2012 election candidate questionnaire: Max Mitchell, Champaign County Board District 5
Political experience: Past chairman of Champaign County Association of Realtors governmental affairs; appointed to county board earlier this year.
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?
Clearly, the current economic conditions and spending more than our revenues are problems in Champaign County government. The challenge is that there is increasing government at all levels. As a single member on the board, I will listen to the public and professionals' input. This information often presents me with a clearer understanding of the topic. This in turn allows for coalition building with the other board members to establish policy that best represents constituents in the district I represent as well as being fiscally responsible for the citizens of Champaign County.
2. What county services currently offered should be eliminated or reduced?
County services that should be eliminated or reduced are those that are outdated or inefficient. New technology will help improve efficiency. The 2013 Champaign County budget addresses many of these technological challenges for county departments. Most importantly the county staff should offer excellent customer service. Staff that is helpful and offer solutions to people's problems is an important asset to county government.
3. What services should the county provide that it does not offer now?
Services to enhance economic development must be increased. Clearly, bringing commerce to the county builds a stronger tax base. A stronger tax base allows for effective social services to be fully supported by the county that otherwise would not have proper funding. Our actions need to be in a fiscally responsible manner.
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?
To increase taxes to support the county nursing home would mean that the nursing home board and the professional management company are failing. According to all reports from the Champaign County Nursing Home Board, this is not the case. Currently, the management company for the nursing home is working diligently to maintain a sound financial footing. For example, the management company is exploring other "for profit" services to enhance income. It is the responsibility of the professional management company to report to the Champaign County Board a clear picture of the nursing home's financial status and their service viability for their residents. The Champaign County Board must continue to carefully monitor their progress. In addition, we must ensure that the nursing home staff continues to provide outstanding customer service to an important segment of our population.
5. Are there circumstances under which you would vote to sell or close the Champaign County Nursing Home?
By referendum, the citizens of our county have made a commitment to the nursing home's future. Presently there is a mix of private pay, Medicare and Medicaid residents. The county needs to understand and be prepared for the federal and state government slow reimbursement business practices. Based upon reports from the professional management company, they are planning for slow reimbursements. It is the responsibility of the professional management company to inform the County Board of the positive and negative facts of the nursing home's financial status. At this time, the goal of the board is to continue to monitor the nursing home as it works to maintain a viable financial position and strong commitment to those residents who call the county nursing home, HOME. If there is a radical change in the future, then the board needs to consider its options.
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?
Currently, the jail issue is one of the most important issues the county board is studying. During the September board meeting, the board voted to complete a jail needs assessment study. We have asked the professionals to take a comprehensive look and evaluate the downtown and satellite campus viability will come from the report. For both locations, it is important we provide for the proper ongoing maintenance for the facility. Our main goal must be to ensure the safety of the incarcerated as well as the staff who work there.
7. What can the county board do to enhance economic development?
The Champaign County Board can be extremely instrumental in enhancing economic development by ensuring we continue to develop policy that is economic development friendly. Champaign County offers world-class technology resources and is a centrally located transportation hub. As a county, it is a benefit for all to be fully supportive of economic development. Specifically, Champaign County is completing the UC2B fiber optics project. This project is building the infrastructure to allow our county to grow into the future. This will give our county a competitive edge when being evaluated for development.
8. Does Champaign County need a building code?
Currently, both Champaign and Urbana have comprehensive building codes. For many years I have served on the City of Champaign Code Review committee. The committee has been active in implementing a balanced approach to the building code. In 2005, the state of Illinois enacted the Illinois Residential Building Code Act. This act was specifically enacted to provide minimum requirements to safeguard property and public welfare by regulating and controlling the design, construction, installation and quality of materials of new construction. Because there is a state building code already in force, Champaign County is best suited to rely upon this code. It is important that County-owned buildings lead the way for ECO-revolution. By being fully supportive of green building initiatives in their remodeling or construction projects, County buildings could be a leader in green technology as well as saving money for the future.
9. Should the county or the county board do anything about a coal mine proposed for the Homer area?
As a natural resource, coal mining has both positive and negative impacts. Illinois Natural Resources is studying and evaluating the proposal for the Homer area. Once the facts are presented, the Champaign County Board will work to make a decision that is in the best interest for the future in Homer and Ogden area. There are many factors to consider. Rural farmsteads rely upon wells for their household water needs. Will mining in this area cause the wells to go dry, will there be a ground water contaminate? What will the mining do to rich farmland in the area? Will the contractor pay for the infrastructure improvements needed to move the coal out of the area? While mining could be a boost to economic development, the cost may be higher than the benefit. Clearly the decision by the Champaign County Board must consider all of the findings.
10. Are there county offices that you believe can be eliminated or consolidated?
There probably are some county offices that could be consolidated or eliminated over time through attrition. Technology empowers employees to be more productive. As elected officials and department heads continually evaluate their offices and make recommendations that allow for savings and improve productivity. When everyone works together, the county can save money for the taxpayers in the county. If there is savings in real estate taxes, everyone wins.