Township officer choices

Township officer choices

Contested elections for township offices in Champaign and Urbana will be held on April 9.

The News-Gazette has long considered township government in Illinois to be an unnecessary anachronism.

These offices are holdovers from more than a century ago, when more people lived in the country than the city and transportation was limited. Times have changed since then but, demonstrating that once governmental units have been created they're impossible to get rid of, township governments live on in the form of trustees, assessors and supervisors.

There are 30 townships in Champaign County alone and hundreds more in the rest of Illinois' 102 counties.

The city councils in Champaign and Urbana long ago obliterated the boards of trustees in Cunningham (Urbana) and the City of Champaign townships.

But on Tuesday, contested elections will be held for the office of assessor in Cunningham Township and supervisor and assessor in the City of Champaign Township.

Most people have no idea what these offices do. That's because township government is so retrograde it's essentially invisible and, unless they have a specific reason for doing so, most people pay no attention to it.

Nonetheless, township offices are filled by election so it would be wise for voters to pay some attention.

City of Champaign Township

The race for supervisor in the City of Champaign Township features the incumbent supervisor Pam Borowski and city of Champaign firefighter Andy Quarnstrom.

Borowski is seeking her second term in office, and The News-Gazette endorses her re-election.

The supervisor's chief duty is to oversee a general assistance/transitional assistance welfare program for the indigent. Strict legal guidelines determine eligibility issues, and the relatively small amount of assistance provided generally lasts for a short amount of time. Perhaps the most important work the office does is to guide those in need to programs run by other agencies.

When Borowski was first elected, the supervisor's office was in poor financial shape. Now there's a surplus. Aside from that, there's not much to say about this office, and there have been remarkably few complaints about how Borowski has run it.

That's not to say her challenger would not do a good job if he's elected. Our main reason for not endorsing Quarnstrom is not just that Borowski has done a good job, but also that Quarnstrom already has a full-time job and is seeking a second one.

Quarnstrom insists that his firefighter duties will be a positive if he's elected supervisor because they bring him in touch with many people in the community.

But in our view, one full-time job is enough. Not even a hard-working firefighter can perform two full-time jobs. We appreciate Quarnstrom's pluck, but suggest that he either leave the fire department if he wants to serve in a full-time public office or postpone electoral gambits like this until after he retires as a firefighter.

As for the position of assessor in the City of Champaign Township, there's not much discussion needed here. Longtime incumbent Brian Christie is seeking re-election, and he's being challenged by Wayne Williams. Christie is endorsed. He's done a solid job in his role of assessing property values for property tax purposes, and there's no reason to make a change.

Williams has served on the Champaign County Board of Review, which hears appeals of property taxes. But compared to Christie, he's a relative neophyte who does not offer a credible alternative.

Cunningham Township

In Cunningham Township, only the assessor's race is contested.

Democrat Dan Stebbins is running for re-election, and he's being challenged by onetime Democrat and current independent Laura Sandefur.

This race has made news but only because of the controversy surrounding ballot access.

Sandefur originally planned to run as a Democrat against Stebbins in the February primary election, but she botched her candidate petitions to the point that she withdrew as a Democrat.

Sandefur then refiled to run as an independent in Tuesday's general election.

Stebbins challenged her candidate petitions and sought to have her name removed from the ballot. After a long court fight, the appellate court ruled in Sandefur's favor and the race was back on.

The News-Gazette endorses Stebbins for re-election on the strength of his first-term performance. We have no doubt that Sandefur, a member of the county's board of review, could do the job. But there is no reason related to job performance to replace Stebbins.

Voters, however, might want to take into consideration Stebbins' effort to manipulate the ballot access question so that he could run unopposed.

It's hardly unprecedented by candidates for pubic office to try to exploit minor errors — and sometimes no errors at all — to force a rival off the ballot. But voters should take a dim view of this selfish effort to deny the public a choice about who serves in elective office. It would be perfectly understandable if voters punish Stebbins for trying to game the system.

Sections (2):Editorials, Opinion
Categories (2):Editorials, Opinions

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ericbussell wrote on April 06, 2013 at 11:04 am

This article suggests there is not much to say about this office, yet the history of turnaround of the City of Champaign Township Supervisor's office under Pam Borowski is nothing short of sensational.  She did it without a tax increase, even while settling a lawsuit that carried over from her predecessor.   After reading up on the history of this office, I feel the need to thank Pam Borowski for her amazing service.  

5-1-2007: City of Champaign Township Supervisor's office was in trouble and it seemed that only a tax increase could save it....

10-21-2008: The township had drawn down its financial reserves in recent years, with the trend accelerating after Abernathy took office in 2005 promising to be an advocate for the poor.  After having her salary frozen, the board was accused of being partisan and racist.

10-21-2008: "The people of Champaign don't want to pay additional taxes. That's why we need to find other ways to fund the general assistance program." - Pam Borowski

11-5-2008: Voters reject a tax increase and this article shows how benefits were slashed to recipients under Pam's predecessor.

Today: The office is enjoying a surplus even though the tax hike was rejected.  More importantly, benefits to the most needy have drastically increased and are now provided to every eligible recipient at the maximum level allowed by law.