PRIMARY 2018 QUESTIONNAIRES: Champaign County Board District 6 Democrats

PRIMARY 2018 QUESTIONNAIRES: Champaign County Board District 6 Democrats

Champaign County Board District 6 covers a large swath of the north and west parts of Champaign, stretching from Bloomington Road on the north to Kirby Avenue on the south, and from Duncan Road on the west to Neil Street on the east. A map from the Champaign County Clerk's Office is below:

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Mike Ingram, North Russell Street

1. What do you believe is your primary responsibility as a county board member?

The primary responsibility is to look out for the interests of the residents of Champaign County, and particularly those whose voices are less amplified by status or money. The board is in charge of the checkbook, and that's a heavy responsibility, but it also has the ability to improve the lives of 200,000 people in many ways. I think it should be more proactive than reactive.

2. Why do you believe you would be a better county board member than your opponent?

I think voters are looking for a refresh in many political bodies. Voters are looking for younger and more inclusive candidates in what's shaping up to be a wave election. A lot of people my age or younger have mentioned that they've never voted in a primary before, or that they've never paid attention to local races. As young people are seeing certain things happen on a national or even state level, we're seeing younger candidates emerge; trans candidates are running and winning; younger women — and particularly younger black women — are stepping into races and helping our statehouses and our city halls look a little more like an accurate cross-section of our country. Working with young kids and young adults — in the music realm, especially — has been one of the great joys of my life. It's been great to hear from so many of them that they're registering and that they're eager to vote for someone they've interacted with as they've grown up and who they know shares their feelings on things like intersectionality. I'd like to see this be the best turnout of under-30 voters our district has ever seen in a primary and again in the general. On the board itself, I think apart from a younger perspective, I also have the benefit of a life spent weaving between hardcore conservative and uber-liberal family members, military households and union homes. Knowing how to talk to and understand different people and their thinking seems like a good skill to have on a dysfunctional and polarized county board.

3. What are your thoughts about the upcoming election of the first county executive and how the county board will work with that person?

I wasn't a fan of the creation of the position when the price tag was unknown and I'm less of a fan of its existence now that it comes in north of $117,000 — particularly with the constant hemming and hawing over the county budget. That's money better spent elsewhere. It will be interesting to see the transition and how the new board interacts with the executive, but I'll continue to lament the loss of Rick Snider to a very lucky village of Rantoul.

4. Are there services that you believe the county needs to expand or reduce or eliminate?

In terms of my own district and its interests, I'd like to see more programs that focus on keeping kids out of the court and jail system. Better mental-health support services and the better training of our police force to handle their ever-rising amount of mental-health calls. Both of those obviously affect the whole county, but I think they're particularly important in my district. For countywide issues, I'd like to make sure the county is doing everything it can to support the fight to protect the Mahomet Aquifer, especially with the current gas-leak epidemic they're having out there north of town.

5. Do you think the county should close the downtown jail and add on to the satellite jail in east Urbana, or do you favor another concept?

I do not support adding on to the satellite jail. I would much rather see those monies go toward some of the recommendations of the Racial Justice Task Force (see below) and generally toward more diversionary practices. Just a couple of fixes — a reduction in cash bail practices being a major one — would keep us from worrying about overcrowding. Mental-health intervention and advocacy would also be money well spent. Officers across the county and country are the primary force with which we deal with citizens in mental-health crisis. It's hard on the officers and can often lead to negative (and sometimes fatal) outcomes for those citizens. With no indication that we'll fix this mental-health crisis any time soon, having more trained mental-health professionals available, as well as better mental-health training for officers, would be money wisely spent. It frees up cells and potentially saves lives.

6. What are the recommendations from the recent Racial Justice Task Force report that you would like to see implemented quickly?

I was very impressed by a lot of what was put in the task force's Homerian report. It's weighty and there are myriad important issues outlined, and it would be wonderful to see enforcement bodies move on a great many of them. Some standouts for me:

A) The entire "pretrial jail confinement section." This seems to be one of the most talked-about portions of the report, and I think for good reason. For one, some of the steps have already begun or at least had groundwork laid. Cash bail is problematic for many reasons, and its disproportionate impact on African-Americans is problem number one to most. When you look at the steps often taken by those awaiting trial in order to demonstrate a change — a new job, a rehabilitation program, therapy, etc. — and then imagine the inability of someone else to demonstrate those kinds of changes because you've instead been sitting in jail over a matter of not being able to pay a few hundred dollars, you start to grasp the idea a little. Studies outlined in the report show that validated risk-assessment and pretrial officers are highly beneficial in terms of not only fairness to lower-income residents, but also in terms of keeping our jail space ready for those that actually need it.

B) The juvenile-justice recommendations, specifically reducing black youth contact with the juvenile-justice system. A countywide juvenile-justice council would be very welcome. As a mentor of a Jefferson Middle School seventh-grader, I worry a lot about the systems currently in place (school resource officers; trips to detention centers instead of home) and the impact they're having on this generation of kids. Order and safety for students and teachers alike is of obvious importance, but as studies continue to show us more positively impactful ways to discipline, I'd like to see them implemented.

C) The graduated court-cost reduction percentage based on income vs. poverty level might be harder to enact, but seems like a worthy thing to spend time on, for similar reasons as in A).

Honestly, the biggest step that needs to be taken here is to get people to read, digest, and understand the report — and moreover, why the task force and report needed to be commissioned in the first place. Empathy and understanding systemic racism are crucial to us making headway in many of the suggestions from the task force.

7. Do you think it is imperative that the county operate a nursing home, even if it loses money and threatens the county general fund?

I certainly feel that the nursing home is a valuable part of our county and plan to do everything I can to keep it public, but the wording of that question is a little tricky since it loads the back-end with some fairly specific conditions. I think anything that threatens the general fund needs direct and immediate attention. The home is currently getting a whole lot of that, and such focus has improved its situation fairly dramatically. As we continue through this potential sale process, we'll also be seeing the results of (management company) SAK's changes. Those are results I'm interested to see. As confidence has slowly returned to the home, the census has slowly climbed and employees aren't walking on eggshells quite as much as before. A lot can happen before any new board members are even seated, so we'll have to see what the bid request nets and see what the current board does with that information. As tenuous as things got when the state was budget-less and Medicaid payments were a distant memory, I'm glad that this process has been arduous because this is a mighty decision. The people who depend on services like the county home don't often get much consideration from their elected officials, and the loss of such services in other counties has created a rocky path for those people. Seeing pull-your-own-hair-out-long county board meetings I hope at least shows those residents and prospective residents that there are still some willing to take up for them. It should be a hard-fought decision because it's impactful and I think the final decision speaks to who we are as a county.

8. Do you think that closing the nursing home would benefit the rest of county government, including possibly funding new criminal-justice initiatives?

I think that even if we're willing to concede that selling (not closing, but selling) the nursing home will make the county board's job easier, I wouldn't see it as being beneficial for the county itself. I think that's why the fight is so hard and I think that's why that fight is worth fighting, because it does provide a valuable public service to many that desperately need it (while also providing quality employment for many county residents). I think it's very easy to say that selling the home is a magic bullet, and it's very easy to postulate the great things that could suddenly be done if the home wasn't a concern, but I often find those postulations to be carrots that are only waved on the left side of the equation — never to return once the big action is taken. I don't like the further demonizing of nursing home supporters by telling people, "Look what you could have if these people would just acquiesce on the nursing home." Lots of changes could be made to reach those ends if they were really important to board members.

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Pattsi Petrie (incumbent), South Chicago Avenue

1. What do you believe is your primary responsibility as a county board member?

Since the primary county policy document is the annual budget, my responsibility is fiduciary due diligence to make certain that the taxpayer monies are effectively and efficiently spent to meet the statute and code driven county duties. Meeting these duties leaves the county approximately $230,000 to fund any discretionary decisions annually.

Secondarily, I have stated throughout the years that it is important to work for a sustainable county, economically, socially and environmentally.

2. Why do you believe you would be a better county board member than your opponent?

I have consistently demonstrated during my seven years on the county board and other community work an ability to interact with constituents, listen to diverse views, delve into and broaden my understanding of county issues, and bring to the decision-making process my urban-planning profession.

As a county board member, I introduced the resolution establishing the Local Food Policy Council, shepherded both the referendum to increase the facility sales tax and referendum to elect a county-wide-elected county board chair, helped pass the Racial Justice Task Force resolution and, as chair, appointed the members with board approval, supported the Community Justice Task Force and hiring ILPP to consult about our criminal-justice system, as a few examples.

The following are three more examples that evolved from listening and responding to community ideas. First, I took the lead with four others to establish the Preservation and Conservation Association of Champaign County over 25 years ago. Second, Champaign County Health Care Consumers directly evolved from an urban planning graduate seminar. It is another organization working for the community for over 25 years. The third project is the John Street stormwater public-works project to mitigate serious flooding throughout that area. There were eight of us, working with neighborhood services, the city council and public works who put into action what resulted in a major public-works project and model used for east and west Washington areas and now within the Glenn Park area.

3. What are your thoughts about the upcoming election of the first county executive and how the county board will work with that person?

I shepherded the alternative referendum that appeared on the November 2016 ballot for a county-wide-elected county board chair. That referendum received more total votes and more "yes" votes than the elected-county-executive referendum. By state statute, the elected county executive trumped. So this is what the new organizational structure will be for the next four years or longer. These upcoming years are very important for the county. This being the case, every effort ought to be made to capture the change, develop county ownership of the new structure and continue to work toward the best interests of the county.

4. Are there services that you believe the county needs to expand or reduce or eliminate?

There are many that residents bring to the county board's attention in addition to those already within a 10-year county maintenance plan. The decision issue is sufficient general fund monies to shift around (mentioned in question 1; right now, the county has $230,000 discretionary money).

Rick Snider, former county administrator, explored means and ways to rethink how the county might accomplish a "bucket list," including economic development. Some of the "thinking outside the box" ideas are tp move the county offices to downtown Urbana and sell Brookens, close the downtown jail and sell this property, sell the county nursing home, alternative uses for the county property — to mention a few. The potential of having these exploratory conversations with the public will yield interesting solutions and prioritizing the "bucket list."

5. Do you think the county should close the downtown jail and add on to the satellite jail in east Urbana, or do you favor another concept?

The Department of Justice is requiring the county to renovate the downtown jail to meet ADA requirements. The county has until March 2018 to present a plan to do so or an alternative. At this juncture, the county board has not been given costs to fulfill the ADA renovation along with doing the major maintenance on the exterior and interior of the building versus costs to expand the satellite jail, including increased medical and behavioral-health facilities, spaces for education programs, touch visitations versus just closing the downtown jail and outsourcing the prisoners to other jails versus are there any unexplored approaches to further reduce the jail population? Option 3 has a projected cost of $1 million annually. These costs will be presented to the county-facility committee by Dana Brenner, county-facility director, and a recommendation will be passed to the county board by this committee. Similar financial data needs to be provided related to any relocation of the sheriff's office.

6. What are the recommendations from the recent Racial Justice Task Force report that you would like to see implemented quickly?

Racial justice is a three-legged stool. There has been a great deal of attention paid to the recommendations related to judicial equity, obviously important and one of the legs. The other two are meeting housing needs and availability of various forms of educational opportunities. One of the barriers to meet housing needs is a rule the Housing Authority of Champaign County has put in place related to citizens with a felony. This is not a federal-level rule, so that board is beginning to reassess this rule. The last leg of the stool is education, aka apprenticeships, vocational training, on-the-job training. For example, if there was space in the county jail, a program to train people to become certified food handlers could be put in place. This is a short course providing an individual job credentials. These two legs need equal attention and efforts.

A recent News-Gazette article detailed the statistics of the Sangamon County jail. Based on the article, it appears that Sangamon County has a jail population over two-fold that of Champaign County, including those incarcerated for mental-health issues.

7. Do you think it is imperative that the county operate a nursing home, even if it loses money and threatens the county general fund?

I shepherded the November 2016 ballot referendum asking the voters to increase the county-facility sales tax by a quarter-cent. Had this passed, today, there would be an additional $5.2 million in the general fund beginning Dec. 1, 2016. Annually, that quarter-cent tax increase would have generated $4.5 million. Of this amount, about 40 percent is generated by individuals who do not live in the county but spend money here. Decisions about the use of these monies are made by the county board, giving the board opportunities to help the nursing home. I know this situation inside and out since I have been working on it for over four years, during which time I have attended the nursing home board of directors meetings each month, visited with residents, families and staff, and eaten meals there.

8. Do you think that closing the nursing home would benefit the rest of county government, including possibly funding new criminal-justice initiatives?

The financial information presented five separate times to the county board by the recently retired county treasurer and county auditor, now the treasurer, clearly laying out the past financial history of the Champaign County Nursing Home since 1998 to the present day leads any decision-maker to weight those costs against the general fund versus how those same monies could be redirected to many of the programs brought to the county board's attention regularly by fellow board members and county citizens. It would be most useful for citizens to use this financial information to show what and how the programs thought to be important can come to fruition. Briefly since 1998, the Champaign County Nursing Home, an enterprise fund — meaning that the home must cover all costs associated with it — has depleted the depreciation budget, depleted the major maintenance budget and has a very small amount for a "rainy day." Today, neither of those funds have been rebuilt and the nursing home debt continues to increase.

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Charles Young, West Kirby Avenue

1. What do you believe is your primary responsibility as a county board member?

My responsibility as a county board member will be to have a government-run board that represents the people in the county "equally" in the areas that the board oversees, as well as seeking out a more diverse board membership by gender, color, ideology and political affiliation that mirror our diverse county to the fullest.

2. Why do you believe you would be a better county board member than your opponent?

I have many years of experience educating and representing a variety of different people, students, parents and employment organizations in the Champaign-Urbana area, all while promoting political initiatives and education as lifelong learning, my research publications, along with my strong commitment to diversity throughout the community, unlike my opponents.

3. What are your thoughts about the upcoming election of the first county executive and how the county board will work with that person?

I don't know how excited I am about it since it's a new, elected position, so we will see as it unfolds. However, I'm looking forward to working with the person, whoever is in charge, as long as he/she is very professional, nonpartisan and non-micro-manageable in this executive position, while still meeting the expectations of the people in the county who elected us all.

4. Are there services that you believe the county needs to expand or reduce or eliminate?

I will have to get in there first to see what works and what doesn't work, then go from there to determine should the board expand, reduce or eliminate certain services. As of what I know of so far, the services seem to be enough without any major changes.

5. Do you think the county should close the downtown jail and add on to the satellite jail in east Urbana, or do you favor another concept?

This depends on the size of the inmate population, along with the wear and tear of the facility. If it's overcrowded and the facility is in bad physical shape and condition, then yes, close it down and move to the satellite area, but at the same time, you don't want the same situation to occur over at the satellite, either. So there needs to be more case studies or research studies to why so many people are getting locked up in the first place, along with studies on criminals' and/or inmates' mental conditions. So it just depends on some thorough investigations before any initiatives take place.

6. What are the recommendations from the recent Racial Justice Task Force report that you would like to see implemented quickly?

Racial justice is always a hot topic in this country, as well as in this county; that definitely needs to be addressed! The relationship-building with the police, courts, non-black people and/or of color, along with the general population, and definitely with people of color and the historical and contemporary issues that many people of color face with racial-justice issues. What I would like to see implemented is an interrogation and breakdown of these historical and current stereotype barriers between people of color and non-black people who are also in power find ways to switch roles in the power-structure set-ups, and in employment. Then create a space where better race relationships and diversity training take place by mandated laws, rules and policies within the parties involved.

7. Do you think it is imperative that the county operate a nursing home, even if it loses money and threatens the county general fund?

The nursing home can still be maintained if we look at the revenue that it is constantly bringing in from a long-term and steady perspective that makes up the loss of money, to eventually gaining it back through clients, interest and/or profits from the home.

8. Do you think that closing the nursing home would benefit the rest of county government, including possibly funding new criminal-justice initiatives?

No, you don't want to completely close down the nursing home because there are always people and families who are in need of it (or them) as a country and as a county, because this is what true democracy looks like in America and in Champaign County. However, similar to what all the nursing home went through politically and financially, then likewise, we can find other ways to fund new initiatives for the criminal-justice system that has no connections to the nursing home's financial well-being. New initiatives for the criminal system could include perhaps new referendums, partnering with other local businesses or, if extra money is being gained from interest or profits from other services, the board could pull from it without jeopardizing the other services' operating budget in order to make things work out it with all its services.

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CommonSenseless wrote on February 06, 2018 at 8:02 am

How long will the CU Libernazis allow Mike Ingram to continue his exercise of White Male Privilege?

mikeingram wrote on February 06, 2018 at 2:02 pm

This is perhaps the greatest comment I've ever seen on the NG's page. Cool with you if I use it in some campaign materials?

jojoChambana wrote on February 07, 2018 at 11:02 am

 Mike Ingram is a musical job killer. He routinely beat-boxes onstage with a loop station to emulate an ensemble of percussion and bass arrangements. This "one-man-show" effectively outsources other players from the performance. #selfish#trumpwithtalent #bossloopstation

wayward wrote on February 07, 2018 at 10:02 pm

Every time the Illini basketball team misses a shot, I yell, "Damn you, Mike Ingram!" #ItsAllMikesFault

rsp wrote on February 08, 2018 at 2:02 am

Mental-health intervention and advocacy would also be money well spent. Officers across the county and country are the primary force with which we deal with citizens in mental-health crisis.

I'm a little (a lot) frustrated by the persistent separation of people into catagories of those who commit crimes and those who have a mental illness, as if they can't possibly be the same people. That if they are mentally ill they should never be in the jail.

Or that people in jail would never have set-backs and be at risk and need treatment while there. One in six people can be diagnosed with a mental health disorder in their lifetime. Schizophrenia is diagnosed in early adulthood. Drug addiction and withdrawal are serious issues you can't deal with by waving a magic wand. Suicidal people don't always ask for help.

Do people with mental health issues deserve less care because people don't want to "own" the fact that changes need to be made to the jail? And what about the affects this has on staff?

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