in political controversy and ill-advised ideas.”
Rauner characterized the proposed legislation as an effort by Democrats in Springfield to “manipulate” the levee board, which has long served as a place loyal Democrats can get a full-time job in exchange for their support. Adler has cut 28 jobs, balanced the budget, and introduced flood control measures that probably prevented flooding in Pontoon Beach and Mitchell this spring. He is the only Republican in a full-time job in the MESD.
“We want to make sure there is no political manipulation from Springfield that interferes with the good management practices that have been put into place here,” Rauner said.
“For too many years the district was not well run,” he said.
Kurt Prenzler, the Madison County Board chairman and a Republican, said while acknowledging Granite City residents pay the largest share of levee board expenses, “We already have two members who live in Granite City.”
The MESD board has five members, three from Madison County which has a slightly large assessed valuation than St. Clair County, which has two members. Each county’s board chairman must appoint at least one member from the opposing political party to the board.
“This was an effort to politically control the board,” Adler said.
“Our actions at MESD include balanced budgets, real flood control strategies, and using no more labor than required to accomplish the tasks at hand, he said.
Previously, according to hiring documents, selecting an MESD job candidate usually amounted to giving a job to members of former executive director Bob Shipley’s baseball team or from Democratic Party.
“There was political hiring. There was patronage hiring. There was definite spending (and) irresponsible maintenance of the pumps and facilities,” Rauner said. “Our citizens were not properly protected against flooding.”
“ They’re shining a light,” Rauner said of the current MESD management.
While in the metro-east, the governor also made a stop in Collinsville. He is running for re-election in November against Democrat J.B. Pritzker of Chicago.