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Barry Schrader


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Stan Johnson a part of historic 'ConCon 1970'

By Barry Schrader.................................February 6, 2008

With 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 few exceptions.
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.

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Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115

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