Democrats back Weibel for county board chair

Democrats back Weibel for county board chair

CHAMPAIGN — A divided group of Champaign County Democrats on Sunday night chose C. Pius Weibel of Champaign to be their nominee for the next county board chair, but there's no guarantee he'll win the post even though Democrats control the board.

Neither of Weibel's opponents — incumbent board chair Pattsi Petrie or veteran board member Giraldo Rosales — promised to support him when the full county board selects its new chair Monday night.

And three times in the last 14 years, a small number of insurgent Democrats have worked with the board's Republican minority to elect a chair who was not the choice of the Democratic caucus. It happened most recently in 2014 when Petrie won the position, mostly with Republican votes.

"At this point, I'm undecided," Rosales said after Sunday night's hour-long session at the party headquarters in Champaign.

Asked if she'd support Weibel, Petrie said, "I have no idea."

Weibel was the overwhelming choice among the three candidates, with the votes of nine of the 12 Democratic caucus members. Petrie got her own vote plus that of veteran board member Lorraine Cowart, Rosales had only his own vote.

Board member Josh Hartke, who nominated Weibel, urged the 12 Democrats to stand united behind Weibel.

"This caucus has got to get its act together," Hartke said. "We have got to work together. I know there are folks who have disagreements with each other on policy and maybe don't like some of the people they have to sit next to. I know I have had my share of problems with being too abrasive. I'll certainly admit to that. But we have got to work together, folks. Republicans are our opponents, not the people in this room.

"They want to close and sell the nursing home. They want to build the kind of buildings that I don't think we are supportive of."

Republicans are scheduled to meet before Monday night's county board organizational meeting to decide if they intend to offer their own candidate for board chair.

Weibel was chair of the board from 2006 to 2012, then retired to care for his wife, who was ill. But she recovered and he was elected anew in 2014.

At Sunday's caucus meeting Weibel called county facilities the biggest issue facing the board in the next two years.

"We still have to spend money on the jails," he said. "The downtown jail is really in bad shape, That, unfortunately, is really the crux of the problem."

But he said he wouldn't support asking voters in April to support a quarter-cent sales tax increase for facilities — a question that lost by a 7-to-3 margin last month — but that he might get behind a property tax increase to support the nursing home.

"The nursing home, I might support that. I want to hear from the nursing home board," he said.

The nursing home board last week approved a resolution asking the county board for a $12 million infusion for the cash-strapped institution, and said its primary recommendation was a property tax increase.

Weibel said the county board might be able to make improvements to facilities in the near future without asking for a sales tax increase, particularly if the nursing home's capital needs were addressed with more property tax revenue.

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Local Yocal wrote on December 05, 2016 at 9:12 am
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Pius Weibel and the Champaign County Board should be made to prove the Downtown Urbana Jail is beyond repair. In 2011, The National Institute for Corrections declared the jail "deplorable" because of dingy lighting, peeling paint, and insects. The Illinois Department of Corrections gives the downtown Urbana jail a passing grade every year that allows Sheriff Walsh to house an average of 50 inmates a day there. 

Why can't the 36 year old Downtown jail be saved and re-purposed?

Why can't the police and prosecutors, and judiciary make do with 182 jail beds?

rsp wrote on December 05, 2016 at 1:12 pm

Why can't we all just get along? If people refuse to get long on the streets they have to be separated in the jail, which is much more expensive. Sometimes it means sending them to other jails to isolate them from other inmates. That increases costs to taxpayers but the individual isn't listed on the books. Wouldn't it be better to take care of our own people where they can see their families on a regular basis?

kstyle wrote on December 05, 2016 at 2:12 pm

@local have you spent any time at the downtown jail?  Perhaps you should spend a bit of time behind those walls before you say it's adequate.  While I don't care for champaign county's propensity for incarceration for non violent offenses the conditions at the downtown jail are deplorable.  Every community has some form of jail, and the conditions of those facilities are forced upon the inmates.  We shouldn't be forcing people who are incarcerated to live in awful conditions and our downtown jail does just that. 

Local Yocal wrote on December 05, 2016 at 2:12 pm
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Maybe the Downtown Jail is deplorable, the Illinois Department of Corrections in their annual inspections doesn't think so- at least not as much enough to close it. It's assumed in order to continue using the Downtown Jail, there would be a remodeling project done. Not nearly enough architectural brainpower has been applied to the re-use of the Downtown Jail.

It should be required of the Sheriff to produce the statistics that reveals how many times per year his department needs to separate inmates for safety reasons. And those statistics could be used to assess whether enough separation can happen within the confines of the Satellite Jail. Because the sheriff has never been required to produce those stats, the idea of "need for separation" lives on in anedote but never factual reality. In addition, there needs to be a study regarding Champaign County's "propensity" to jail non-violent offenders, and if that practice was eliminated, could we make do with just the Satellite Jail?

While it is always preferrable to house inmates in the county where they are from (near friends and family) we do not know what impact closing the Downtown Jail would have, and what the need would be to house inmates out-of-county were we only to have just the one jail out at the Satellite.

Before throwing away a 36 year-old building, efforts should be made to completely assess how the building could be used.

Rocky7 wrote on December 05, 2016 at 5:12 pm

IF Mr. Weibel wins, he will qualify for the Nancy Pelosi same-ole, same-ole award.