Candidates talk about their priorities
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
In the Nov. 6 election, Democrat Tara Jacobsen, a Dundee Township resident, and Republican Clifford Surges, a former Gilberts village trustee, are vying for the Kane County Board District 23 seat. Here are some of their responses to questions posed by the Daily Herald. For complete election coverage, visit www.dailyherald.com.
Q. If you are an incumbent, describe your main contributions. Tell us of any important initiatives you’ve led. If you are a challenger, what would you bring to the board and what would your priority be?
Tara Jacobsen.I would be the voice who would represent the people of Northern Kane County. My clinical experience is that of a professional problem solver working with a myriad of situations and with a diverse population. I was a steward for the taxpayers of Cook County in my role as system manager I made sure services weren’t under or over utilized. I managed a staff of 20-plus professional and ancillary staff.
Clifford Surges. I bring 25 years of small business ownership representing a Fortune 300 company, experience in serving as a past public official, and working on volunteer boards within our community. I have learned over the years that listening is typically the key to understanding the true challenges. Having the ability to collaborate with others or facilitate through obstacles has taken a lifetime to learn. I also believe that to be successful, you must stay informed and do your research. The county is complex and having an understanding of its budget, the budgeting process and board dynamics is important. I feel I have that unique skill set.
Q. What is the single-biggest need in your district?
Jacobsen. I know from going door to door that people don’t want their taxes raised. And people would like greater access to public transportation. With the Pace bus services available at Randall Road and Route 25, it opens up opportunities for people to travel to and from the city at a nominal cost.
Surges. We are doing a solid job in our district with law enforcement, safety and transportation, but being actively involved with organizations such as Destination Dundee, I see the ongoing struggle of our businesses and have become concerned with the vacancy rate of our store fronts, restaurants and Spring Hill Mall. The implications cast a wide net as the county and local revenue base in our area seeds first from property taxes and second from other taxes such as sales tax.
Q. Is the county doing enough to control expenses? What additional, specific steps do you recommend?
Jacobsen. The county has a certain amount of budgetary control when it comes to employee benefits and pay but when they have unforeseen expenses such as lawsuits, etc. that can really rock the budget. Consolidating services when it’s feasible.
Surges. I believe the county is working diligently to control expenses as seen in the county tax freeze and outlined in the mandate study. We cannot spend beyond our means. While this is easy to say and statistics indicate the county is doing a great job at this, it will only continue to be a bigger challenge.
Q. The county commissioned a study to determine which services are mandated and which are not in preparation for a deeper budget cut. Do you believe the county must continue to reduce costs? If so, which non-mandated services would you cut or reduce? Under what circumstances would you support a tax increase?
Jacobsen. I’m not in favor of increasing taxes. As it is now, you can be lucky enough to pay off your house but have an additional burden of a huge tax bill that mimics a mortgage payment. It’s tough on our seniors who are on fixed incomes. It’s important that we stay within our given budgets and don’t overspend. With advancements in technology opportunities for streamlining and efficiencies present themselves every year.
Surges. The 74-page study was interesting to read and helped define certain areas of confusion for me.
Most business owners understand the responsibility of constantly evaluating spending and alternatives. Managing waste, eliminating redundancies, prioritizing limited budgets, getting more with less; this cycle is never ending. Add some time tested methods that are now being challenged with improved technologies and the vigilance is more important than ever.
However as a county official, it is more than a responsibility to be a good steward of our tax money; it is an obligation. All line items should be reviewed for efficiencies annually, mandated or not.
The property tax freeze in Kane County has been successful along with healthy reserves, diminishing bond debt and proper pension funding. Therefore, I do not support a property tax increase.
Q. What other issues, if any, are important to you as a candidate for this office?
Jacobsen. Being a nurse for over 30 years, I’ve learned it’s important to listen to people and be responsive to their needs.
Surges. It is important that we all mature to a degree that allows us to work as a collaborative that stretches past politics and focuses on the true work at hand. The county is multifaceted with many challenges and diverse personalities. We need to set aside differences while we look at what is best for our community and the right thing to do for generations to come.
Q. Do you support the Longmeadow Parkway project and, if not, what can be done at this point to stop construction and/or mitigate its impact?
Jacobsen. Unfortunately the lawsuit has been dismissed in court. This was a loud wake-up call in how the whole democratic process LMP has been circumvented. Even though 70 percent of the voters stated in a non-binding referendum they did not want the LMP bridge it was ignored. Given that the two other bridges in Kane County are free to cross its troubling that northern Kane County is being charged tolls.
Surges. I am not sure I would have voted for the Longmeadow Parkway project at the time it was brought before the board, but I will work hard to ensure that every promise that was made and condition placed will be followed through to their entirety.
Q. Do you support a sunset provision for charging tolls on Longmeadow Parkway after it’s built?
Surges. Whether supported or not, my understanding is that it is a 30-year agreement that is legislated at the state level. However, I would expect that the assumptions being used to be updated once traffic patterns change and the stretch reaches a normal capacity.