Happy New Year! The two weeks since we have been back from the holidays have been busy!
I began Tuesday morning, January 8, meeting with county staff to prepare for my chair position on the Public Transit committee. Public transportation is a challenge in DuPage County, however, it's not a unique one. Many of our fellow communities have similar challenges: funding challenges, raising customer costs, growing demand for car-less travel options. I look forward to learning what has brought success to other communities and exploring how to bring those solutions to DuPage County. If you have questions, suggestions, or neat ideas about public transit in DuPage County, please send them to email@example.com.
Next was the environmental committee. We received updates on some of the county's most successful recycling programs, including paper shredding partnerships. DuPage County partners with local cities and villages to provide in-town recycling events. These partnerships have increased the amount of materials saved from landfills and allow municipalities to offer these events at a reduced cost. We also received an updated to the Sterogenics situation in the southern part of the County. I admire Member Chaplin's leadership on this issue and look forward to the County's continued advocacy for its residents. I also look forward to continued updates from the Illinois EPA and further testing results from the US EPA (note: results from the US EPA are delayed due to the Federal government shutdown.) I then attended the executive committee for the Community Development Committee. This committee demonstrated the rigor and dedication County staff provide to the community grants process.
Saturday (1/12) I attended a discussion of the impact of the Federal government shutdown, hosted by Congressman Sean Casten (D, IL-06) at the DuPage Health Department in Wheaton. You can read the Congressman's summary of the impacts felt in DuPage County and resources available here. What struck me most is how the most vulnerable in our communities are already being impacted by this reckless and unnecessary shutdown as well as how the impact can be felt by otherwise financially comfortable families as well. Potential delays in the processing of Federal tax refunds will compound this issue and our community partner's capacity to assist will be stretched to their limits. It also appears to me that there will be a significant increase in the impacts of this shutdown as we near the end of January (if, of course, our leaders in Washington have not reopened our government by then). I personally asked Congressman Casten to keep the hardships experienced by federal contract workers in the discussion of legislation to re-open our government. I, and my fellow board members, am very grateful to Congressman Casten on keeping us all informed.
Tuesday January 15, I attended the finance committee, my first meeting as a member of the technology committee, and the County Board meeting. There were two troubling votes during the County Board meeting that I want to explain. The first was the vote to consolidate the Election Commission into the Clerk's office. What the board members disagreed on was the timing -- every member wanted to consolidate the election commission, which as been plagued with significant issues. What the Clerk herself, County staff, and the public told us -- clearly and with evidence -- was that consolidating in January was not a wise choice. The reasons for this could not be clearer. There was no plan developed by the previous Clerk between March 20 (the day DuPage County residents voiced their clear support for this consolidation) and the end of his term. Clerk Kaczmarek was sworn in in December 2018. No one having an honest conversation about the logistics of this change would tell you that a brand new executive should lead a massive consolidation effort after 6 weeks on the job -- let alone when that body is in the middle of operating an election. Let alone when there is no plan, significant (20%) staffing issues in the affected offices, and no budget allocated to make this change. I was proud to vote against this political decision and to stand and speak for logic and good governance. I believe Clerk Kaczmarek will execute this election to the best of her abilities, I simply wish the County Board had made an honest effort to set her -- and thus all residents of DuPage County -- up for success.
The second vote that is concerning was the vote we took to appoint various residents to boards. Far too many of these candidates, again, are political donors to sitting board members. The most egregious example of this was one appointee who gave a member of the DuPage County Board $5K on December 11, 2018 -- after the election. As I stated during the meeting, I do not know how our residents can look at that vote and think anything other than the seat was bought. I firmly believe DuPage County is full of highly skilled and highly educated professionals and volunteers who would cherish the opportunity to serve their county. They should not have to donate to an elected official to serve their county. I reminded the Chairman and Vice Chairman that they’d promised to look into expanding the ethics portion of the application process. I will continue reminding them until they take this necessary action.
Lastly, tonight I attended a presentation for county and municipal leaders by Metra in Glen Ellyn. As the new chair of the Public Transit committee, I'm very grateful for the opportunity to attend this event and to hear from Metra leadership about their accomplishments and significant challenges. Metra's success and safety is essential to the livability and economic development of District 1 and all of DuPage County; I look forward to working with them and commuters.
I will not be able to attend committee meetings next week, unfortunately. I will be out of town on a trip that was planned before election day. I will read the materials provided as to not miss the content.