1.) What is the importance of the Champaign County Board to residents in my district? *
As a Democrat I am voted into office by my party who lives in District 8. I represent their interests and take those concerns to the County Board. Voting on issues, regardless of political party affiliation, is made through my Democratic lens.
The County Board's 22 members collectively allocate funding for services mandated by State Statute under Dillon's Rule, and keep the budget balanced while doing so. Under (55 ILCS 5/6-1001) the County Board has the authority, and ultimate responsibility, for monies appropriated for each elected official which funds their office’s operations, ensuring they can carry out the services they are designated to provide for the citizens of our community.
Pursuant to (55 ILCS 5/4-2003 and 55 ILCS 5/3-6008), the County Board determines the number of assistant state’s attorneys, the number of sheriff deputies, and court security officers. This ensures citizens of our county are safe and have the ability to be represented fairly in the court of law, regardless of income.
In that regard, (55 ILCS 5/5-1006 and 5-1007) the County Board also has the mandatory duty to maintain and provide the finances for a suitable courthouse, jail and other necessary county buildings—including appropriate offices and furnishings: Collectively the County Board must address any and all issues affecting those facilities to ensure the safety and well being of the citizens of our County, and those who staff them.
2.) Why am I qualified to be on the Champaign County Board? *
Proven experience, including serving on the County Board for 11 years—2 years as Vice-Chair and the last 2 years as Chair. But qualifications cannot be determined by mandated duties and responsibilities of an elected official alone. It is understanding the community you represent. I attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign during a controversial time, still reeling from Project 500—a poorly planned recruitment of 500 inner city students who were subjected to a lingering Jim Crow atmosphere in this County I addition, students of color were at odds with the Black community. We coined it, “Town and Gown”. Community members north of University felt the Black Students from Chicago, looked down on them. The banality of normalcy within tases conflicts—included the murder of our star football player on homecoming weekend. When I returned to Champaign County, as a UIUC administrator 30 years ago, I found little had changed, so I immersed myself into social justice groups, working to right the wrongs. Soon it became clear, the only sustainable change came from holding an elected office. It was after my first 4 years as a Champaign City Council member at-large that I realized creating uniform change that impacted the entire county and its citizens—would come from the Champaign County Board. And though government bureaucracy is inherently slow— as an immigrant, my family was forced to rebuild a life from the crumbs we brought from Cuba—that taught me patience, integrity, and to stand up for truth--even in the ugly face of adversity.
3.) Issues I want to accomplish on the County Board, and how long it will take? *
During the next 5 years my primary interest is to ensure our County's goals and mission for inclusivity and diversity on our Board reflects the citizens within our County. That our Board members welcome collaborative independent views and find ways to integrate those ideas into the conversation. To think outside of the box. To revisit all of the Board and County’s policies to determine what needs to be revised and updated in an effort to move forward with the times. The jail issue needs to have deadlines to motivate Board members assigned to develop a workable draft to complete and submit to the entire Board for review. I recently filled a vacated Board seat with a person who has the experience and knowledge to assist in this crucial effort.
Champaign County has a recent proposal to build a 150-megawatt solar farm on 1,609 acres of land. Such larger-scale solar investments could potentially yield a significant financial boost in property tax revenue over the years
Wind Farm' Taxes from the six-year-old Invenergy-operated California Ridge Wind Farm alone have meant $4.6 million for the coffers in Champaign and Vermilion counties
Cannabis Growers, though untested, appears to have the ability to generate millions in sales tax for our County
Currently, after the County’s mandated expenditures, about $135,000 is left in our reserve. As a Board, we must generate new pathways to encourage growth for Solar, Wind and Cannabis—their success today is our County’s growth and sustainable revenue for the future.