2012 election candidate questionnaire: Michael Richards, Champaign County Board District 8
506 N Elm St., #15, C.
Occupation: Political consultant.
Political experience: Ran unsuccessfully for Champaign County clerk in 2006, was appointed to the county board in 2007 and won election in 2008 and 2010.
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?
Champaign County has been so busy responding to fiscal crisis after fiscal crisis caused by the Great Recession that we have not had a chance to think proactively about where we want to move the county to. The board needs to take its study sessions more seriously and go on offense and find a way to not just react to every crisis, but think about what a 21st century Champaign County should look like.
2. What county services currently offered should be eliminated or reduced?
We need to make sure that we are focusing our economic development efforts on things that will help Champaign County out — not just spending money on conferences and tax giveaways. We need to look more closely and ensure that we are getting "bang for our buck."
3. What services should the county provide that it does not offer now?
The county is struggling to provide services that residents already expect. We should focus on providing those for county residents within our current fiscal restraints. The one exception is that the Public Safety Sales Tax is currently being spent 95 percent on buildings and 5 percent on actual programming to reduce recidivism and programs that keep people from committing crimes. The amount spent on programming that stops crime should be increased.
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?
5. Are there circumstances under which you would vote to sell or close the Champaign County Nursing Home?
For 4 and 5: The county nursing home is currently profitable and fulfilling its mission of serving champaign county residents with the best care in the county. We are working now, as we have every year I've been on the board, to improve the nursing home's business model and patient satisfaction, as well. We can't know what future Medicare/Medicaid rates will be, but I'm confident that if we continue to improve the nursing home's operations, the nursing home financial shape and operations will continue to be a success story for county government.
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?
The county needs to upgrade both its women's and mental health facilities. However, before the county has completed a Needs Assessment and before the Community Justice Task Force have returned their findings it's premature to say what the county should do.
7. What can the county board do to enhance economic development?
The county needs to stop facilitating the use of overused vehicles like TIFs (Tax Increment Financing zones) which have been widely panned in studies of their effectiveness and have been used repeatedly for things in Champaign County that have nothing to do with economic development. The county needs to focus on working with local stakeholders to work with state and federal economic development authorities on things that will bring real development to Champaign County. Our work with the Senate Transportation Committee and state government on high speed rail is a great example of that succeeding.
8. Does Champaign County need a building code?
I don't think we should be regulating for the sake of regulating. The state has a building code. I haven't seen anything that leads me to believe that at this time we need an unincorporated building code.
9. Should the county or the county board do anything about a coal mine proposed for the Homer area?
The proposed mine is a state/Vermilion County matter. While I'm not in support of the mine, anyone who claims that the county can or should do something about it is grandstanding. Anyone trying to stop the mine should work with Vermilion County and the state of Illinois.
10. Are there county offices that you believe can be eliminated or consolidated?
Statewide, the only offices we have separate that other counties combine are the clerk and recorder of deeds positions. I'm not in favor of combining or eliminating any elective offices. The voters deserve accountability, and as we saw with the auditor's referendum, voters want the opportunity to make their own decisions on who is running these offices.