Re-printed with the permission of the candidate are her replies to the McHenry County League of Women Voters‘ questionnaire:
Algonquin Township Supervisor – candidate Elaine Ramesh
Why are you running to be Algonquin Township Supervisor? What qualifications or experiences do you have for the job?
I believe all of us can help make government better and keep our U.S. democracy alive by informed voting in every election; and by stepping up to run for office. I’m running to provide a choice in candidates to the voters. I’m running because I think I can make a differenc
I’ve served on the Township Board since 2019. As a Trustee, I’ve seen the smiles on people’s faces as they enjoy our programs such as Chair Yoga and Bridge. I’ve seen the daily use of our recycling facilities and the requests for emergency financial assistance. I would like to help continue to ensure that those needs are met. As a volunteer, board member and president of community organizations over the years, and as a person actively involved with government on many levels (local, county and state) I have all the right experience for the position. More details about my qualifications can be found at my campaign website electelaine.weebly.com.
What is your vision for the future of the township? What would you do to update the operations of the Township?
My vision for the future is to continue and increase our services to residents in a cost-effective manner. During the current health crisis, we can provide opportunities for learning, socializing and help online at very low cost. Particularly because of the pandemic, there is even greater need for General Assistance and programs directed at wellness and mental health to alleviate today’s stress.
I have made some progress toward updating the operations of the township already, including suggesting updates to our website and the addition of the feature that now allows residents to sign up for emailed news.
To improve operations of the township, the board and the other independently elected officials must act together as a team, and put the best interests of the residents foremost. An active and involved Board would be an asset to the region. As Supervisor, I would ask each of the four Trustees to select one area to focus on during their four-year tenure from the list of areas allowed under state law: youth, senior citizens, persons with disability/mental health issues and employment & job training. Within their selected focus area each Trustee should then work to provide opportunities, information and programs to our residents, and report on their progress at
each monthly meeting. As Supervisor, I will provide a monthly report of my work to increase accountability.
I have visited and watched meetings of other local townships in order to glean best practices. I observed that other townships’ Assessors and Road District Commissioners attend their Township board’s monthly meeting; provide reports and input. As Supervisor, I would request that the new Road District Commissioner and the Assessor to return to this practice to facilitate and improve communications. I would also strongly suggest that the new Trustees do as I have done and attend other Township’s meetings, to advance their understanding of their roles so that we can continuously improve our service to Algonquin Township.
I’ve focused on our two cemeteries, which are in need of much more that simple seasonal maintenance. Both cemeteries are in highly visible locations, and are overdue for repairs. The Lake Avenue cemetery in Crystal Lake has a large number of damaged historical monuments that need to be fixed and cleaned. I’ve been working with restoration experts and would like to continue my efforts to maintain and improve our local historical landmarks. Chunn’s Burying Ground is due for new fencing. Although these projects will involve expenditures, coordination with the towns the cemeteries are located in and applying for available grants may offset costs.
Lastly, I’ve suggested that our current Clerk put ordinances and resolutions online for easy and searchable access. I would suggest the same to new Clerk in order to update our operations and improve transparency.
With the financial strain brought on by Covid-19, and the cost of past litigation, how would you propose to balance budgets with reduced revenue?
I’ve already made some progress toward reducing excessive litigation costs by preparing a resolution that caps hourly attorney fees. If the other independent officers of the township follow the guidelines of the resolution, it will mitigate and reduce some costs. It is my opinion that precious little is to be gained when elected officials sue one another. At present, the Township Board cannot prevent other Township officers from filing lawsuits or engaging in protracted legal battles or choosing expensive counsel. Hopefully the new people in place for the next four years will strive to work together and avoid burdening taxpayers with needless litigation. If everyone can work together and make an effort to facilitate communication, we will avert In the past, there were issues with responding to FOIA requests which led to litigation.
Since the Assessor took over as FOIA officer the process has run much more smoothly. The new Clerk should definitely take the necessary steps to thoroughly understand FOIA and OMA (Open Meeting Act) requirements in order to properly create and notice the monthly agendas and other
important information. In this way, legal costs can be minimized.
I voted against increasing salaries for elected officials, and think expectations for employee raises need to be tempered under the circumstances.
What current services do you believe are essential for the residents of Algonquin Township? Will the current services be continued or some may need to be modified?
I think all of our current services are useful and valuable, and that we can and should do even more for our residents. That said, I will listen to input from the community and the other elected officials if there is need to make changes and/or reduce services.
Describe your experience supervising employees. How would you work with employees and the union to stop the costly litigation and make a more congenial work environment?
The Supervisor position has only two direct reports, and there have been no issues with their work environment. The unionized employees report to the independent Highway Commissioner, and legal issues definitely should be a concern for that elected official. I recommend that the new Highway Commissioner seek appropriate education and guidance to prepare to legally and cordially work with union to prevent burdening taxpayers with expensive litigation.
If consolidation of Algonquin Township Highway Department occurs, what kind of oversight is needed? If dissolution of the Township were to occur, how would you facilitate the transition of services to McHenry County
If the Township’s Highway Department were consolidated and folded into the direct control of the Township Board, the principal advantage would be greater fiscal oversight. At present, the Township board may audit the bills incurred by the other independent officials, but cannot actually refuse to pay or deny purchases without the possibility of litigation. Rather than
dissolving the Highway Department, changes to state law that allow stronger oversight (requiring Township Board approval to hire counsel and begin litigation) would be a better approach. State law preventing a Township’s various independently elected officers from suing one another and instead requiring them to enter arbitration if there is a non-resolvable problem would also be beneficial. The Township form of government is nearly two hundred years old, so it would make sense for an overhaul of state law to make this form of government run better. Change in state
law is overdue in my opinion so as Supervisor, I would work toward legislative change, rather than dissolution/elimination.
While calls for outright elimination of the Township form of government are appropriate in some special circumstances, fixing or updating the laws controlling what the Township Board can and cannot do would be much a much better solution to today’s problems. In our Township, a referendum petition for the question of elimination was pushed by non-Township residents.
Most of the signatures for the petition were collected by non-resident circulators. This is yet another opportunity for improving state law, as the effort to put a question of whether or not a Township should be completely eliminated on the ballot ought to come from circulators who are
Township residents and not from outsiders. [Who is allowed to pass petritions is governed by a Fewderal Court Order.] Some uninformed residents may think dissolving the township is a good idea that will decrease their taxes but they need to know that 1) the ten percent tax reduction is only on the 2% portion of taxes that a resident currently pays (not a ten percent reduction in their whole tax bill), and 2) there is no requirement for the county to continue the “savings” beyond one year. It may even cost a resident more if the county takes over.
In the event there was a successful referendum question for Algonquin Township’s elimination, I would of course cooperate with the county to facilitate a transition. The Supervisor’s role would be a minor one, as it would chiefly fall to the county to decide and make plans for what services
and employees it would keep or eliminate; and there would be no guarantee of any services continuing under county control.