Shaw Media & Daily Herald Questionnaire Illinois General Election 2020
Why are you running for this office, whether for re-election or election for the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you? If so, what?
I am running for the Kane County Board to improve our quality of life, keep our economy thriving for a prosperous future, keep our taxes as low as possible, and maintain the health of our environment for the health of our people. I want to serve the people of my district and all 532,000 people who live in Kane County, regardless of age, race, gender, or socio-economic status. I am the only candidate with over thirty years of volunteer service for our community. The Kane County Board needs integrity and transparency, and I am the right candidate for this moment in time. I am elected to the Fox Valley Park District Board, and have the experience in public service and managing large, multi-million dollar budgets that will make me ready to serve on day one. I want to serve and protect the people of Kane County and bring fairness to everything we do on the County Board. I will bring our shared values of supporting families, building community, and protecting the environment to the Kane County Board.
If you are an incumbent, describe your main contributions. Tell us of any important initiatives you've led. If you are a challenger, what would you bring to the board and what would your priority be?
My chief priority will be to get the County back on its feet during and after the coronavirus crisis. We need to "Build Back Better." That includes creating better job training and bringing in better jobs. We need to help small businesses regain their footing and help families feel secure again. We have to do this without breaking the backs of our homeowners with higher property taxes.
Describe your position regarding the balance between county spending and revenues as it exists today, then describe the chief threats you see looming in the future and how the county should deal with them. In particular in the suburbs, Cook County President Preckwinkle has set a goal of eliminating unincorporated areas from county oversight. Do you agree with this approach? If so, how should the county go about it?
Kane County has been on a severe austerity plan for many years. This is not sustainable. A belt can only be tightened so much. While the current plan has kept the County's portion of our property taxes from increasing so as not to further burden our homeowners, it has also caused a drop in social services which has affected our quality of life. Cuts to the Health Department and mental health services have caused our residents to be deprived of needed assistance, such as opioid crisis intervention and mental health crisis support. We need to make our services robust so we can fulfill Kane County's mission statement of “providing innovative and high quality government services” to our residents. This balancing act between county spending and revenues will require cutting expenses county-wide, such as consolidating some of our school districts, eliminating township governments, and using sustainability measures to save money. I do not agree with President Preckwinkle’s idea. One of the main purposes of our county government is to be good stewards of the unincorporated areas. No government is not the same as good government.
How do you rate the county government on transparency and the public's access to records? If you consider it adequate, please explain why. If you think improvements are needed, please describe them and why they are important.
The county website is very difficult to navigate, to the point of obfuscating the county's purpose and what it actually achieves on a daily basis. The distinction between the role of the county in unincorporated and incorporated areas is very vague, but it is one of the most important distinctions in County government. Every page should have its own introductory explanation, and every committee should have a clear description of its charter and purpose. Residents should not have to read every agenda and minutes for each committee meeting to understand the responsibilities of that committee. Many pages in the website are out of date, which makes it difficult to find data.
What, if anything, should be done to improve automation and customer service in county offices? What steps should be taken to make that happen?
Although I have not heard any complaints about automation and customer service in county offices, there may be room for improvement. There should be a survey taken of the customers who come into the county offices to determine how long they have to wait for services and if they feel they had to wait too long. With this information, the county office would know if they need to take steps to fix the problem. We should always be using state of the art automation to make service better.
The county board will undergo redistricting following the 2020 Census. What is the most fair process? Do you support the current number of seats on the board?
I think we have the right number of seats right now, but we will need to get the results of the census to know how to move forward. Each member should have approximately 25,000 constituents in order to represent our districts properly, taking into consideration that we have rural, suburban, and urban areas. At 24 members, we can have citizen board members, who are neighbors to their constituents and not professionals. In order to redistrict, the most fair process would be to create a non-partisan Redistricting Task Force, including Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, including the Kane County Democratic and Republican Chairs. We would need geographical diversity on the task force to represent all parts of the county.
Do you support the current salary and benefits structure for the county board?
Yes. I think that is all fine. Benefits are important because most members will not be able to have a full-time job in addition to be being on the Board, so they would need benefits from the County.
What actions must the county take to continue to address COVID-19?
Immediately, we need to lobby the state and federal governments for funding to help our families in cases of food insecurity and homelessness, especially for when the eviction moratorium expires. We will have the two-sided problem of evicted renters needing shelter and foreclosed landlords no longer paying property taxes. We do not know what the future holds after COVID-19, but it may be very different. I like the saying "Build Back Better." We do not want to go backwards when we can be resilient and thrive in new ways. What will be the future of work? Will our County workers be working from home? We need to do an internal audit to determine the long-term use of our buildings, possibly even selling some of them. We need to plan for reduced revenues from fuel taxes due to fewer people driving and reduced property taxes due to foreclosures. What about sales taxes? How are we going to manage businesses closing? Unlike most other board members, I personally understand what it means to lose my own livelihood. I lost my acupuncture business due to COVID-19. We need to prepare a long-term plan and at the same time tend to current day issues.
The new board will take over during a time of unprecedented budget challenges. What is your plan to balance the budget? What will your spending priorities be?
Trying to balance the budget may make us feel like we are between a rock and a hard place, but there are ways to reduce spending, save money, and balance the budget. Sustainability and taking care of the environment are two of my main passions. Fortunately, sustainability is one way to cut costs. We can use more renewable energy and energy efficiency to save money. Water conservation is another way to save. I earned a Master's Degree in Sustainable Management from the University of Wisconsin, and my capstone project was writing a sustainability plan for Waubonsee Community College, where I teach. We can propose a study to more aggressively use conservation to save money. If we do an audit of our employees and their work-from-home habits, we may find that we can downsize the County buildings, selling some of them and reducing costs. My priorities will always be health, safety, and improving the economy, so that our residents choose to work, live, play, and raise their families in Kane County.