Tom Kacich: No quick fix in Cunningham Township

Tom Kacich: No quick fix in Cunningham Township

Urbana City Council member Eric Jakobsson said he still wants to see citizens vote on a plan to have the city government take over the functions of Cunningham Township.

The problem, he said, is that even if it were to be put to a vote this November and approved, the changeover couldn't occur until 2021 when the terms of the current township assessors and supervisors expire.

A new law allows cities that have the same boundaries as townships assume the township's duties, once the idea is approved by voters. It became an issue in Urbana earlier this month when Assessor Wayne Williams suddenly fired two longtime employees who supporters say had virtually run the office for years. At the same time, Williams hired as his chief deputy a man who faces felony charges.

His concern now, Jakobsson said, is to "see what the town board can do to put the assessor's office back on track."

The town board also is the city council.

"What I'm trying to educate myself on is the governing statutes so that I and other township board members can figure out what is within our power to do to get the assessor's office on track," he said. "Right now that office is in a lot of trouble. It's understaffed and the circumstances around the understaffing are such that I think it's going to have a hard time hiring anybody into it unless we can craft some policy that employees could count on for working conditions.

"I don't know what is in our power to do. Typically township boards have very little power and elected township officials have tremendous autonomy. But I want to explore that more carefully and see what there is that we might do."

Jakobsson mentioned that he and others had issues with Williams' predecessor, Dan Stebbins, "that never burst into the public view."

"Dan was very firm. He read that statute to us and said I don't need a personnel policy. If you're a township officer and you have fewer than five employees you don't need a personnel policy. You're not required to have one," Jakobsson recalled. "And so we never did. If the law is still that way, then the question would be is there any way to negotiate a binding agreement where Wayne would agree to conform to the Urbana personnel polices and would agree to involve the Urbana human resources.

"I think if we had those protections in the assessor's office maybe we could get it staffed. But now I don't know. I don't know who would want to work there."

The city government, Jakobsson, said "has good personnel policies" that might have been used in heading off Williams' decision to fire two longstanding employees who by all accounts were hard-working and honest.

"It would be a big step if Wayne would agree to those, although I don't know what we can require him to do," Jakobsson said.

Meanwhile, he said he still hopes to put the abolition of Cunningham Township on the ballot this fall.

"I would be happy to have it in November. What we need is four votes on the board. I think that's very possible," said Jakobsson. "But what I want to do before that — assuming we can get the votes — is to clarify what we can do now. A big reason to do that referendum is the lack of accountability in township government and the fact that this unaccountability is built into the structure. That's one of its features. There's no oversight."

Nursing home sale terms

Some are suggesting that the terms of sale for the Champaign County Nursing Home were written by county board members and that they are deliberately so demanding as to make a sale difficult to consummate. Nope.

"We reviewed a number of (requests for proposals) that Marcus & Millichap (the broker for the sale) provided in working with other county homes across the country," said former County Administrator Rick Snider, who helped write the RFP last fall. "One of the things I think you'll find that's in common with others that are government operated is that they tend to be unionized. So the provisions in there reflect that."

He said the terms were written "to provide some security for people" and also to satisfy the county's collective bargaining agreement with AFSCME that "requires that any successor organization must take the contract."

He said the broker had "reviewed those with us and he did not see anything in there that would preclude interest from a potential buyer."

Jim Goss, a Republican board member from Mahomet who has been one of the most outspoken supporters of selling the nursing home, said most of the language in the RFP is "boilerplate."

"That was stuff that the broker has looked at and said these are not out of the ordinary requests at all," he said. "I think the average person would think no way in hell would I live with those restrictions. But the issue is that most of us aren't involved in the health care industry and realize that this isn't a lot of hoops to jump through. These are not unreasonable requests."

Both Goss and county Treasurer John Farney said they don't believe an $11 million bid for the home — the minimum amount the county would consider — is unreasonable. The $11 million figure came from Marcus & Millichap.

"The broker is invested in this too. They're not going to give us pie in the sky numbers," said Farney. "They wouldn't be pushing this $11 million number if they didn't think it was doable."

Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette reporter and columnist. His column appears on Sundays and Wednesdays. He can be reached at 351-5221 or at

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cjwinla wrote on January 14, 2018 at 8:01 am

Once again Jakobsson is showing his long held disdain of black people with Power. Diane Marlin when she took office either fired or forced people to resign, not a peep from Jakobsson then. Elected Officials have the right to hire the people they feel most comfortable with. He admits he had issue with The previous Assessor and considering these ladies were likely loyal to his predecessor Williams did the right thing. Was it handled perfectly ? No. But two white ladies get fired and Jakobssson is on a power grab to take away from the black man. Black people getting stopped at a unreasonably higher rate then whites while driving the car and Jakobsson wants a slow and deliberate approach to the issue. Bring your Township repeal and let’s examine your lousy record of helping the poor Jakobsson. Now a developer needs TIF or loans , you are the first one with your hand up to help. Two white ladies in distress because they were terminated by a black man and you want to take down  a whole form of government. Damn shame this is an issue when Urbana has zero policies for minority inclusion or diversity . Compared to Champaign which has active policies for diversity and inclusion Urbana is no enclave of Democratic ideals .... it’s a haven for the White Only policies which is reflected in their government contracting and hiring policies and Jakobsson is a proud supporter of that status quo. 

rsp wrote on January 14, 2018 at 10:01 am

So you are okay with long term employees getting fired without cause if they are white? You just made an assumption about how they felt about the prior assessor, and that it would prevent them from working effectively with Williams. No evidence but you go on and on about their race.

If you want to call out a city's lack of policy, do so. But it isn't helpful to blame Williams' mistakes on their skin color.

Williams met with them and talked about how they would be working together. Then he starting bringing in all his friends without checking to see it he was spending money wisely. He hired a man who was fired from his last job for misuse of government funds. The pending criminal case is coming up soon.

Given that Williams has 1) hired someone who misused government funds, and 2) immediately started moving the accounts around at the township, It makes one wonder why he wouldn't want experienced employees around.

aantulov wrote on January 14, 2018 at 11:01 am

If you go the city of Urbana's website, their are policies:

And the Human Relations Officer, Vacellia Clark is of African American Decent so the claims in one of these opinions was not vetted. If you have an emotional response to something, chances are someone is trying to play you. Don't take the bait, its easy to check.

Seems like someone is trying to "deliver" a vote a certain way? hmmmm


cjwinla wrote on January 14, 2018 at 3:01 pm

I would suggest a deeper dive . An equal opportunity policy is pretty standard in every city in America . Let’s look at Diane Marlins staff . Finance Staff. Fire Department . Public Works. Etc. You can drive around Urbana and know there are very few if any people of color in those departments. But if I was off base you would have those stats . Contracts with minority firms . That number is likely close to zero as well. But please be sure to point out where E. Jakobsson actually advocated for a policy with teeth and substance that promoted inclusion and diversity in an economic initiative . What does EJ know about running an Assesors Office ? Running anything really but his mouth. But he’s certain no one will want to work in the Assesors Office . What a crock of hot air from Urbana’s orginal blowhard with no substance . The truth about Race and economic inclusion in Urbana is very ugly. Wayne has held office for 10’days and the White folk want to dismantle Township government . But of course Wayne being black has nothing to do with it . Puhhleezze

aantulov wrote on January 14, 2018 at 11:01 am

Any sale of the nursing home that does not include assuming the debt IN ITS ENTIRETY, IS SUSPECT, AND POINTLESS. 

Keeping it not filled by holding up medicaid applications is a big part of the problem.  Will the application magically go through once its in PRIVATE hands?  There are no shortage of elderly in need, "Why are those beds empty?" is the story here.


Who, What, Where , When, Why, How......

pattsi wrote on January 14, 2018 at 3:01 pm

There is so much misinformation not just on the federal and state levels, but locally. So once again, let us get the facts out to the public.

Foremost, the beds at the CCNH are not being kept empty. Here are some facts to ponder: the home has 243 Medicaid certified beds. According to IDPH, the long term care need established for Area 4, us, for 2020 is 855 beds. Currently in area 4, there are 908 certified beds. Translated this means Area 4 is overbedded by 53 beds. In other words there are plenty of beds in Area 4.

At the most recent report, there are 136 residents at the CCNH. There is no one at the home keeping Medicaid applications from being submitted. Actually, the responsibiity to submit belongs to the resident via family or friends. The state is still slow processing applications, but CCNH is not targeted. This is across the board south of I-80, in particular, whether a public home or a private home

A portion of the money from a potential sale will be used to rectify the monies owed. The money from property tax will continue until the bonds are paid off.

It is very important to work with accurate information because the CB is dealing with a very serious issue..

KlaatuSansGort wrote on January 14, 2018 at 5:01 pm

Where to Start, Whether First Or Over?

aantulov wrote on January 20, 2018 at 5:01 am

Over bedded, too many beds? Really? How about under advertised? Is that why so many Private facilities have been invested in, in this area? Is that why the park district was so compelled to sell land to Clark Lindsey to expand , because their is a lack of need ????? That's why the Champaign County nursing home has empty beds and is operating at a loss?
It's a nation wide problem as evidenced on the cover of the NYT, this week, that patients eligible for medicaid, are being dumped out of hospitals to homelessness.

I don't buy it.

Maybe the folks looking to build a homeless shelter for women with the upcoming fundraiser this February should look no further than the empty beds at the Champaign County nursing home!

Maybe the Champaign County consumers office should have this be a priority in their scope of influence.

aantulov wrote on January 20, 2018 at 6:01 am
aantulov wrote on January 20, 2018 at 6:01 am