Category Archives: March 20, 2012

2012 Primary election results

The following results are from local contested races, and have been aggregated from the counties of Kane, Kendall, DuPage and Cook, as well as the Aurora Election Commission. The results are considered unofficial, and the winners are in bold.

Illinois State Senate
25th District
Republicans
Dave Richmond 6,616
Richard C. Slocum 4,520
Jim Oberweis 10,816

Democrats
Corinne M. Pierog 2,784
Steven L. Hunter 1,413

Kane County Circuit Clerk
Thomas M. Hartwell 17,648
Catherine S. Hurlbut 9,340
Karin M. Herwick 7,951

Kane County Auditor
Terry Hunt 14,863
Laura C. Wallett 12,559
Karl Regnier 5,687

Kane County Coroner
L. Robert Russell 17,494
Robert Nicholas Tiballi 16,011

Kane County Board Chairman
Republicans
Kevin R. Burns 11,424
Chris Lauzen 25,963

Democrats
Bill Sarto 4,255
Sue Klinkhammer 5,567

Referendums
Unincorporated Kane County
Electrical Aggregation
Yes 4,006
No 4,209

Village of Elburn
New tax rate for police pension
Yes 204
No 492

Village of Maple Park
Electrical Aggregation
Yes 100
No 67

Election 2012: Kane County Coroner

Two Republican candidates face each other in the Tuesday, March 20, primary election. The winner will face Democrat Tao Martinez, who is running unopposed, in the general election this fall.

Republicans

L. Robert Russell
Rob Russell’s background as a 20-year veteran of the DuPage County Sheriff’s Office makes him uniquely qualified for the office, he explained.

While many assume that a county coroner’s focus is medically focused, he said that in reality, there is no medical requirement for the office, because all medical functions are outsourced to forensic pathologists and lab professionals. He said that out of the 102 counties in Illinois, only two coroners are doctors, and one more is a medical examiner.

“The role of the Coroner is one of a Peace Officer who is charged with investigating suspicious deaths (on the scene),” Russell said. “What prompted me to run for this position was the fact that I saw the opportunity to serve the citizens of Kane County in an area that closely resembled my strengths. My resume matches the job description for the Coroner’s Office.”

Russell explained that given his experience investigating death as a peace officer, he best understands the laws and procedures of a criminal investigation—specifically issues relating to evidence chain of custody.

He said the number-one issue facing the office currently is a lack of integrity. He said the next coroner must make the office his only priority.

“I will repair the bridges between the Coroner’s Office and other civil service agencies in Kane County,” he said. “I will serve the public with the same vigor I have had as a law enforcement professional.”

Integrity of the office could be further restored if it pursues accreditation, he said.

“I also see much value in accreditation,” Russell explained. “Becoming an accredited office will help solve the problems of the Kane County’s Coroner’s Office by incorporating the ‘best practices’ of agencies across the nation.”

From a facility standpoint, Russell said he understands that there are no funds to build a new morgue. However, he said that there remains a possibility to upgrade the office’s facilities by creating partnerships with other local facilities.

“In addition, by making the morgue an area training facility, we would be eligible for government grant money which could help speed the process along,” Russell said.

Robert Nicholas Tiballi
Robert Tiballi said that annually, there are slightly more than 2,700 cases that involve the Kane County Coroner’s Office. Less than 0.5% of those are homicides, meaning that approximately 2,700 cases are natural, suicide or accidental death.

Given those numbers, he said, his medical background and leadership experience are exactly what the office needs.

“When sworn in as Coroner, I will bring to the position 23 years of experience as a practicing physician, 15 years experience as a founder and administrator of a large medical group, 15 years managing a budget that I not only administer, but also raise capital to fund, and years of supervising and disciplining hundreds of my peers as an elected Chairman of the Department of Medicine of a large local hospital,” Tiballi said.

He explained that the coroner should be ready to supervise a diverse office of professional contractors and support staff while maintaining records accurately. In addition, the coroner must maintain good working relationships with outside agencies and law enforcement officials.

“I will restore focused, purposeful, reasoned and experienced leadership,” he said.

His first order of business would be to begin what he calls a “top to bottom, stem to stern review of all areas of the office including policies and procedures, work roles and assignments, physical equipment assets and reform the working operation of the office within the first two months on the job,” he said.

Tiballi said this office overhaul would include vital intangibles, such as a restoration of ethics and high professional standards that should already exist. Further, he would work to build positive relationships with local law enforcement, fire control and health professionals, which he said have been strained severely.

“Within the first month of taking office, I will meet personally with leaders in each jurisdiction of law enforcement and fire control in every part of the county to re-establish good working relationships,” Tiballi said.

He said that overall, he would combine his business sense with his medical expertise to rebuild the office from the ground up.

“Through much hard work and dedicated service I have seen good ideas succeed,” Tiballi said. “I believe that patience and perseverance conquer all things and I am one of the hardest workers you will ever meet.”

Election 2012: Kane County Circuit Clerk

Republicans

Thomas M. Hartwell
Having served on the Kane County Board from 1996-2000, Tom Hartwell is familiar with Kane County Government. As a practicing attorney out of South Elgin for the past 19 years, “the court is my workplace,” he said.

This bodes well for him in his pursuit for a position responsible for the maintenance of all records of the county courts.

“The Circuit Clerk handles court files, manages over 100 employees and works with other elected officials,” Hartwell said. “My abilities, experience and motivations make me uniquely qualified.”

He said his priority would be to better organize the record-keeping system while spending less resources.

“When it comes to wasteful government spending, enough is enough. I will make tough decisions that will help solve the financial fix were in. Kane County can no longer afford the type of old-school leadership that has brought us to the brink,” he said.

He explained that the current Circuit Clerk’s Office is behind in the installation and implementation of an advanced computer system. He would save time, resources, and create opportunity to improve service by fully utilizing technology designed to efficiently and economically manage the court’s records.

“We live in an information age. Kane County court records need to be brought into the new millennium,” Hartwell said. “Advanced computer technology will free up the office’s employees to take on other additional responsibilities, creating an atmosphere organized around timely and cost-efficient customer service.“

He said that upgrading the office’s technological capabilities will allow the court to process cases faster while enabling people outside the court to access public information over the Internet more easily. In effect, this reduced the resources needed to perform the job while at the same time improving service to the public.

The focus on streamlining processes could translate to all areas of county government, he said.

“One ongoing challenge will be our ability to do more with less,” Hartwell said. “If we don’t work smart and if we don’t work together, the slow recovery of our economy will continue to strain the public sector. Maintaining a balanced budget without sacrificing important county services is something that needs to be addressed across the board, regardless of office, in the spirit of reciprocal collaboration.”

Catherine S. Hurlbut
Catherine Hurlbut did not respond to repeated attempts to obtain information for this article.

Karin M. Herwick
Karin Herwick definitely has the most direct experience of what it is like to work in the Kane County Circuit Clerk’s Office. She has worked in various capacities in the office for the past 20 years. Starting as a team supervisor, she continued to take on more responsibility until she became the office’s Chief Operating Officer for the past seven years, including her secondary role as Chief Deputy Circuit Clerk.

“I have been motivated to seek the position of Circuit Clerk because I find public service both rewarding and challenging,” Herwick said. “I would like to continue to be a public servant as your next Circuit Clerk.”

Because of her extensive experience inside the office, she said she would be able to hit the ground running in pursuing her priorities.

Her first area of focus would be to improve online access to records and using innovation to address other areas of customer service. She said she has been actively working to improve public record access through the Circuit Clerk’s website, helping make it user friendly while also protecting personal and confidential information.

She would also focus on transitioning the office from a paper to what she calls a “paper on demand” system would provide many efficiencies and cost savings. She explained that achieving this advancement is more possible with someone already experienced in the office’s functions.

“This requires a comprehensive understanding of manual processes to be able to transition them to new business solutions,” Herwick said. “It also requires training of deputy clerks on the new way of business, as well as working with all Partners of Justice and the public to successfully transition.”

Should the County Board vote to fund a new case management system, Herwick said she is prepared to work with all the impacted parties to ensure that the new system is both accurate and comprehensive.

She said she is uniquely qualified for this role due to her current role and history with the department.

“I have a proven record of being a team player and able to successfully work with people. I will continue to lead in this same manner,” Herwick said.

Election 2012: State Senate 25th District

In the race to represent the 25th District of the Illinois State Senate, three Republicans face each other while two Democrats pair off. The winners of their respective primary elections on Tuesday, March 20, will face each other in the general election this fall.

Democrats

Corinne M. Pierog
Corinne Pierog’s background in education, as well as the private sector, has made it clear to her that supporting innovation and education for the workers of today and tomorrow is the way Illinois can turn around its fiscal woes.

Pierog holds two graduate degrees—a Masters of Arts and an MBA.

“Both have given me the necessary training and skills that are vital for developing solid solutions to the myriad of challenges facing Illinois,” Pierog said. “An in-depth knowledge of governmental budgeting, financial forecasting, program assessments, and budget oversight are vital and critical components of good governance.”

Further, her current service on the St. Charles School Board, combined with her experience as a small-business owner, have given her the experience of seeing what the struggling economy has done to Illinois residents, as well as given her ideas of how to help turn the economy around.

“Since 2007, thousands of Illinois’ families have suffered through the debilitating effects of unemployment,” Pierog said. “It is our duty to create both long- and short-term solutions that realistically address the underlying issues of unemployment.”

She explained that a major factor in the loss of Illinois jobs is the decline in the manufacturing sector.

“One of the sources for this decline is our lack of technological preparedness,” she said. “As manufacturers look towards multifaceted technical approaches for cost-saving efficiencies, the average factory worker lacks the skills and training to understand and operate these new technologies.”

She said the state needs to encourage job training opportunities to insure that the state’s workforce is skilled in the latest technological applications and other areas of needs.

Illinois has to start talking about manufacturing as our future, not just something of the past,” Pierog said.

The need for further educational investment extends beyond the manufacturing sector, however. Pierog said that the educational bar continues to rise in the overall job market.

“While a high school education is one of the primary indicators for ending the cycle of poverty, by 2014 most jobs will require at least some post-secondary education. Education funding can either support our families, or slam the door on their economic future,” she said.

Pierog expressed concern with some recommendations for additional state budget cuts to social service agencies. She said that state funding for social service programs are among the lowest in the nation. Rather than focus on cuts that would cause more harm than good, Pierog said the state could budget more effectively and focus on job growth as a two-part plan to help turn the state around.

“I will promote policies that encourage job growth for the people of the 25th District and throughout Illinois,” Pierog said. “We need policies that rid the despondency of our communities. We need to secure a more stable economic future.”

Steven L. Hunter
As a regular citizen of Illinois, Steven Hunter said he decided to run for office because he felt under-represented in Springfield.

“I believe that the government caters to PAC’S and Super PAC’s instead of the people they are supposed to be representing and protecting,” Hunter said.

Additionally, he has seen a lack of progress and in many ways, a regression in the state.

“I look around and see underfunded schools, failing infrastructure and an economic crisis, and I am not comfortable with this,” Hunter said. “I feel it is important for all the people in this state to redevelop the sense of pride in our schools and our state that we once had. I am hoping to do just that.”

He said education and how it is funded is his top priority. He would prefer to see pension funds and 529 college savings plans invested in municipal bond programs that would allow school districts and local governments refinance high-interest construction bonds.

“Reducing the debt load, we will free up capital that can be used for financing the system of public education,” Hunter said. “This would also provide a guaranteed source of fixed rate income to the pension funds.”

Also considered a vital aspect of revitalizing the state is to place a real focus on improving infrastructure as a means to increase job creation.

“Infrastructure improvement will also play a key role in creating jobs and increasing efficiency of small businesses,” Hunter said.

He said that upgrading railroads, bridges, highways and other failing state infrastructure will increase ease in transportation and will make for better business. Paying for the upgrades could be accomplished or aided through the use of various federal grant programs.

While the infrastructure needs are state-wide, he said he does have a local project that he would like to see included in this list of upgrades.

“Specifically in our district, I would like to see the Metra line pushed out from Elburn to DeKalb,” Hunter said. “The purpose of this is to provide an innovative triangle including the students and research professors at Northern Illinois University, Fermilab, and DuPage National Technology Park. This will help to develop the currently stagnant and underutilized Technology Park.”

While that activity works toward rebuilding our state’s educational systems as well as its infrastructure, he said Springfield must also focus its attention on its finances.

“We need to put a moratorium on any new spending and divert all possible new revenue sources towards paying our existing bills,” Hunter said. “It is important that we work with Governor Quinn to take responsibility for our debts.”

The problems are many and steep, but that does not mean they are insurmountable, unless people stop being willing to communicate effectively.

“It is impossible to achieve what needs to be accomplished with bickering and infighting,” he said. “It is time to listen and know the concerns of our citizens.”

Republicans

Dave Richmond
Dave Richmond intends to bring his fiscal conservatism from his current role as Blackberry Township Supervisor to Springfield.

“When I ran for Supervisor, I made one promise—to be fiscally conservative with taxpayer’s money—and I have delivered on my promise,” he said.

He points to two facts from his three years managing the township: 1) the current fiscal health of the township, namely, the facts that Blackberry Township has a balanced budget, no debt, and cash on hand. 2) Blackberry Township has lowered its property tax levy from the maximum for all three years of his tenure.

“That means when residents pay their property taxes, we have kept a few more dollars in their pocket,” Richmond said.

Richmond said the focus he has had on ensuring fiscal solvency in Blackberry Township would continue if he is sent to Springfield to represent the residents in the 25th District.

“Our state must live within its means and that means reforming the budget process,” he said. “The biggest problems we face in Illinois are a lack of efficiency and certainty, coupled with a lack of political will to make tough choices about our budget.”

Richmond cited a study that said the state of Illinois lost 800,000 residents between 1995 and 2009. He explained that the Illinois exodus has led to a net loss in income and talent.

“We have become a net departure state. We need to turn Illinois into a destination again,” Richmond said.

He would push to reduce taxes and reform regulations; this would allow current residents to keep more of their income, and would make it easier to establish or expand businesses.

On the state spending side, he said he would push to freeze spending to levels prior to former Governor Rod Blagojevich’s time in office. He would also place a higher focus on departmental efficiency in which each department would be required to justify their work while meeting higher standards for results. Programs that do too little to help should be cut, he said. Furthermore, Richmond said that state entitlement programs should be reformed, and added that he would push to see passage of SB-512, a pension reform bill for state employees.

Adding those components together—reduced tax pressure on residents, loosened regulations for businesses, significant spending cuts and entitlement reform—would reverse the trend in Illinois, leading to growth in residency and jobs, in Richmond’s view.

“I want jobs returned to my district and the state, I want honesty to be the watchword of the day, and I want people to be in control of their own money and destiny,” Richmond said.

Richard C. Slocum
Richard Slocum said he has heard an overwhelming message during his time traveling the 25th State Senate District—Illinois needs to stop its spend and tax mentality. If he has his way, he intends to stop it.

“My role will be to demand accountability and control of the spending and taxing that has been rampant in Springfield for years,” Slocum said.

Slocum has spent the past 16 years serving on the School Board of the West Aurora School District, the past four as the board president. That, combined with his professional experience as a small business owner, give him significant experience in confronting and solving problems.

“I have developed my skills over years of bringing people together to find common ground and agreement on problems that were very difficult,” he said.

Agreement on problems is something he says does not even exist in the state government.

“What I am not seeing in Springfield is the ability or even the intention to stop spending, reform Medicaid and pension benefits,” he said.

The first thing that must be done is that government spending must be reduced—at every level, Slocum said. The first area he would find a reduction would be in Medicaid. He suggests adjusting the current system into a more managed-care type of program. He would then focus on pension reforms. He said that public pensions need to move toward a system that features greater contributions by its participants, lesser benefits being paid out, and he would consider extending the retirement age. He also said pension plans should offer a defined contribution option that would be similar to a 401(k).

He would then turn his attention to taxes, and his prescription is to reduce them for both corporations and individuals. Further, he said that state tax policy needs to be more predictable for businesses of all size than it has been. That would enable businesses to know how their taxes will be calculated years into the future, which would aid them in their planning.

However, Slocum said it is not enough to merely come up with ideas of how to turn around Illinois’ budget problems. There also needs to be a broader effort to get others to see the problems and work toward finding the right solutions.

“Pressure must be placed on the legislature, all its members, and the executive branch so that they understand the voters will accept nothing less than the expenditures being controlled and the reforms I’ve suggested above being initiated immediately,” Slocum said. “I believe through my experience, both in my small business and 16 years on the West Aurora School Board, that I have the knowledge and expertise to make an impact on the budget disaster in Springfield.”

Jim Oberweis
Jim Oberweis did not respond to repeated attempts to obtain information for this article.

Election 2012: Kane County Board Chairman

Two Republicans and two Democrats will face their respective party opponent in the primary election on Tuesday, March 20. The winner of each primary will run against each other in the general election this fall.

Democrats

Bill Sarto
Bill Sarto said that his tenure as the Carpentersville Village President from 2005 to 2009 taught him many lessons that can be directly applied to the role of Kane County Chairman.

“I’m a candidate for the County Board Chairmanship because I believe that my background as a former Village President (Mayor) gives me the experience necessary to perform this job very well,” he said.

He said that prior to becoming village president, Carpentersville was facing significant financial challenges.

“We were able to solve those problems by stabilizing the staff and by implementing tried and true financial principals,” he said.

He said the village brought in new businesses while establishing a long-term plan to resurface streets and sidewalks, as well as adding streetlights. In addition, the village created an Engineering Department, Economic Development Coordinator and a Village Planner, while adding police officers, firefighters and public works employees—all without raising taxes on property owners.

Further adding to the challenge he faced upon taking over as village president were internal conflicts among the Village Board.

“I came into office with a Village Board that was not supportive of me. In fact, they were in many cases hostile,” he recalled. “Even though we did not agree politically, we were able to work together because I provided leadership that they could not disagree with.”

He would apply the lessons learned from his success in Carpentersville to the county to focus on lowering taxes in the county. He said cutting county costs without reducing services could be accomplished by looking at what says are “too many high-priced contracts currently on the county books.

“We have way too many empty buildings in Kane County and vacant parcels of land that are available but are sitting empty,” Sarto said. “This costs all of us too much money for these vacancies to remain on the books as unproductive waste of tax dollars.”

Sarto said that now is the time for Kane County to get directly involved in economic development.

“County government can no longer sit on the sidelines while leaving this very important function up to the local municipalities,” he said. “The cities, towns and villages need our help. The county’s impact fees are killing new development.”

Another way to help Kane County’s economy is to to work to match employer with employees. He said the county should partner with educational institutions to focus on building a highly trained workforce while also supporting job fairs and other ways to reduce unemployment within the county.

“We also need to help find jobs for those who are currently out of work,” Sarto said. “Nothing helps a sagging economy more than a person with a job.”

Sue Klinkhammer
Sue Klinkhammer did not respond to repeated attempts to obtain information for this article.

Republicans

Kevin R. Burns
Kevin Burns believes that his 11 years of serving as Geneva’s mayor gives him the background necessary to take over as Kane County Board Chairman.

“The next Kane County Board Chairman must be a partner with the 30 cities/villages that make Kane County unique,” Burns said. “Moreover, the Chairman must be able to collaborate, cooperate and build consensus with a variety of interests by bringing people together, identifying common challenges and creating common solutions. I have done this, and more, during my tenure as Mayor of Geneva and throughout my professional career with non-profit organizations both large and small.”

He pointed to his mayoral record, consisting of 11 consecutive balanced budgets, streamlined government operations and increased economic development.

“As Mayor of Geneva since 2001, I have succeeded in all areas important to sound management and good governance,” he said.

He said he would put that experience to immediate use to focus on three areas that would, if accomplished, further spur economic development in the county. Burns said his first priority would be to redevelop the Settler’s Hill Landfill to create a Kane County destination that would benefit all residents and business owners. He would work with the County Board to immediately create an 18-month moratorium on the Kane County Road Impact Fee Ordinance, which he said would spur economic development and job creation.

He would also work to use existing resources to re-establish the position of Kane County Economic Development Director. He would structure that position to work with municipal economic development personnel to attract development opportunities throughout the county.

“All three goals can be achieved by working with all parties currently involved in the economic development initiatives that make our communities, and our county, strong and viable,” Burns said. “The Kane County Board understands and, for the most part, has practiced ‘partnership governance.’ However, more can and should be done.”

Understanding that this strategic agenda will require the input of many individuals from throughout the county, Burns said he would institute various ways for everyone to collaborate. He said he would create a quarterly meeting he calls a “Chairman Economic Development Forum” consisting of mayors, village presidents and municipal economic developments teams to gather and meet with the county economic development team to develop broader strategies and ways to work better together. Twice a year, he would hold what he calls a “Chairman’s CEO Roundtable” with Kane County business, civic and nonprofit leaders to also discuss various strategies, as well as ways to ensure “social sustainability for the more than 500,000 people that currently call Kane County home and the hundreds-of-thousands that will move to Kane County in the next 20 years.”

Chris Lauzen
As both a CPA and an Illinois State Senator since 1992, Chris Lauzen said that not only does he have the right combination of private- and public-sector experience to help Kane County navigate this economically difficult time, but he also has the right service-minded philosophy.

“Generally, people don’t care what you know, until they know that you care,” he said.

Lauzen said he made his decision to end his tenure as the Illinois State Senator representing the 25th District in order to run for the Kane County Board Chairman position because he sees solutions to the county’s problems and wants to continue to help.

“(I have) the desire and opportunity to help solve the county problems of escalating property taxes … increasing perception of pay-to-play politics in my home county, and deteriorating morale of taxpayers and county employees as they see the politically-connected ‘few benefit while the grassroots ‘many’ of us stagnate,” Lauzen said. “There is a critical mass of people who want and will work for reform.”

He said he would work to immediately freeze the county property tax levy.

“It makes no sense that our property values are going down, but our property taxes continue to go up,” Lauzen said. “We are being taxed out of our homes, while the Kane County portion of our tax has gone up 50 percent in the past seven years.”

He would also work to end what he calls the “Kane County Culture of Cronyism,” and would focus on implementing “honest, competent administration of county business through information and austerity.”

He would do this by focusing on communication and collaboration, which would help rebuild trust over time. This sense of collaboration would be in the form of partnerships with private industry and educational institutions with ongoing roundtable discussions and employer forums. He would also coordinate infrastructure planning among federal, state and local agencies, as well as developers.

The information that would come from these collaboration forums, as well as feed into them, would also be available at what he calls a “Kane County Cooperative Clearinghouse” website. He said this format would exchange innovative ideas, equipment and services, specifically in the areas of access to capital.

This collaborative effort would also lead to an overall streamlining of the permit process, which would help business development because there would be a predictable, prompt standard of response.

Further, having all municipalities involved in these efforts would “minimize tensions of regional ‘bidding wars,” Lauzen said.

Lauzen said he would sum up his approach to the role of Kane County Board Chairman as follows: “By intensely listening, providing accurate information, treating all people respectfully, gathering consensus around taxpayers’ priorities of limiting the growth of government, restoring trust in pubic institutions, and increasing per capita prosperity in Kane County.”

Election 2012: Kane County Auditor

Three Republicans will face each other in the primary election on Tuesday, March 20. No Democrat candidate filed for the primary election.

Republicans

Terry Hunt
When current Kane County Auditor Bill Keck announced his decision to retire, Terry Hunt approached the situation as a lifelong accountant would—methodically.

“My wife and I discussed the opportunity that had been presented, and we talked with our daughter and son-in-law,” Hunt said. “We prayed for guidance, which ultimately gave me the courage and confidence to become a candidate.”

That confidence is based on his 37 years of work as an accountant, his time spent as a CFO in the private sector, as well as his efforts to found, grow and maintain his own small business.

With the confidence of his accomplishments combined with the due diligence of learning more about the details of the office, Hunt learned the broader scope of the office.

“One important factor is that in Kane County, we have an elected auditor,” Hunt said. “To me, that means my primary responsibility will always be to serve the citizens and taxpayers. I will work with the chairman, and the board, and other elected officials and departments, but I will be working for the citizens and taxpayers of Kane County.”

To begin working effectively for the citizens and taxpayers of Kane County from day one, Hunt developed a short-term seven-point approach to improving the office without adding more to the budget.

He would publish the county checkbook online in a user-friendly format. He said that currently, the information is available in .pdf format, but for those who wish to cross reference the information and really dive into the details, the information should be available in a more easy-to-use manner.

Hunt would audit the entire county’s credit card system, review and monitor every county contract, and institute a system that would better monitor checks issued from every county department.

“That is a simple but effective way to improve internal controls,” Hunt said.

Further, he would enhance the existing risk assessment program, coordinate a fraud protection plan, and establish an audit hotline that would provide a way for the public to directly connect with the office of Kane County Auditor.

“The County Auditor is an important job, with a high level of commitment to the citizens and taxpayers of our community,” Hunt said. “I will never take that responsibility lightly.”

Laura C. Wallett
Laura Wallett’s decision to enter county politics was born from a sense of activism. With a philosophy of fiscal responsibility and limited government, she began to attend most County Board meetings and other functions. This enabled her to learn how things currently operate, and she saw an opportunity to help improve the county government when current Kane County Auditor Bill Keck announced his retirement.

Having worked as an accountant for 22 years, Wallet said she has the skills and training necessary to be an effective county auditor.

“My dedication to my profession, through continuing education and practice, gives me the unique skill sets to bring new ideas and increased involvement of the auditor’s office in developing sound financial policy and procedures for the county,” she said.

She plans to apply her background to accomplish three specific goals if elected: modernize the auditor’s office, improve government operations, and increase government transparency.

Wallett said that modernizing the office would improve efficiency throughout the county, and provide a more thorough check and balance.

“An enhanced system of inventory and asset tracking can monitor items purchased with taxpayer dollars more efficiently,” she said. “This can be achieved by enhancing existing accounting software.”

Wallet said that a key component of her job would be to audit county departments to find ways of providing taxpayers with better services and improved controls at less cost.

“The auditor identifies wasteful practices and weak control procedures, and recommends corrective action,” she said.

Wallett would streamline current purchasing procedures to make them less cumbersome, as well as to encourage participation across departments to save money. She would examine special funds that are currently running at deficit spending and provide recommendations on how to prevent them from becoming a burden on future taxpayers. She specified three examples: court security, animal control and circuit clerk funds.

Due to her professional background as an accountant, combined with her personality traits, Wallett feels she is uniquely qualified for the position.

“I am an astute business person, an excellent communicator with superb listening skills, a clear and analytical thinker, consensus-builder, a creative problem-solver and idea generator, and an ethical professional who can be trusted to always operate from the highest level of integrity and act on the strength of my convictions,” she said.

Karl Regnier
Spending the past 16 years as a corrections officer with the Kane County Sheriff’s Department—and the past three as the union’s president—has given Karl Regnier an understanding of the importance of accountability, integrity and team work.

He said those three things are the centerpiece of his campaign, as well as what would drive him if he is elected to office.

“As a public employee, I am accountable to the people of Kane County for ensuring their tax dollars are being spent correctly, efficiently and effectively,” he said. “I will analyze spending and work with department officials to find ways to reduce spending and eliminate unnecessary expenses.”

His experience with the union, and his time as its president, has given him the skills necessary to build a more cooperative environment with the various county departments.

“Teamwork within and between all county officials and offices will help to make a stronger, more effective and efficient county government,” Regnier said. “I will strive to work professionally with each and every elected official so that together we can create a productive and fiscally responsible county government.”

While it is important to work to come together as a team, it is equally important to not be afraid to challenge the status quo, he said.

“I am not afraid to question spending or voice my opinions and concerns when I do not agree with the way something is being done,” Regnier said.

While performing the functions of the auditor’s office, Regnier said he would not allow politics influence his decision-making process. He explained that the auditor’s primary role is to responsibly manage the taxpayer’s money, and therefore integrity is an essential aspect of the person filling that role.

“I have seen a lot of ‘the good ol’ boy network’ in county politics over the years working at the Sheriff’s Office, but I do not operate in that manner and won’t be influenced or bullied into making decisions that aren’t in the best interest of the taxpayers,” he said. “I am honest and up front and will lead the auditor’s office as such.”

Election 2012: County residents to vote on new electric provider

by Susan O’Neill
KANE COUNTY—Voters in unincorporated Kane County will vote on a referendum in March that would authorize the county to contract with an electricity provider for residents and small commercial retail customers outside municipalities in Kane County.

According to board member Drew Frasz, there is overwhelming support for the county to negotiate a better rate for electricity for current Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) customers.

“We don’t want to foist it on anyone, but we’re assuming it will pass,” Frasz.

Frasz explained that even if the referendum passes, residents and commercial businesses can opt out of the deal.

Two suppliers, Progressive and Blue Star Energy, approached the county with proposals last year. The Kane County Board initially decided to move forward with Blue Star Energy. However, BlueStar was then acquired by AEP (American Electric Power) and their proposal was subsequently retracted.

“The county has since released another request for proposals, has received five proposals, and those proposals are being reviewed,” Kane County Manager of Resource Conservation Programs Karen Kosky said.

According to Kane County documents, 29 Illinois municipalities, including Elburn and Sugar Grove, voted to adopt a municipality aggregation program during 2011. Both villages were able to negotiate a contract (exclusive of utility charges and taxes) with Direct Energy, for a savings of 23 percent below ComEd’s price.

“The larger the group, the better the discount,” Frasz said.

According to Kosky, there are two potential companies involved in an aggregate program. The first, the municipal aggregation consultant, is the firm that would administer the aggregation program in conjunction with county staff. The second, the electric supply company, would be the one to make a bid on the electricity supply.

If the referendum passes, the county will have the option to move forward to seek bids. If the bids come in higher or the same as ComEd 2012 prices, the county would not enter into a contract. If the county accepts a bid, county staff would hold two public hearings and allow residents the opportunity to opt-out of the program before switching them to the new provider.

Although a new supplier would be providing the electricity, ComEd would still transmit the electricity to county customers, and monthly bills would still originate from ComEd. In addition, customers would still call ComEd for repairs.

“The consumer should realize no difference in electricity supply except the lower rates,” Kosky said.

The electric supply company would pay the consultant. ComEd’s utility fees for transmission of the electricity and taxes would still apply.

Election 2012: MP residents learn about upcoming referendum

Voters may allow village to seek bids to lower electricity rates
by David Maas
MAPLE PARK—At a special informational presentation on Tuesday night for the residents of Maple Park, the village brought in Bill McMahon of the Progressive Energy Group, who spoke regarding the upcoming referendum for Municipal Energy Aggregation.

“Illinois has deregulated the energy markets,” McMahon said, “Because of that, competing companies can offer electric power. Municipalities can aggregate, and leverage the residents’ electrical accounts to seek bids for lower rates.”

For Maple Park residents, the first step to do this would be to pass a referendum in the Tuesday, March 20 election.

“The residents are given the chance to vote to allow municipal aggregation,” McMahon said. “19 out of 23 times, these referendums have passed.”

If the referendum is passed, and Maple Park decides to move forward with energy aggregation, Progressive Energy will take competitive bids from energy companies and broker the deal.

Currently, CommonWealth Edison (ComEd) Commercial rates are at $0.078, while municipalities that are aggregated are significantly less.

“In Elburn and Sugar Grove, the current aggregated price is $0.059, North Aurora is at $0.057,” McMahon said, “It is estimated that there could be an annual savings of $175 to $225 per household in Maple Park.”

Should the referendum pass, the way residents receive their power will change minimally.

“Residents would continue to get a bill from ComEd, because they are still legally required to deliver power,” McMahon said. “The change is they are no longer supplying it.”

Because of this, residents will still contact ComEd if there is any problem, such as an outage or a downed power line.

“Residents would have the option to remain with ComEd as their supplier,” McMahon said. “They would be contacted twice to have the ability to opt-out.”

For more information regarding municipal energy aggregation, the Illinois Municipal Aggregation of Electric has an informational website, www.electricaggregation.org.

“By voting ‘yes’ on the March 20 ballot, residents have the change to join 19 other villages in Illinois that have already reduced their ComEd bills by 15 percent,” McMahon said.

Election 2012: Voters asked to approve new tax for police pension on March 20

by Lynn Meredith
ELBURN—On the March 20 ballot, voters will be asked whether or not to authorize the village of Elburn to levy a new tax. This new line item on the tax bill will cover the ongoing expenses of the police pension fund. The village is required by state statute to establish its own retirement fund, now that the village’s population exceeds 5,000 residents. It may not change the pension fund into a 401K or other retirement plan, but must follow the laws established in Springfield.

“Once the census came in, the village is required by law—and that’s in bold print—to establish for and on behalf of the Police Department its own fund, the rules and regulations of which come from state statutes,” Village President Dave Anderson said. “There’s nothing we can do about it.”

Prior to the census results, the Police Department, along with every full-time village employee, contributed to the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF). Police officers contributed 4.5 percent of their salary, and the village kicked in 11 percent of the employee’s salary. Now that the police are required to have their own pension fund, the officers put in 9.2 percent, and the village contributes 21 percent of the officer’s salary. This constitutes an increase that will be ongoing annually. The village is asking the voters to fund it with a new line item. Trustee Jeff Walter said that technically it is not a new tax.

“People should understand that this is not a new tax, only a replacement for the current levy for retirement that is already on the tax bill. The current levy is for IMRF and not downstate, so we have to ask again. If you look at a tax bill for any Elburn resident, you will see a line item for Elburn Village Pension. My understanding is that we can’t use that levy money now that we are in the downstate plan since the levy is for IMRF,” Walter said.

If approved, the line item will be on the tax bill every year for the established amount and will increase 3 percent or the cost of living—whichever is least—in the following years.

If not approved, the village says it will be looking where it can make further cuts.

“When I was elected three years ago, the economy had turned, and the board was faced with difficult cost-cutting decisions. At that time we cut positions, shut down a department and froze wages. Every year since, we have made hard decisions about cutting costs to balance an ever-decreasing income stream. Everything is on the table that can be on the table, and there are no sacred cows. Every line item faces a potential budget cut,” Walter said.

The cuts would come from the general operating fund. The board maintains its position to keep a balanced budget and not create a deficit.

“We are not like the federal government or the state government who feel it’s OK to operate with a budget deficit. The village must present and live within a balanced budget every year, just like you and I do,” Walter said. “There is no magic savings account we can go to for a bail out. Every line item in the budget that is not protected by a contract is subject to a cut.”

The village is limited by contract as to the cuts in the Police Department that they are allowed to make, so cuts will have to come from elsewhere.

“We will again, as we have in the past, consider reducing positions in the Administrative and Public Works departments, training expenses, office supply expenses, vehicle expenses-although we have not purchased or leased a new vehicle since I have been on the board-public service line items like street repair, snow plowing and public land maintenance and mowing. To say that service to the public will be reduced in some fashion is a fair statement,” Walter said. “It will be painful to the board as we make hard decisions and cuts. It will be painful to the staff as they have to absorb whatever cuts are made. Most importantly, it will be painful to the residents as they see services reduced across the village.”

The referendum question
Shall the Village of Elburn, Kane County, Illinois, be authorized to levy a new tax for police pension purposes and have an additional tax based on 0.09533% of the equalized assessed value of the taxable property therein extended for such purposes?
1) The approximate amount of taxes extendable at the most recently extended limiting rate is $659,933.87, and the approximate amount of taxes extendable if the proposition is approved is $822,698.87.
2) For the 2012 levy year the approximate amount of the additional tax extendable against property containing a single family residence and having a fair market value at the time of the referendum of $100,000 is estimated to be $31.78.

Final day for voter registration is Feb. 21

KANE COUNTY—Kane County Clerk John A. Cunningham is reminding Kane County residents that Tuesday, Feb. 21, is the last day to register to vote for the March 20 general primary.

The County Clerk’s office is open for registration, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Most libraries, municipal and township offices in Kane County will accept registrations until Feb. 21.

“Grace period” registration is an extension of the period of time for a voter to register, or to update their registration information. Once registered, the voter may cast a ballot during the grace period at the Kane County Clerk’s Office only, from Wednesday, Feb. 22, to Tuesday, March 13. Two forms of current identification are required.

Registration will resume on Thursday, March 22.

The Kane County Clerk’s Voter Registration Office is located in Building B at the Kane County Government Center, 719 S. Batavia Ave. (Route 31) in Geneva. To register, a person must be a United States citizen, 18 years old on or before the date of the election, a resident of the precinct for 30 days prior to the election, and provide two forms of identification—one of which shows their current name and address.

Kane County residents may check their registration online by going to www.kanecountyelections.com, clicking the “Are you registered?” tab and following the directions on the page.

For additional information, call the Voter Registration Office at (630) 232-5990.