It was fascinating to watch the exchange between 23 officials from China’s Guangdong Province as they toured the offices of Kane County.
As prestigious as this group was, and as important the learning experience about best practices in taxation, the universal truth that perhaps shown brightest was that people of the world — no matter how distant their geography and culture — are people with much in common.
Men and women from the China delegation held open doors for Americans, and American officials and staff members held open doors for their Chinese counterparts. They engaged in small talk about the weather and travel. They took pictures, recording the moment for posterity.
Members of the China delegation marvelled at the employee cubicles in the Kane County Clerk’s Office that had been festively decorated for the holidays. And voices rang out with recognition when they saw photos from China brought up on an employee’s computer screen. There was a great deal of courtesy and respect, but there also were smiles and laughter.
“It went wonderfully,” Kane County Supervisor of Assessments Mark Armstrong said. “They were a very engaged group and asked detailed questions. It was clear that they were very interested in American assessment and administration.
“I think they are doing similar things in China, but they were interested in comparing American methods.”
The purpose of the meeting, arranged by the 21st Century Institute in Oak Brook, was to share as much information as possible regarding county government tax policy and collection. Most of the meeting was conducted via PowerPoint and translator, and Armstrong said the guests were polite, attentive and curious.
If they were surprised about anything, Armstrong said, it was how much information the county shares with the public.
“The openness of our data — that anyone could have access, that people have the ability to check for equity and verification — that’s the one thing I think they weren’t expecting to learn.”
After the tour, County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen greeted the delegation on behalf of Kane County.
“Welcome to the leader of your delegation and to every individual here. Also our affection to people who serve their constituents, as we serve our constituents,” he said.
“Thank you so much for coming.”