2012 election candidate questionnaire: Brad Diel, Champaign County Board District 5
Occupation: Champaign firefighter.
Political experience: Unsuccessful candidate for county board in 2006; Democratic Party precinct committeeman; member, Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District board.
1. What do you believe is the biggest problem in Champaign County government now, and what can you, as a single county board member, do about it?
There are many current important issues (problems) that are before the board and obviously will be many more in the future. I think the board needs to try to set aside the political issues that separate us and really attempt to work together, to compromise, and build consensus to move Champaign County forward. We risk becoming more like our federal and state governments that seem to accomplish very little while they are in session, when we let our political beliefs override the need to be a progressive board, with the overall good of the taxpayers and the county in mind.
I will do everything I can to work with all of the board members and will follow this philosophy if elected in November.
2. What county services currently offered should be eliminated or reduced?
I would support continuing with the services the county is providing presently, at their current levels.
3. What services should the county provide that it does not offer now?
I don't feel the county is in a position financially to provide any new services and at this point a tax increase to provide additional programs or services, regardless of how meaningful they might be, seems inappropriate. The county should focus on maintaining the current programs that are in place. The only exception I can see would be for programs that are cost-neutral to the taxpayers.
4. Are there circumstances under which you would vote for another increase in property taxes to support the operation of the Champaign County Nursing Home?
Not at this time. Through my discussions with county administrators, the nursing home appears to be holding its own and again I don't feel increases in the tax rate would be appropriate at this time without a severe need. I feel the hiring of the contract management company has improved the overall operation of the facility, along with improving their balance sheet, although still not in the condition I would like to see the facility reach. I also think the appointment of the separate nursing home board was an excellent move and has helped to provide experienced oversight. I would hope the nursing home management and staff will continue to look for innovative methods to enhance revenue through programs such as the renal dialysis and respiratory therapy programs which have been proposed. This revenue would otherwise be lost to outside contractors and can certainly help the CCNH bottom line.
5. Are there circumstances under which you would vote to sell or close the Champaign County Nursing Home?
First and foremost, the board needs to make every effort for the facility to succeed, as this was the original intent of the taxpayers when the funding for the new facility was approved by the voters. Beyond that, the county and the CCNH has an overall debt of around $14.7 million against the original cost of approximately $24 million and it would seem unlikely to find a buyer willing to cover even the debt service, let alone the overall cost the county has incurred. I don't feel it would be economically feasible for the county and the taxpayers to take a huge loss on the facility. Additionally the CCNH location in the center of the county's campus, behind the jail and next to the youth detention center, wouldn't appear to be an ideal location for a potential buyer. The circumstances will have to be extremely dire before I would recommend a sale or closure.
6. Do you believe the downtown jail should be closed as soon as possible? If so, do you think an addition would be needed to the satellite (east Urbana) jail?
I was fortunate to be able to tour the jail facilities recently and I do believe there are many good reasons to eventually close the downtown jail and make a modest expansion to the current "satellite" jail. In practice, the satellite jail is being used as the main jail currently and the downtown jail is being used to house overflow, female and some special security needs inmates. The design and overall conditions in the downtown jail as compared to the satellite jail show the stark difference in inmate management and emphasizes the need for the County to have adequate, updated facilities for female detainees, those with mental health issues and others with special medical needs that our current facilities can't manage successfully. Consolidation of all inmates and jail staff at one facility will realize many efficiencies for the staff and the county as a whole.
7. What can the county board do to enhance economic development?
I think the board should support our local communities' efforts to attract new development and expansion of current employers. This can be assisted through support of TIF districts throughout the county and working with the EDC and the RPC. The board needs to ensure there are no undue restrictions on development that may put us at a disadvantage and that prospective developers have access to any financial incentive packages that could be made available. As we have seen in the past, the marketplace is extremely competitive and the board needs to be prepared to make some financial concessions based on our ability to fund them.
8. Does Champaign County need a building code?
Yes. The county should have a basic, easily enforced and managed building code. It should be a program that is as cost neutral to the county as possible (fees charged = program costs). I think a building code provides security to neighboring landowners and helps ensure the basic quality of structures in the county.
9. Should the county or the county board do anything about a coal mine proposed for the Homer area?
It is my understanding that at this point the issue only concerns water being pumped from within Homer's corporate boundaries, therefore the county currently has no jurisdiction in the matter.
10. Are there county offices that you believe can be eliminated or consolidated?
This subject has been discussed a great deal in the last few years. At one point the discussion concerned the auditor, recorder of deeds and the coroner's offices. As I have some experience in the latter I can tell you the only savings I can see in the elimination of this office is the elected coroner. The work of the office will still need to be carried out and someone will still be required to provide supervision to the deputy coroners. As we are fortunate to have a regional trauma center in Urbana, we will continue to have many severely injured medical patients being brought into the county that may in the end turn into coroner cases that have to have autopsies, further investigation, and other followup. It seems to me the savings would be minimal. I would view the recorder's situation similarly.
The possibility of eliminating the auditor's office is somewhat different as many of those job functions might be absorbed into the administrators' office or by creating a chief financial officer within the administrative branch to oversee all financial functions of the county. I think this might provide the needed oversight, but likely with no cost savings to the county. I won't be proposing this program change but might support it, or something similar.