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Editorial board: Deb Anselm, Publisher; Matt Christensen, Executive Editor; Bill Wundram, Associate Editor; Jon Alexander, Editorial Page Editor; John Wetzel, Community member. Quad-City Times editorials reflect the opinion of the editorial board. The board formally meets 9 a.m. Wednesdays. Contact the board or send letters to opinions@qctimes.com, or by calling (563) 383-2320.

Editorial: At RICo, can-kicking is all they know

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Gripe, nitpick and stall.

This past week, Rock Island County Board showed yet again why it's the region's most dysfunctional government.

Rock Island County Courthouse is dilapidated, unfit for its intended purpose and a tax suck in a county struggling to pay its bills. It's chock-full of cancer-causing asbestos. Study after study — dating back more than two decades — has detailed its deterioration. Even conservative estimates place rehab costs at more than $20 million.

The courthouse has to come down, and that's been true for years. It's the only way. The sheriff says so.  Any county board member with a modicum of respect for the taxpayer says so. The county's top judge successfully sued because the courthouse was in such bad shape.

And yet, a small, vocal minority — propelled solely by an unwillingness to lose a protracted political squabble — again scuttled a plan that's been years in the making. 

The resolution before the county board's Governance, Health and Administration Committee was pretty straight forward in practice. The proposed deal would have granted Rock Island County Public Building Commission the rights to fund the building's demolition and replace it with green space. A similar proposed resolution died earlier this year because it imposed a hard-and-fast date of July 18 for those demanding the courthouse's survival to come up with a way to pull it off.

This time, the resolution didn't have a date. It just created a mechanism to transfer the building to the commission. It would have been a tiny step toward ending perhaps one of the region's most ridiculous chest-thumping contests in recent memory.

But this time, citing the lack of an effective date, the very same county board members whom blasted the July deadline, cried foul and killed the whole thing.

And, in so doing, dissenters again exposed themselves as a gaggle completely incapable of good-faith-bargaining. No deal, unless it meets their every demand, will ever be acceptable. This past week's proposal was, after all, a compromise package. It was intended to offer preservationists one last shot at finding a private entity that might assume the burden.

This is personal. It has been since Chief Judge Walter Braud started pushing the issue of the courthouse's condition and the county's rampant neglect for it. And the preservationist faction sink the county's finances in service of the ego-driven crusade.

But foisting a boondoggle on the taxpayer isn't their aim, they say. Finding a private entity that might pour tens of millions into the building for whatever reason is the ultimate goal, they pledge.

Yeah, well, that approach is years old now. And it's failed.

The old courthouse is just too far gone. Its guts are just too out of date. Its structural issues are just too costly. The only way that building is brought up to spec is if Rock Island County taxpayers foot the bill. And then what, exactly?

The market has spoken and preservationist pipe dreams will never become reality.

But a handful of Rock Island County Board members, wielding outsized influence, are unable to distinguish fact from fantasy. And their delusions do little but guarantee more petty squabbling instead of meaningful governance.  

Local editorials represent the opinion of the Quad-City Times editorial board, which consists of Publisher Deb Anselm, Executive Editor Matt Christensen, Editorial Page Editor Jon Alexander, Associate Editor Bill Wundram and community representative John Wetzel.

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