I’m going to put up as many of the Alliance for Land, Agriculture and Water questionnaires as I can get to.
Endorsed candidates are
- District 1: Andrew Gasser
- District 2: Donna Kurtz
- District 3: Nancy
- District 4: John Hammerand
- District 5: John Jung Jr. and Zane Seipler
- District 6: Ersel Schuster
ALAW County Board Candidates Survey: Primary Election March 18, 2014
THE ROLE OF COUNTY GOVERNMENT
1. What scenario would necessitate an increase in the county’s tax levy and what are your parameters for determining the magnitude of that increase?
This is a very open-ended question and I do not feel it is appropriate to respond in a specific manner. Instead I would respectfully offer my reputation:
- I am a Certified Public Accountant with 25 years of experience as a trusted business advisor.
- My two terms on the CCSD 47 Board of Education, as chairman of the finance committee, overseeing an $85 million budget in a fiscally responsible manner.
- I understand the current economic situation, and I know that property tax increases will hurt our taxpayers and restrict our potential for economic growth.
As a county board member, I would support a flat levy. However, I cannot predict future or events that may or may not occur that may alter this decision-making process.
2. Do you agree with the recently passed 2014 legislative agenda of the county including support for legislation that grants counties more permissive authority and the ability to expand non-property tax revenue sources? (Can be found in the January 21, county board meeting packet). Why or why not?
The legislative agenda includes a policy to support legislation allowing counties to expand non-property tax revenue sources. I believe our taxpayers will applaud efforts to find funding from sources other than their pockets. While this is the policy, as a county board member I would evaluate each opportunity on its own merits.
3. Can you identify five specific areas of concern in the Unified Development Ordinance that are being discussed or have recently been discussed in the joint Zoning Board of Appeals and Planning and Development Committee meetings?
I applaud the efforts of County P&D with respect to the UDO. An ambitious project like this will include pros and cons for any constituency. I look forward opportunities to improve the mplementation of stormwater ordinances, common sense requirements regarding agribusiness/tourism and businesses in the home. Lastly, I want to ensure that we have ample clean, potable ground water in the years to come.
4. What areas, if any, of County government could be more efficient and save taxpayers money? If you believe there are services or functions that could be more efficient, how would you (or how have you, if incumbent) formally review County programs to ensure their necessity and improve their efficiency?
The county board can start fiscal responsibility at home, in their own board room. Currently, board members receive a stipend for their service which includes health insurance and pension benefits. The combined stipend and benefits cost the county almost $1 million annually and benefits are almost half of the total. While I don’t have a problem with the stipend, I question why a very part time position receives such rich benefits? That is not the norm in the private sector and it shouldn’t happen on the county board. While a small part of a $250 million budget, I believe it is an important gesture to offer our taxpayers.
Additionally, as the Mental Health Board activities are realigned to its true mission, there will be savings that can be reallocated to the mental health providers providing services in our community. The question will then arise with respect to the best use for the building constructed several years ago that is occupied nowhere near capacity.
Lastly we must be mindful of changing events with respect to occupancy in the county jail, and ensure that we budget properly for revenues and expenditures based on circumstances.
TRANSPARENCY AND COMMITTMENT
5. During past primary elections, candidates for county offices voluntarily filled out the ALAW initiated Addendum to Statement of Economic Interests BEFORE the election. This form is now required once you are elected, but filing it now with us is entirely voluntary. ALAW will not endorse any candidate who does not fill out the form. Will you fill out and file your form with us now?
6. Tell us why you do or do not think the county board chair should be popularly elected and if the referendum passes, how do you propose to protect the integrity of the election process from big money and special interests?
I favor the referendum as it is important for voters to decide. That being said, I will personally vote against a popularly-elected Chairman. Currently, the Chairman is not the chief operating executive of the county, that job is held by the County Administrator who is qualified for the job. What would the qualifications be for an elected position – a certain age and a registered voter?
An important duty of the Chairman is to manage the board and run the board meetings. Most voters have never attended a County Board meeting and may not have an opinion regarding those specific leadership capabilities. In my opinion, the 24 board members should determine who is best suited for that job.
Additionally, a popularly-elected chairmanship would increase, not decrease, the political stakes for the job. Anyone interested in the job would have to raise a substantial amount of money. I would expect such a campaign to cost more than $100,000. Talk about political patronage and being beholden to special interests – I fear these problems would increase if the Chairman was popularly elected.
Lastly, I believe that a popularly-elected Chairman would become a stagnant position. As much as voters complain about politicians staying in office too long, they re-elect the incumbent. Once in, the Chairman would likely be re-elected year after year.
7. Have you accepted donations from any organization that does business with the County? If so, please provide details.
Not that I am aware of.
8. What have you done to prepare yourself for the office you seek?
In addition to my experience outlined in question 1, above, I have been very involved in the community for over 15 years. I have served as a Nunda Township Planning Commissioner, and was one of the authors of the first Township Comprehensive Land Use Plan and the Township Open Space Plan. I keep abreast with the daily news, I am attending County Board Members as my schedule permits and of course reading the board packets as they are available online. Lastly, I am meeting with current and past board members to discuss various aspects of county business.
WATER RESOURCES AND /LAND USE
9. What do you foresee as a solution when the county population reaches a level that the aquifers can no longer support? Alternatively what do you see as a way to avoid this crisis?
Availability of ample water supply is one of the most important issues facing our county today and in the years to come. This must be a primary consideration with respect to planning and development and especially stormwater management. The county and municipalities may protect wetland and riparian areas but if those areas are not properly managed we are missing the boat. We must treat stormwater as a precious resource rather than a nuisance.
Much more can be done to educate businesses and homeowners regarding citizens’ solutions to managing water supply. For example, I have been working with the City of Crystal Lake for the past several years to plant and maintain a rain garden at City Hall and a bioswale off of a parking lot in the downtown area.
Several issues to address are:
- Wetland and riparian area protection but also the proper management of wetlands and creek/stream/river buffers;
- Naturalized detention areas and bioswales; and
- The county should be the leader in educating local government, businesses and homeowners.
10. Would you oppose any land use change that would exceed a locally recharged aquifer’s capacity?
Respectfully, it is difficult to provide a definitive answer to a hypothetical question. I believe my comments, above, reflect my concern for our groundwater and my understanding of the issues; however, the particulars of any issue are critical in the decision-making process. I would make such decisions on a case-by-case basis, based on principles I believe in, input from the community I represent, and in concert with 23 colleagues on the board.
11. Do you support redistributing groundwater from water-rich areas to areas that have over drawn their groundwater?
I believe this may already be happening in Algonquin and Grafton Townships. See my response in #10, above, regarding hypotheticals. I would question how this will be monitored.
12. Do you agree with the proposition that new development should be located where infrastructure exists, to minimize the extension of new roads, utilities and services, protect farmland and water recharge areas, and minimize the concurrent tax increases for existing residents?
Again, you have posed a hypothetical question with a lack of specifics. See #10, above. I do favor having ordinances that promote mixed-use development, as well as communities where development is clustered while preserving open space, while always respecting the individual property rights of landowners. Again, the county should be a leader in educating of the benefits of conservation design principals.
13. Should transportation improvements be evaluated based upon their return on investment and prioritized according to this cost/benefit analysis (i.e. Randall Rd. and Rt. 62 intersection)?
Return on investment is always an important decision making tool. I am not convinced that the CFI is the right answer for Randall and 62. It is much more costly than alternative solutions, the village of LITH is vehemently opposed to it, and it may hurt some of the area businesses. I don’t know that we can truly predict an increased cost/benefit for the CFI over the next best solution. Sadly, anything that is done is closing the barn door after the horse. Major commercial development along an arterial road with too many curb cuts is a recipe for disaster and I don’t know that any solution can make the Randall corridor an efficient means to get somewhere.
This is exacerbated by a lack of affordable housing, and a lack of professional business opportunities, in McHenry County. People who work in all the minimum wage jobs have to travel our roads to get to their jobs, and people who can afford to live in McHenry County have to leave the county to work. We need to do more to attract the types of businesses that can provide high-paying jobs so that people can work close to home. These businesses will also help to substantially increase our EAV, which will provide property tax relief for homeowners.