County board District 9 candidates differ mostly on endorsements

County board District 9 candidates differ mostly on endorsements

Politically, there's not much difference between veteran Champaign County Board member Ralph Langenheim of Urbana and his challenger, Shana Jo Harrison of Savoy.

The two are running for a seat representing county board District 9, which includes not only south central Urbana and student voting precincts south of University Avenue, but also much of Savoy between Windsor Road and Church Street.

Both support the county nursing home and want to see it kept under local control, both want to see the county adopt its own building code, both hope to see the county continue to examine restorative justice programs aimed at reducing jail populations, both favor the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District taking over a rural transportation program in the county and both favor extending a food service health inspection placard program into areas of the county outside of Champaign-Urbana.

"It's critical that consumers are able to make a knowledgeable decision about what restaurants they eat at," said Harrison.

Langenheim, who last November voted to include the color-coded placard system in areas outside of Champaign-Urbana, said that opponents claimed the program would be "an infringement on private enterprise."

"I do not believe that that is an infringement on private enterprise," he said. "I think it is a valid public health move."

Their biggest disagreement, at least publicly, might be on the question of proposed raises for the county clerk, treasurer and sheriff.

"If we wish to have efficient and effective public employees, they need to be reimbursed at the current rate," said Langenheim.

But Harrison, a 22-year-old labor policy analyst who has been endorsed by AFSCME and the East Central Illinois Buiding Trades, said she believes "a raise for county employees at the nursing home and Head Start needs to be a higher priority than raises for the sheriff, county clerk and treasurer.

"During the financial hardships, the working employees of the county took the hardest hit in their pocketbook. I believe it is in the county's best interest to support living wages."

Unstated in their primary race, at least by Harrison, is Langenheim's vote in December 2012 for Champaign Democrat Al Kurtz to be the new county board chairman. Democrats Langenheim, Kurtz and Astrid Berkson joined with Republicans to make Kurtz the chairman over the Democratic caucus choice, Champaign Democrat Michael Richards.

The county's Democratic Party as well as the Champaign County Young Democrats have endorsed Harrison over Langenheim, largely because of his vote for Kurtz. Some Democrats tried to persuade Langenheim, a 91-year-old D-Day veteran, not to run for re-election.

"I feel bad that we have to endorse in a primary when typically we don't. But Ralph knew what he was doing just as much as Al (Kurtz) knew what he was doing," said Al Klein, head of the local Democratic Party. "Ralph chose to run again. Neither feels bad about what they did so I don't feel bad about what we're doing."

Langenheim is unapologetic and hit the party for taking sides in Tuesday's primary race.

"Endorsements are divisive and in no way strengthen the party. However, this year, the committee made endorsements strictly to punish those who did not join the faction supporting Michael Richards for board chair," Langenheim said. "I did not support Richards because I felt that he was the far less effective candidate."


Ralph Langenheim

Home address: 401 W. Vermont St., U.
Date of birth: May 26, 1922.
Occupation: Professor emeritus, University of Illinois; licensed professional geologist, Wyoming.
Political experience: Champaign County Board member, 1998-present; ran for U.S. Congress in 2004.
Education: Bachelor's in geological engineering, University of Tulsa, 1943; master's in geology (mining), University of Colorado, 1949; Ph.D. in geology, University of Minnesota, 1951.

Shana Jo Harrison

Home address: 301 W. Curtis Road, Apt 7-107, Savoy.
Date of birth: April 18, 1991.
Occupation: Labor policy analyst.
Political experience: None.
Education: Bachelor's in political science, University of Illinois; masters in political science, UI, May 2014.

Sections (2):News, Local
Tags (1):2014 election

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Sid Saltfork wrote on March 12, 2014 at 11:03 am

Why do they even bother to call it a County Board?  C-U might as well incorporate the rest of the county into it's boundaries.  After all, the villagers in the county would be better served by metropolitans making decisions for them.  Their money could be put to a better use by the twin cities also.

Just as Illinois has it's Chicago, Champaign County has it's twin cities.  Could parts of the county secede to join adjacent counties? 

aberkson wrote on March 13, 2014 at 2:03 pm

The text of this article ignores the crucial importance of the honorific title "veteran", which it correctly accords only to Ralph Langenheim in its opening sentence, "Politically, there's not much difference between veteran Champaign County Board member Ralph Langenheim of Urbana and his challenger, Shana Jo Harrison of Savoy."  On the contrary, the glaring differences between Ralph Langenheim and Shana Jo Harrison in the arenas of expertise and proven track record IN GOVERNMENT are important and substantial. Langenheim is currently in his sixeenth consecutive year as a member of the County Board who has always maintained close ties with his constituents. During this time Ralph's prized know-how as a U of I Professor of Geology and a past President of the Illinois Geological Society has provided the County Board with indispensable expertise in water, land use, and highway resources. This is evidenced by his service on the Champaign County Board's Environment and Land Use Committee (ELUC), which he has chaired from 2000-2006 and 2012-present. By contrast the bio of 22 year-old Shana Jo Harrison states that her political experience is "None", and stipulates her occupation with the not-so-specific term "Labor policy analyst". Shana Jo Harrison is a promising newcomer to the political arena. But dumping a beloved and trusted veteran like Ralph Langenheim in favor of giving her on-the-job-raining in a key public office is asking too much. Please continue your steadfast support for Ralph in the current Democratic Primary for County Board Member District 9.

Astrid Berkson, Champaign County Board Member from District 9