Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Missing from DuPage County's State Legislative Agenda is a Call for a Budget from Springfield

The mission of  DuPage County is to assure that DuPage County's communities will always be desirable places to live, work and raise families by providing innovative, costs-effective services, promoting a high quality of life for all residents and acting as a leader with its local and regional partners in anticipating issues and developing solutions.

Every year DuPage County Adopts a State Legislative Agenda. The State Legislative Agenda sets DuPage County's priorities.  This  year's State Legislative Agenda priorities are listed below:

Reduce the Size, Scope and Costs of Local Government

Preserve Local Government Distributive Fund (LGDF)

Support Non-Profit Community:  That provides a safety net for county residents through the delivery of critical services to those residents in need of our assistance.

Maintain DuPage Convalescent Center Enhanced Medicaid Rate

Ensure Safe Housing for our Communities

Protect the Public Health of County Residents

Provide Noise Relief for Communities Surrounding O'Hare

Expand Opportunities for Electronic Recycling

Equal Share of State Tourism Grants

Address the Rising Costs of Court Operations

Support Adequate Reimbursement of probation Costs

Capital Funding

That's a hefty agenda. Without a State Budget it will be hard to satisfy many of the priorities.

Today, at the Legislative Committee Meeting I asked that we include in the document Passage of a Budget by the General Assembly and the governor.  The committee failed to act on my request. The response I received was  ''we don't tell our legislators how to do their job."  But in essence, that is exactly what our Legislative Agenda does.

So many in our community are hurting due to the financial crisis in Springfield.  This is why I feel it is so important for DuPage County take a stand on behalf of our citizens and call for the governor and the General Assembly to work together and end the budget impasse.  

You can find the complete State Legislative Agenda here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

"No" Vote on the 2016 DuPage County Budget

Today I voted "No" on the 2016 DuPage County Budget.

I voted "No" because the taxpayers are paying $5800 a year for car stipends for the DuPage County Chairman, Clerk, The Circuit Clerk, Treasurer, Recorder of Deeds, Auditor, Coroner and the Regional Superintendent of Schools.

I voted "No" because we have too many lobbyists.

I voted "No" because we handed our lobbyists no bid contracts.

I voted " No" because although we budget for part time and temporary employees year after year, the head count does not include these two groups.

I voted "No" because I could find no evidence of any meetings of the Working Group. The chairman formed the Working Group in 2013 to examine if savings could be found between the Election Commission and the Clerks Office.

I voted "No" because the tax payers are paying for an Election Commission they do not need.

I voted "No" today because I took the time to send questions to the chairman only to receive a scathing response that included no answers.

You can read my budget questions along with the chairman's response below.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

National Disaster Resiliency Competition - Lisle

DuPage County is eligible to receive funding from the HUD Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) as a competitive application process under NDRC. CDBG-NDRC will award up to $1 billion to communities that have been struck by natural disasters in recent years. DuPage County submitted the Phase 1 application in March, and, in late June, the County was notified that they would be advancing to Phase 2. Locally, DuPage County identified the Village of Lisle and the broader East Branch DuPage River Watershed as having the largest amount of unmet needs from the April 2013 flood.

For Phase 1, DuPage County developed the East Branch DuPage River Watershed and Resiliency Plan.  In Phase 2, the County developed conceptual projects to determine the funding request from HUD. 

The County is ultimately requesting nearly $50 million from HUD for the project approach with the best and lowest overall cost, which would involve property acquisition. Is it important to note that these are conceptual projects with no formal assessments included. The County’s process for projects in a watershed plan, involves public meetings, one on one consultation with property owners affected by a potential project and a vote by the Stormwater Management Planning Committee and the DuPage County Board. 

I will do my best to keep the residents of Lisle informed and alert you to any changes that may occur.  

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

DuPage County Keeps Lobbyists for Another Year

The Daily Herald reports the following:

DuPage Keeping Lobbyists for Another Year

Robert Sanchez
August 25, 2105

DuPage County officials defended the county's use of lobbyists before awarding nearly $300,000 in contracts to several firms.
"As the second-largest county in Illinois with nearly 1 million residents, it is critically important that the county maintain an effective presence in both Washington, D.C. and Springfield," county board Chairman Dan Cronin said.

On Tuesday, county board members voted 15-1 to spend $260,000 to keep three lobbying firms for another year.

Two of the firms -- All-Circo Inc. and V.A. Persico Consulting Inc. -- are pushing the county's legislative agenda in Springfield. The third firm, BGR Government Affairs LLC, lobbies on the federal level.

DuPage also will contribute $24,000 to help pay McGuire Woods Consulting, which represents the county board and the DuPage County Health Department at the state level.

That expenditure didn't require a county board vote because it's less than $25,000, officials said.

Board member Elizabeth Chaplin cast the only vote against the contracts for the lobbying firms.

"I don't see the value," she said. "I think as county board members we can take a more active working with our own representatives and save the taxpayers money."

You can read the Full Daily Herald story 

DuPage County has a presence in Springfield and Washington, they are called elected officials. It is the job of the elected officials to represent the needs of the people in their district.  It is the job the of elected officials to advocate on behalf of the residents and ensure they deliver state and federal funding for capital projects,  social services, the health department, public safety, ect. 

In Kane County the Legislative Committee acts as their own lobbyists. Kane County is spending zero dollars on lobbyists.  Will County spends $40,000 on their lobbyists.  

Lobbyists by the numbers:

V.A. Persico                   $60,000

All-Circo                        $120,000

McGuire Woods              $24,000

BGR Government Affairs  $80,000 

Total                               $284,000.00

DuPage County Representatives by the numbers:

13 Illinois House Members

9   Illinois Senate Members

8 Federal Representatives

18 County Board Members

1  County Chairman

Total :  49

You can learn more about Kane County Lobbying  efforts here.

You can learn more about Will County Lobbyists here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

DuPage Convalescent Center

Based on my own research and conclusions I did not support the $99,500 contract to CGR for the assessment of the DuPage Convalescent Center.  

The Daily Reports the following:

DuPage hopes to improve, not sell, convalescent center

Robert Sanchez

With the uncertainty of funding from the state and federal governments, DuPage officials say they want to identify operational and revenue changes that "support a financially sustainable model that can continue to meet the needs of an underserved population."

So the county board agreed to hire the Center for Governmental Research to perform an in-depth assessment of the convalescent center.

Since counties aren't required to operate a convalescent center, there have been politicians through the years who have proposed the DuPage center be sold or turned over to a private management company.

County board member Liz Chaplin said she's worried that could happen again because there have been instances when the Center for Governmental Research recommended other counties sell their nursing homes.

Full article can be found here.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Conflict of Interest DuPage County Style

Citing conflict of interest during the March 24, 2015 meeting of the DuPage County Board I was the only member to vote NO on the appointment of Nancy Wolfe as the Inspector General.
How can anyone remain impartial when making possible judgements against those that treated her so well and allowed for such a generous benefit package?
The Chicago Tribune reports the following:

Pension boost tactic sidesteps laws to cost taxpayers millions

Joe Mahr, Chicago Tribune
5:31 am, August 15, 2015

Conflicts of interests?

What happened in DuPage County also highlights how those with major financial stakes in the tactic can be close to the discussion over its survival.
Records show that Thomas Downing in 2010 oversaw the state's attorney's office division responsible for crafting board opinions. The board member who pushed the 2010 proposal, John Curran, said Downing at times was assigned to help the committee that debated the ordinance.
Downing retired in 2013. The perk boosted his starting pension from about $69,000 a year to $82,000. Downing declined comment.
Nancy Wolfe oversaw Downing as the first assistant in the office. She retired earlier this year, with the timing of end-of-career payouts boosting her pension by 18 percent. Wolfe said she played no direct role in the opinion and, regardless, would never slant an opinion to benefit her personally. The current state's attorney, Robert Berlin, and former state's attorney, Joe Birkett, said Wolfe and Downing did nothing improper.
Birkett, now an appellate court judge, reviewed and signed the opinion, and he defended his office's handling of the measure. But he said he understands how it could raise questions of a potential conflict of interest. He said he would have sought an outside legal review if the county board had asked.
"I think that's a valid point. Anybody could have raised it at the time. Nobody did," he said.
Curran, the board member who pushed the reform proposal, said he felt it would have been useless because, if someone sues, the state's attorney's office decides how to handle the lawsuit.
The full article can be found here.
The Video from the March 24th DuPage County Board meeting can be here Video.

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Morton Arboretum

Recently the DuPage County Board Members from District 2 and District 4 visited The Morton Arboretum.  President and CEO, Gerry Donnelly, and Bob Schillerstrom a member of the Board of  Trustees welcomed us and lead the interesting and informative discussion.   

The Morton Arboretum was established in 1922 by the Morton Family.  The Arboretum has 1700 acres of plants, gardens, woodlands, prairie, lakes and streams.  With 4,200 kind of trees from around the world, 16 miles of trails and 9 miles of paved roads, it makes a great place to escape from the stress of everyday life. There is a 4 acre Children's Garden and is the most visited arboretum in North America.

World renowned for scientific leadership with a team of 25 PhD researchers and staff scientists, the Arboretum is also home to a state-of-the-art Research Center.

One of the leading Arboretums of the world in size, age, plant collection, science and conservation.  DuPage County is very fortunate to be home to such a unique and remarkable place.

Below you will find a video that gives a brief overview of The Morton Arboretum:

You can learn more about the Arboretum here.

You can learn more about the District 2 members here and District 4 members here.