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Stan Johnson a part of historic 'ConCon 1970'
By Barry Schrader.................................February
the question of holding another State Constitutional Convention
on the ballot in November 2008 the existing Illinois Constitution
will be analyzed by political scientists, editorial writers,
and politicians for the next nine months.
Probably one of the most qualified persons in the state to explain
provisions of the 1970 Constitution is Stan Johnson, now 86,
from DeKalb, who was one of 116 delegates selected to be part
of the "ConCon" 38 years ago. He and the late Maxine
Wymore of Hampshire were elected in a 1969 statewide vote to
represent this senatorial district in drawing up a new constitution
or making revisions to the existing one. The delegates decided
to create a new document, the first since 1870 and the fourth
one since the state's founding in 1818.
Stan had been talked into running for a delegate seat by his
late brother Owen and the late Joe Faivre, both leaders in the
DeKalb County Farm Bureau. Stan appeared before the Farm Bureau
and the organization agreed to back his candidacy-and he won
handily. At that point he didn't realize the intensity and politically-charged
year of hard work that lay ahead. He had to devote eight months
fulltime to spending long days in Springfield, renting a hotel
room and only getting home weekends. But when they completed
their work, adopting the controversial measure with many compromises
in September 1970 and placing it before voters in December of
that year, Stan felt it was a tremendous accomplishment and was
proud to have been a part of the process. He then spent several
weeks traveling around this district speaking about its merits.
Illinois voters ratified the new constitution and Stan said that
DeKalb County with a 65 percent "yes vote" was one
of the four top counties in support of passage.
He points out some of the provisions that had a major impact
on DeKalb County: 1) reapportioning the County Board of Supervisors
on a one-man-one-vote basis; 2) approval of branch banking throughout
the state; and 3) allowing the county sheriff and treasurer to
run for more than one term in a row.
Another provision that he supported could have been implemented
by DeKalb County but never got to a vote locally. That was the
option of a county giving itself "Home Rule" powers
where local governmental units could initiate certain actions
without going to the state legislature. Stan also wonders why
another provision providing for the consolidation of special
districts like cemetery boards, park boards, plus duplicate city
and county functions, never were implemented locally, with a
He had gone to the convention with three major issues in mind
he wanted to accomplish: 1) abolish the personal property tax;
2) establish single member districts for senate and representative
seats; and 3) revise the revenues article to create two separate
functions-finance and revenue. He is pleased to report all of
these were eventually passed, even though it took a vote of the
people to amend the constitution as late as 1982 dividing the
state into two single-members districts where voters pick one
senator and one representative from their respective district.
At the end of his delegate service he was also looking at a new
career. He was chosen as the first executive director of the
newly-formed Kishwaukee Community Health Services Center and
guided the establishment of a new hospital on Route 23 between
DeKalb and Sycamore. He mentioned a little known deal he made
in its early days of inception. It seems some DeKalb politicians
did not want to see the old Glidden Hospital replaced and so
threatened to refuse water and sewer service to the new medical
facility. Stan paid a visit to the late Sycamore Mayor Harold
"Red" Johnson and the mayor promised Sycamore would
provide the necessary utility connections, going under Bethany
Road. So the new Kishwaukee Hospital to this day still has its
water and sewer service provided by Sycamore, even though it
is inside DeKalb's unincorporated area.
After six years on that job he and his wife decided to move on
to less stressful lives and started an orchard near Malta. This
caused him one political problem, as he had run for and was elected
to the County Board in 1972 from his DeKalb district. So he had
to give up his board seat when moving. However, after selling
the orchard and moving back to DeKalb he decided to run for the
school board in 1992 and was elected. Looking back, he admits
he lost his bid for a second term though because he had promoted
privatizing driver's education training in the high school. But
Stan has no regrets from his many years of public service to
the state, the hospital, and the schools.
Asked about his opinion of the upcoming ballot measure on calling
a new Constitutional Convention later this year he replied, "There
is really no need for another convention or a new constitution
at this time as we provided for a relatively-easy amendment process
to make any changes desired by voters in the 1970 document."
But with the controversy surrounding the present Governor's use
of his veto powers and amendments he makes to legislation, and
the dissention between the executive and legislative branches
in Springfield, who is to say what will happen when voters go
to the polls in November.
The columnist can be reached via email at :
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PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115