Daily Herald: Candidate Profile

The Daily Herald published Ashley's candidate profile. See the full article here.

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Questions & Answers
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 DuPage County Board to bring accountability, transparency, and a new generation of leadership to our local government. Having grown up in DuPage County, I know there are fantastic opportunities in this county, but that opportunities in education, employment, and fairness only prosper if we protect them.

Transparency in board practices and decision making and access to local elected officials are two areas lacking in the current board leadership. Meetings are held during the work day, when many District 1 residents cannot attend and make their voices heard. Decisions about spending taxpayer funds are made with little public oversight. I will fight for easily accessible publication of recordings of committee meetings and I will communicate with residents of District 1 to solicit their advice and explain why I vote.

What is your stance on county board members' pay? Too high, too low, just right? Would you propose any changes?
I think board member pay is high, especially when you compare it to the county median income for annual wages ($50K-$80K). I will not support any increases to board member pay.

I will support changes to the health care benefits provided to board members. Board members should not be able to use county-paid health care benefits for themselves and their families as a way to avoid paying for these costs out of their wages from outside work or worse, from their privately owned businesses. Health care benefits should only be provided if there is demonstrated hardship and those requests should be approved by a panel of non-partisan officials within the county. Extra compensation paid to board members if they choose not to use the county's health care should also be eliminated.

I do think that paid political positions are important to increase the quality of candidates, allowing for residents who are not independently wealthy to serve their communities while still supporting their families. However, these wages must be reasonable.

With DuPage County's budget being squeezed by the state funding reductions, what initiatives would you support to increase revenue and/or save money?
Oversight of and renegotiation of expensive contracts and increased transparency is necessary to reduce costs and save our county money. The Republican-controlled county board has backed itself into a corner by ignoring the consequences of the State's budget crisis, which reduced funding to DuPage County, and will lead to a county budget deficit in the near future. Coupled with the new federal tax bill which limits State and Local Tax (SALT) deductions, increases in taxation at the local level could have a very negative impact on District 1 families and individuals. This delayed action and recklessness by the board must be addressed.


The DuPage County Election Commission should be made part of the county clerk's office. This consolidation has long been advocated for by DuPage County Democrats as a clear example of cost savings potential for many years.

The county board also spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on lobbyists sent to Springfield, however, these lobbyists are duplicate positions and a waste of taxpayer dollars. Other county boards throughout Illinois either spend far less for fewer lobbyists or do not use them to lobby for the board exclusively. These significant costs savings would be a great first step.

What are your thoughts about the county's Accountability, Consolidation and Transparency Initiative? What role should DuPage play in efforts to streamline and consolidate local government?
I support the concept of the Accountability, Consolidation, and Transparency (ACT) Initiative, however, since this initiative began in 2011, not nearly enough action has taken place by the County Board. With the budget constraints imposed by Springfield, this delay in action demonstrates why the board needs new voices elected.

The county's projected savings of $121 million are important and needed but the results in the last few years have not met those projections. The accountability and transparency parts of this initiative are essential to making sure that consolidated units are actually saving money (this has not been the case in all examples) and that consolidation does not decrease services for residents in Illinois.

What initiatives, if any, do you have in mind for your specific county board district?
Residents of District 1 have discussed a need for better services for renters. Among these needs are better access to recycling. Increasing options for recycling services through District 1, including composting options help create healthy communities. The county board can be a centralized source of information about recycling services offered by the towns within the county.

Residents of District 1 also have concerns about flight path noise from O'Hare airport. Representation from local city and town governments from DuPage has been inadequate. The board members representing District 1 must make sure their constituents concerns are heard

I will make sure residents know how they can communicate their concerns to O'Hare flight path decision makers and ensure that health and quality of life concerns are adequately addressed.

What other issues, if any, are important to you as a candidate for this office?
Issues such as protecting the right to vote, services for young families and aging populations, and economic opportunity can and must be fought for by the county board. DuPage County is the second largest county in the state and can be an example of brave and innovative leadership in both our state and our country if we elect officials to be accountable and engaged with their residents.

 

Addressing the TCJA and SALT Deductions at the County Board Level

During last week's meet and greet coffees, a voter asked me "what does the county board do, anyway?" This was a great opportunity to share about the work that the board does do, while pointing out the areas I felt could be improved. Most importantly, it was an opportunity to discuss the advocacy the DuPage County Board should take up, and could, with more Democratic leadership.

Earlier this week, Member Liz Chaplin, the DuPage County Board's only Democrat, asked residents at the York Township Democratic Organization's monthly meeting to let her know of any issues we wished to be included in the Board's federal agenda. Please see my letter to Member Chaplin below:

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Dear Member Chaplin,

Thank you for speaking at the York Township Democratic Organization’s meeting last week. During your comments, you encouraged York Township residents to send along concerns we wish to be advocated for by the DuPage County Board at the federal level this year.

I feel that one of the most pressing issues facing DuPage County in the coming year is the burden placed on DuPage residents as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). During the December holiday season, we saw residents who own property rushing to pay their property taxes early. Many of these residents found later that these pre-payment may not help them avoid the penalties imposed by the TCJA towards their state and local tax (SALT) deductions if their assessment was not current for the 2018 tax year. While some DuPage families may see short-term benefits of the TCJA, the long term effects will have negative impacts on our community.

Homeownership is an essential building block to a middle class future. For many families, your home is your largest and most prized asset. The limiting of SALT deductions could make homes in DuPage county too expensive for the average family, reducing the incentive to buy a home or reducing the amount of older homeowners who can remain in their homes following retirement. An increase in property taxes also affects renters, who may see larger rent increases.

Furthermore, property taxes help provide the services which make DuPage County so desirable. From our fantastic public schools to our safe communities, DuPage residents will see a reduction in these essential services if the negative aspects of the TCJA are not addressed.

I wish the DuPage County Board to take two actions in response to the TCJA.

First, the Board should condemn this misguided and short-sighted federal bill which will increase the tax burden for many families while favoring the richest among us.

Second, the Board must take up budgetary concerns at the county level to reduce unnecessary and excessive expenditures. Without these actions, the Board could see a revenue shortfall in the coming fiscal years which could require a tax increase on DuPage residents. With the TCJA at the federal level, any increase in taxes by the Board on DuPage residents could be a significant burden for DuPage families.

Thank you for your consideration and your leadership representing DuPage County residents,

Ashley J. Selmon

Meet and Greet Events in Elmhurst

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Saturday I had the opportunity to attend two meet-and-greets with District 1 voters. Both groups were engaged and excited to learn more about my campaign and my vision for the future of DuPage County.

I discussed our county's impending budget troubles, the decisions made by the current board which have created these issues, and the solutions to avoid undue taxation on DuPage residents. I also discussed the need for real transparency, and how to improve those efforts with newly elected leadership. The attendees asked great questions and were excited to tell their fellow District 1 residents that they have great Democratic choices in the March 20 primary.

I want to thank all of those who attended these meet-and-greets as well as our generous hosts, Anne Mathias and Kirsten Powers.

Endorsed by Run for Something!

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January has been an exciting month. On January 19, Run for Something endorsed our campaign! You can see the endorsement announcement here.

Run for Something is a national organization which works to recruit, support, and encourage a new generation of progressive leadership in the United States, especially at the local level. I am honored to be endorsed by this amazing organization.

With just 8 days until early voting starts, I am fired up and ready to work hard to earn the votes of District 1 residents. This month will be filled with meeting residents to discuss my vision for DuPage County's future, meeting with local activists and volunteers who are spending their free time working to improve DuPage County, and most importantly, knocking on lots of doors!

Ready to join our campaign? Learn more here.

How does a local candidate spend a winter Saturday?

You may be wondering: how does a local, grassroots-driven, candidate spend a cold winter Saturday in January? By getting ready to canvas and campaign for the March primary of course!

Today I wrote some language to share the news about my campaign with residents throughout District 1, designed some attention-grabbing door hangers, and ordered them. I am only able to do this because of your generous support and donations. Thank you!

Want to help get these door hangers on the doors of voters? Visit our volunteer page and let me know you're ready to help Turn DuPage Blue!

Welcome 2018: A Year of Action

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New Year's Eve is always a time to reflect on the year that is leaving and think about your hopes and goals for the incoming year.

It's easy to look at 2017 and focus only on the bad. Whether it's headlines at the national level that are startling and discouraging or just the sense of conflict, discord, and uncertainty this year brought, it's been a long and trying year in many respects. But in many, perhaps more important ways, there are many reasons to reflect on some good from 2017 and look forward with cheer and motivation to 2018.

I was unable to attend the Women's March in January, but when I reflect on the global response that day brought, I am still deeply moved. What came after is even more amazing.

2017 to me marks a reawakening in many communities of the responsibility that comes with our democracy. Government does just function because of inertia and leaders do not always look out for what is best of us simply because they should. We the people must demand it. 

This demand, that our leaders are available to us, listen to our voices, and act knowing that we are paying close attention marks much of 2017 to me. We did not always win but outspoken citizens had some amazing victories to protect our health care, stop bad policies, and demand better governance.

For 2018, that voice will only grow louder. In 2018, I look forward to being this voice in DuPage County. The size and strength of DuPage County means we have a loud voice on the local, state, and national level, if we elect representatives who are brave enough to take a stand for our communities. With your help, we can elect a wave of officials in November who exemplify that leadership.

Actions for 2018

The most important thing you can do to kick off the new year is to check that you are registered to vote, or to register if you are not. You can do that at the Illinois State Board of Elections.

Want to make sure you don't forget to vote? In DuPage County, any voter can request a ballot to vote by mail. Learn about this easy process here.

Lastly, get involved with either my campaign or the campaign of another county-level candidate. Grassroots efforts like knocking on doors, handing out literature at train stations, making phone calls, or donating your talents or funds is essential work to strengthen our democracy.

Happy New Year!

Chicago Tribune: Candidates file for Doings-area legislative, county seats

Below is an excerpt from a Chicago Tribune article about local races, including in DuPage county:

 

"...DuPage County Board

District 1

In the Republican primary, incumbents Sam Tornatore of Roselle and Paul Fichtner of Elmhurst are seeking re-election to four-year terms and are being challenged by Paul A. DeMichele of Bensenville and Dino Gavanes of Itasca.

DeMichele is a director of the Bensenville Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Illinois Toll Way Local Area Committee for the Elgin O'Hare Western Access Road.

Gavanes works an insurance agent and is on the board of directors of the Itasca Chamber of Commerce.

On the Democratic side, Ashley J. Selmon and Zahra Suratwala, both of Elmhurst, are unchallenged in the primary."

You can read the full article here.

Daily Herald: Republicans, Democrats both face primaries for DuPage County Board

Below is an excerpt from the Daily Herald's article about the DuPage County Board candidates:

"Democrats are preparing to challenge Republicans next fall for control of the DuPage County Board.

Twelve of the 18 county board seats will be up for election in November and Democrats will field candidates for all those 4-year seats in the traditional GOP stronghold.

But before the two sides square off, voters in March must choose their party's nominees. Contested Republican primary races are expected in four of the six county board districts and four of the districts will have Democratic primaries.

The filing period for the March 20 primary ended Monday.

Here's a look at where county board primary races are taking shape:

District 1

Bensenville resident Paul DeMichele and Dino Gavanes of Itasca are seeking the GOP nomination along with two incumbents -- Sam Tornatore of Roselle and Paul Fichtner of Elmhurst.

The two primary winners will face Elmhurst Democrats Ashley J. Selmon and Zahra Suratwala next November.

District 1 includes all or portions of Addison, Bensenville, Bloomingdale, Elmhurst, Glendale Heights, Itasca, Lombard, Roselle, Villa Park and Wood Dale."

 

You can read the entire article here.

Petition Turn In!

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Bright and early (or not so bright out as it turns out), I went to the DuPage County administrative building to turn in your petition signatures.

I say "your" because I could not have done it without all of you.

Whether you were kind enough to answer a knock at the door from me or a volunteer, greet a "hello" outside of a shopping center, sign your name, or take a card with more information,  you helped democracy flourish in DuPage County. Thank you!

Now the fun starts. Between now and the primary on March 20, I will continue knocking on doors, making sure voters in District 1 know they have new, Democratic options for their county board and listening to which issues are most important to making their lives in DuPage County a little easier. You can make sure you are registered to vote here.

If you are interested in volunteering or hosting a meet-and-greet with your neighbors, click here to Get Involved.

Our grassroots campaign will require your support as well. If you can, give $20.18 to propel our campaign into 2018.

 

Thank you Progressives for Change!

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Tonight I had the opportunity to speak at the Progressives for Change event in Elmhurst (formally Action for a Better Tomorrow Elmhurst).

It was a great opportunity to hear from other county wide candidates, share my background and why I'm running for office, and see my neighbors who are excited to help improve DuPage County.

Thank you for your warm welcome, enthusiastic support for local Democrats, and petition signatures!