Will County Board Republicans freeze Cool County effort
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain firstname.lastname@example.org May 14, 2013 5:12PM
Updated: June 16, 2013 6:27AM
JOLIET — Will County Board Republicans are giving a local environmental group called Cool Joliet the cold shoulder.
A resolution designating Will County as a Cool County stalled at Tuesday’s land use committee meeting after Republicans linked the measure to the United Nations’ Kyoto Treaty and a move to eradicate coal burning power plants by the Sierra Club.
Land Use Department Director Curt Paddock said Cool Joliet simply wants to recognize the board for its energy efficiency and conservation plan, which was adopted unanimously last year.
But board member Steve Balich, R-Homer Glen, who is a founder of the now-defunct Will County Tea Party Alliance, said he researched Cool Cities online and found information that linked the organization to the Kyoto Treaty, which is an international effort to limit greenhouse gas emissions from industrialized nations.
Also, Cool Cities is affiliated with the Sierra Club, which is working to eradicate coal burning power plants, Balich said. Will County has two coal burning plants.
Paddock said people can search the Internet “and come up with all kinds of conspiracy theories,” but accepting a Cool County designation does not mean that Will County is adopting goals set by the Sierra Club. The county’s conservation agenda is its own agenda and not the agenda “of any international cabal,” he said.
Balich is not on the land use committee, but three fellow Republicans on the committee voted against the resolution and three Democrats voted for it. The tie means the resolution failed. Committee Chairman Tom Weigel, R-New Lenox, said the resolution would be referred to the board’s executive committee for debate and a possible vote by the full county board.
Cool Joliet Chairwoman Jan Gehrig said she was disappointed by Tuesday’s vote, “But we’re hopeful and we’re going to keep working.” She said the group, “does not have a position on coal power plants.”
Republicans Weigel, Ragan Freitag of Wilmington and Mike Fricilone of Homer Glen voted against the resolution because Cool Cities Illinois was founded by the Sierra Club of Illinois, which opposes coal burning plants. The Republican board members said they didn’t want to lose jobs at the coal burning power plants.
“I believe you are who you associate yourself with,” Freitag said.
Democrats Walter Adamic of Joliet, Reed Bible of Plainfield and Bob Howard of Beecher all voted in favor of the designation. They agreed with Paddock’s view that the designation was recognition for the county’s good deeds in the energy conservation area.
A similar resolution came before the Will County board last month, but it was kicked back to the land use committee for some of the same concerns expressed on Tuesday. In the interim, Paddock said he changed the resolution’s wording from “execute a commitment” to Cool Cities Illinois to “accepting designation” as a Cool County.