Yesterday’s Daily Herald featured some familiar faces- me and Zahra Suratwala!
See my questionnaire answers below:
Q. Why are you running for county board?
A. 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.
The DuPage County budget is the central issue to this campaign. DuPage County receives less than 31 cents for every $1 we send to Springfield, despite spending $260,000 annually for lobbying in Springfield. The chairman contends that lobbyists have secured financial benefits for our county, but the data simply does not support that conclusion.
Instead, I would not spend nearly as much on lobbying expenditures — many of our neighboring counties spend no money on lobbying because their elected officials do the lobbying.
I would serve District 1 residents by amplifying their voice in Springfield and Washington.
The irresponsible lobbying spending, combined with excessive board member pay and public official benefits, no-bid contracts, and misapplications of funds, such as the RTA tax and coroner fee fund to fill gaps in the general fund, have led to a budget nearing a deficit.
We do not need to spend more or less to build a better DuPage County — we need ethical and responsible public servants who will ensure that taxpayer dollars are collected and spent responsibly.
Q. Describe two ways you would contribute to the board.
A. The need to consolidate duplicative units of government and streamline services will save the county and taxpayers money and provide better service. Consolidation efforts led by the DuPage County Board have publicized projected savings of $100 million but evidence of these savings has not been publicized nor is it reflected in near-term budgetary projections.
I would work to expedite this work and increase transparency so we can better understand what savings have thus far been realized and ensure we are efficient in the future.
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.
Q. Is there a specific service or amenity that is lacking in the county? If so, how do you propose to provide and fund it?
A. DuPage County is not dedicating enough resources to the opioid epidemic, flood alleviation, and O’Hare noise complaints. Funding for these important issues could be secured through expediting the consolidation efforts, increasing transparency and scrutiny of contracts, and reducing excessive benefits for elected officials.
Q. With DuPage County’s budget being squeezed by state funding cuts and other factors, what initiatives would you support to increase revenue and/or save money?
A. As discussed in other answers, there are various areas of “low-hanging fruit” that can save taxpayers money. This includes: a pay freeze for DuPage County Board members lasting 10 years. Public servants should be compensated, but our excessive pay must be frozen.
We can further cut unnecessary health benefits for part-time board members, most of whom use taxpayer-funded benefits rather than the benefits offered by their full-time employers. Reduced lobbying costs and further consolidation efforts are also areas for savings.
Looking into the future, we must look for new revenue that is not reliant on sales taxes to balance our revenue streams. Working with towns within DuPage County and in the collar counties to draw green jobs and tech-friendly industries such as data storage facilities will grow our tax base while also expanding job opportunities to DuPage County residents.
Q. The county has been focused on consolidation of services and government agencies. How effective has that effort been and how could it be improved?
A. While the county must continue and accelerate its efforts throughout the county, we must do more to reduce spending. The efficient consolidation of the election commission into the clerk’s office must continue and be a transparent process.
Another area of consolidation that should be explored is abolishing the recorder’s office. As a county, we should examine why we have an office that is not required by the Illinois Constitution and that our fellow collar counties have eliminated without reductions in services.
To improve these two specific cases, transparency around planning and cost savings must be increased to county residents. The $100 million figure discussed by the county is a projection; the data supporting that conclusion is not publicly available. These issues, and any others, must also be considered with urgency, not simply reviewed during election years with action delayed until it is politically helpful for the ruling party.
Q. What is the single most important issue facing your district and how should the county address it?
A. Fixing the county’s current budgetary problems and planning more strategically for our financial future would allow us to build a better DuPage. Less budgetary constraints would allow the DuPage County Board to encourage economic development in DuPage County, increase tax revenues that do not fall on the backs of residents, fund innovative solutions to the opioid crisis, address flooding concerns and O’Hare noise, and many other concerns.