Q&A with Pius Weibel, Democrat, Champaign, candidate for District 7, Champaign County Board
1. Why should the county government continue to support a nursing home that needs financial assistance from taxpayers and the county government and serves, at most, about 200 citizens at a time. All of this during a time when the future of health care is so uncertain.
The county should continue to support the nursing home because the future of health care is so uncertain. Government can best serve the people during times of need and uncertainty. When the health care system is robust enough in this country to support everyone, the county might consider getting out the nursing home business but until then, we should support it.
2. Should the county do anything toward planning for the construction of a new county jail, or an addition to the existing satellite? Or should the county government wait until it institutes a reentry program and any other criminal justice initiatives aimed at reducing the jail population?
Yes and no. The county should be looking at all alternatives, including the physical modification of the jails, and the programs that aim at reducing recidivism and incarceration. These programs on their own will not improve the disparate conditions between the two jail sites and the lack of facilities for the increasing number of mentally ill residents at the jail. Dealing with these residents should involve state programs as well. I believe that the State should ultimately be responsible for the caretaking of the severely mentally ill so that the county jails do not become a "dumping ground" for this sector of the population.
3. Would you support merging any county offices, in particular the county recorder and the county clerk? How about any other combinations? Are there offices or programs you'd like to eliminate?
This has been discussed at county board meetings several times previously. I would support such actions if such a move would increase efficiency or decrease costs. The only way any mergers would occur, however, is if the political party in control of the office agreed to support such a move. I am not optimistic about that happening.
4. What is your opinion of the recent change to the county board, reducing the number of board members from 27 to 22 and increasing the number of districts from 9 to 11?
The change is still relatively new, and since I have not been on the board during the 22-member period, I am not in a position to state whether it is better or not. I am concerned that having an even number of members could result in more votes ending in a tie (I am not sure if this has happened).
5. Should Champaign County have its own building code and building inspection program?
Yes. It would help to prevent the problem that is described in the next question.
6. What can the county do to prevent housing problems like the notorious Cherry Orchard complex outside of Rantoul?
The county can prevent such problems by limiting the construction of housing complexes in rural areas, or by enacting a basic building code with real enforcement authority.
7. What can the county do to encourage economic development? Are there particular businesses you would like to attract, any incentives you think should be offered?
The economic strength of our county is agriculture, so I would support efforts to maintain, improve, and sustain the economic viability of agriculture, be it for big or small operations. There is some room for the creation of additional wind farms/turbines, but that industry is dependent upon the Wind Farm production tax credit, the future of which is unknown. Because of the uncertainty of the tax credit, which expired at the end of 2013 (and has not yet been renewed), the construction of new wind farms dropped over 75 percent from 2012 to 2013. Renewal of the tax credit and improvements in technology, however, may once again increase interest in the development of more turbines for the county. Most of the economic growth will occur within or around the municipal areas, and the county can best support this growth by its contributions to the EDC.
8. What's your opinion of the county's current financial condition?
As of last month, the fund balance is above 10 percent, so I believe that the county's current financial condition is in good shape. My goal as a member of the county board would be to ensure that we maintain this.
9. Do you believe the county government should offer 2 percent pay raises for the next four years to the sheriff, county clerk and county treasurer? Generally, according to the county administrator, they are paid less than officers in similar counties.
I would support the pay raises for the next two years. Two years from now, we can look at the issue again.
10. What's your opinion of the plan to contract with the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District to take over operations of the Champaign County Rural Transit Services later this year? Is this a program you support? Would you ever want to commit county resources to it?
I am saddened and disappointed that CRIS is no longer heading the program. I thought that they did an excellent job. The program was popular with the county residents that used it. I am pleased that the program will be continued. I would not support committing unilateral county resources to it.