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Dream Big Champaign County

At a series of 12 town hall meetings held across Champaign County in February and March of 2018 to discuss the position of County Executive for Champaign County with local voters, constituents were asked to "Dream Big!" and share what Champaign County needed in the coming years. Included here is a listing of responses, organized by categories. I plan to use this citizen input as a starting point for developing a 6-year strategic plan with the Board after I am elected.

Vision for the Office of Champaign County Executive

In 2016, Champaign County voters passed a referendum to change the form of county government to that of a County Executive who will be elected on November 6, 2018. In each area of responsibility given to the County Executive by the Illinois Counties Code, I demonstrate a level of experience and innovation important to the future economic growth of Champaign County while at the same time working to build a vision for the well-being of its citizens.

2018 County Budget

The Champaign County Board conducts legislative budget hearings for the annual County budget in September. These sessions, during which each department’s proposed budget is presented, outline any potential changes to cost savings or additional expenses. The County Administrator (in the future, this responsibility will pass over to the County Executive) keeps the total budget within the anticipated County revenues, as the law requires the County budget to remain balanced. My experience in creating and managing $11.5 million budget consisting of 35 grants/contracts with up to 11 fiscal years for Champaign County Regional Planning Commission services as well as value-engineering project budgets for multi-million-dollar public construction projects have prepared me to tackle the complex budgetary needs of Champaign County. As County Executive, I would reccomend innovative solutions to our County's fiscal needs such as allocating a portion of the sales tax revenue to pilot programs to reduce jail time and court costs and to build community partnerships. 

Regional Economic Development

Champaign County, situated in East Central Illinois, is home to over 200,000 residents and is one of the few counties in the state with a growing population. Residents deserve a County Executive committed to actively seeking and promoting initiatives that make Champaign County a prosperous place where its residents can thrive.

Champaign County Jail

The Champaign County Sheriff’s Office operates two adult jail facilities. The downtown facility will need significant renovation for Americans with Disabilities Act compliance (per notice from the Department of Justice), along with remediation of several health and safety concerns for continued occupancy. Because some County bonds used to build the jail will be paid off in January 2018, over $1 million will be freed up for other County uses. The 2018 County budget discussion has become heated about whether to use these funds to expand the satellite jail, to increase pre-trial and mental health services for those arrested (thus potentially eliminating the need for any jail expansion), or simply to discontinue the levy. Not only have I consulted nationally for construction, renovation, or repurposing of incarceration facilities, I also served as spokesperson for the 2013 Champaign County Community Justice Task Force and oversaw the start-up of the Youth Assessment Center for juvenile diversion services in Champaign County. One of my first recommendations as County Executive would be to vacate the Sheriff’s Office and downtown jail site due to its poor condition and sell the property to obtain funds for renovations to the satellite jail site that will accommodate Sheriff’s offices along with a more useful and safer layout of cells and meeting spaces.

The Office of County Executive

Champaign County voters decided to change the structure of the County government in 2016 by passing a referendum that calls for a County Executive form of government without home rule. The County Executive will oversee the administration of the County’s business, similar to the President at the Federal level or the Governor at the State level. The Champaign County Board has indicated its continuing support for the current professional County Administrator role, however some questions remain about whether adding the Executive will increase costs of County administration or whether savings can be found within administration or other departments to offset this cost. During my 15 year tenure as the Regional Planning Commission's Community Services Director, I constantly worked with complex budgets to develop innovative solutions to the Commission's needs while at the same time developing mutually beneficial working relationships with other governmental units, the public, and private businesses in the region. To begin to address Champaign County's budgetary concerns, as County Executive I would recommend starting the County Executive salary lower than the $117,000 currently being proposed, combining the County Recorder’s functions with the County Clerk’s office, and eliminating the Office of the Recorder at the next election.

County Executive Salary

Yesterday the The News-Gazette announced the first Republican County Executive candidate, who says he supports the highest salary discussed by the County Board for the office. I have no quarrel with the importance of the job, but I am wondering about something. If he agrees with me about keeping the county administrator position, whose job would he cut to get this high salary since the county budget must balance? Needless to say, I am looking forward to the race!

Model for Nursing Home Decision Making

I recently emailed several members of the Champaign County Board a decision tree (click here to view) that I developed in considering the best solution for the Champaign County Nursing home. Models such as this one help bring clarity to complex issues and are examples of methodologies I will employ as County Executive.

Champaign County Nursing Home

Whether the County should continue to own the Champaign County Nursing Home is a difficult and complex issue that recently reached a crisis point with facets consisting of political, financial, operational, and emotional concerns. Starting with the question of why county voters would be motivated to pay for an optional service, my research over the past 6 months resulted in the following conclusions regarding some basic questions.

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