How Ironic: Ex-Triple-Dipper Seeks Gov’t Jobs Cut

Illinois State Senator Steve Landek (D–Bridgeview)

In a way, Steve Landek is Mr. Government.

He’s worked for public agencies most of his adult life—starting at age 19 when he was elected to suburban Bridgeview’s park district board.

And until recently, he was holding down three public-sector jobs simultaneously—mayor of Bridgeview, state senator, and Lyons Township supervisor—in addition to the elected post of Democratic committeeman. Eventually, he stands to collect two public-sector pensions.

So Landek, 55, might seem an unlikely proponent of streamlining Illinois’ bureaucracies. And yet, he is among the lawmakers trying to give voters a bigger say in reducing the size of township governments.

He was a chief co-sponsor of Senate Bill 1907, which would make it easier to abolish township road districts within Cook County and outsource their pavement repairs and snow plowing—perhaps reducing the tax burden on local property owners.

Given his past employment, there’s a measure of irony to Landek’s involvement with the bill, which passed the General Assembly on May 29 and awaits Gov. Pat Quinn’s signature.

Illinois, 1875 -- 25 years after the first township was formed

He was the Lyons Township highway commissioner from 2008 until late 2010, overseeing maintenance on roughly 20 miles of unincorporated road in the west suburbs. He left to become township supervisor, which is the top administrative job in the township.

He resigned a few of weeks ago because, he said, he needed to focus on his other jobs, including the legislative position to which he was appointed earlier this year when state Sen. Louis Viverito resigned.

A quick primer on Illinois townships for the uninitiated (For a deeper BGA look into the ins and outs of Illinois townships, visit our partner policy blog):

  • Illinois township boundaries often cover more than one municipality. And within Cook County there are roughly 30 functioning townships.
  • Illinois township governments maintain roads in unincorporated areas and offer social services—for example, providing property tax advice, and operating health fairs and food pantries.
  • Illinois township leaders are elected and their operations are funded through property taxes.
  • In rural areas, Illinois township governments can have close interaction with the public. In populated areas, critics contend they are inefficient and redundant—meaning the services often are duplicated by other public agencies, or could easily be absorbed by them.

The Better Government Association not only supports Landek’s Cook County-centric bill, which would allow a local township board of trustees to submit a ballot proposition for voters to abolish a road district. We are also working on other legislation to streamline township governments across Illinois.

Landek said there are political risks to supporting a bill that could trigger job cuts at the 19 suburban townships with separate road districts (although it’s worth noting Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan sponsored the bill in the House, so it has political heft behind it.)

But Landek said local government needs to get leaner and more efficient, and townships are a good place to start.

“By eliminating the [road] division, you eliminate a measure of overhead,” he said. “It’s a small savings but it’s a step in the right direction.”

Despite the bill’s potential to save taxpayer dollars, Landek’s support could earn him a few enemies, said Viverito, who is Stickney Township’s supervisor.

“It’s not going to make Steve popular with township officials,” he said. “But a lot of people probably agree with him.”

So what’s the status of Landek’s bill?

It’s awaiting action by Quinn, whose spokesman told the BGA a “decision will not be made until we are finished reviewing the bill.”

Andrew Schroedter is a Chicago-based freelance reporter and BGA investigator. For tips, questions or comments, contact the BGA.

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Townships

2 responses to “How Ironic: Ex-Triple-Dipper Seeks Gov’t Jobs Cut

  1. Rosemarie DeWitt

    Senate Bill 1907 provides that, upon abolition: the rights, powers, duties, assets, property, liabilities, obligations, and responsibilities of the road district shall vest in and be assumed by the township; the township board of trustees shall assume all taxing authority of the abolished road district; a highway commissioner of the abolished road district shall cease to hold office; the township shall exercise all duties and responsibilities of the highway commissioner; the township board of trustees may enter into a contract with the county, a municipality, or a private contractor to administer the roads under its jurisdiction; the township board of trustees shall assume all taxing authority of the road district; and, for purposes of distribution of revenue, the township shall assume the powers, duties, and obligations of the road district. Amends the Property Tax Code and the Township Code.

    The only savings to the taxpayers would be the elimination of the Highway Comm.’s salary, pension benefits and expense account. It would give the Supervisor too much additional “new” power to award contracts to independent contractors (most likely a political contributor) or hire new staff, most likely unemployed campaign workers to maintain the township roads.

    I do believe reform is needed, but this bill does not provide the tool for change that is needed.

  2. Leo

    maybe someone should look into the double dipping of bradley stephens and all the waste in leyden township

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s