CHAMPAIGN — Two incumbent county board Democrats are being challenged by a former Champaign City Council member in one of the most Democratic districts under the new Champaign County Board map.
District 8 is one of just three county board districts where there is a contested race this fall. Eight of the 11 county board districts have either just two Republicans or two Democrats running for two seats.
It is made up primarily of central Champaign from Prospect Avenue to Wright Street between Daniel Street on the south and Vine Street on the north, and a small part of Urbana between Wright and Lincoln and University Avenue and Nevada Street, includes large numbers of University of Illinois students. Here is a map of the district.
Republican Sher Hampel, a member of the Champaign council from 1999 to 2003, is facing incumbent county board Democrats Giraldo Rosales and Michael Richards.
Hempel said she could not conceive of any circumstances under which she would support a property tax increase to help pay for the operations of the cash-strapped Champaign County Nursing Home. "I oppose tax increases, borrowing beyond the county's means and overspending," she said.
She did not, however, rule out the option of closing the home.
"There are many factors that all have to do with availability of money that might tip the balance where the county board is forced to take the extreme of closing the facility," she said. "The county has debt on the facility and no doubt other variables may be brought to light as the county board takes a good hard look at why it is in the nursing home business and how long or if it can be sustained."
Richards, though, contended that the nursing home "is profitable and fulfilling its mission of serving Champaign County residents with the best care in the county." He said he was confident the institution "will continue to be a success story for county government."
And Rosales said he would not support a tax increase for the nursing home, nor would he vote to close it or sell it. "My view is that these seniors were once productive taxpayers that helped build and shape this county, and it is our responsibility to ensure they have a place of dignity to reside," he said.
Rosales also said he believes the county should have a building code "but not as a standalone."
"I would encourage our county to look into adopting the International Code Council and becoming a member," he said. "This organization works with the building safety community and construction industry to provide safe, sustainable and affordable construction through the development of codes and standards used in the design, build and compliance process."
Hampel said the county does not need a building code because "state law already requires that owners and contractors comply with building codes for commercial and residential new construction, additions and remodeling in unincorporated areas of the county."
Richards agreed that the state has a building code and "I haven't seen anything that leads me to believe that at this time we need an unincorporated building code."
Asked whether the county needs to close its downtown jail, Richards said it "needs to upgrade both its women's and mental health facilities" but that the county board shouldn't do anything until "the county has completed a needs assessment, and before the community justice task force" issues its report on jail facilities.
Rosales and Hampel also said they wanted to wait until the needs assessment is completed.
None of the candidates believed county offices can be eliminated or consolidated.
"I'm not in favor of combining or eliminating any elective offices," Richards said. "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."