Editorial | For the Democrats: Pattsi Petrie

Editorial | For the Democrats: Pattsi Petrie

There's a three-way fight for the Democratic Party's nomination in Champaign County Board District 6.

The district in Champaign includes a large area of the northern and western parts of Champaign bounded by Bloomington Road on the north, Kirby Avenue on the south, Duncan Road on the west and Neil Street on the east.

In the March 20 primary, it represents ground zero for a campaign of retribution that local Democrats, led by county board member Josh Hartke, are waging against veteran incumbent Pattsi Petrie.

She faces two challengers — Mike Ingram and Charles Young.

Petrie is, by far, the superior candidate. A retired University of Illinois professor, she is an independent thinker determined to act in the broad public interest rather than a narrow partisan interest.

It's Petrie's independence that has caused intra-party critics to target her for defeat.

Petrie's greatest sin in the eyes of rival Democrats was her election to the post of board chairwoman on the strength of both Republican and Democratic votes, a move that caused the defeat of the choice of a majority of the Democratic caucus.

Her defeated foe was Hartke, making his effort to oust Petrie both business and personal.

Petrie does her homework and, as a consequence, is an ideal board member. She pays attention to detail, has an open mind and is devoted to the job.

There is one issue that should tell voters all they need to know about the three candidates in this contest — the Champaign County Nursing Home.

It's obvious to anyone paying attention that the county board has gone above and beyond the call of duty in seeking to maintain the nursing home as a viable entity. But, regrettably, it's become a fiscal black hole.

Since maintaining a public nursing home is a purely optional service, financial reality requires making a change — it must be sold to keep more taxpayer dollars from being flushed down the drain.

Petrie realizes that, barring an unexpected and unlikely turn of events at this facility, it's incumbent on the county to sell the nursing home to a private-sector operator. If not, maintaining this facility will force cuts in the services state law requires counties to provide.

Neither of Petrie's two opponents seem to recognize that reality.

Young wrote in his candidate questionnaire that "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."

Young also said "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."

Ingram replied in his candidate survey that he believes "the nursing home is a valuable part of our county and (I) plan to do everything I can to keep it public." He also expressed hope that the failing nursing home will experience a turnaround and said "a lot can happen before any new board members are even seated."

"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," Ingram wrote.

The subject of the nursing home's future is clearly an unpleasant issue, but the decision should not be "hard fought" because it's strictly dollars and sense. The home's financial losses threaten the county's already-beleaguered budget, and that cannot be tolerated any longer.

Absent a dramatic change, the financial facts demonstrate the county only has one viable alternative — the same one that officials in other counties embraced as they coped with their own failing public nursing homes.

The fact that Ingram and Young have such difficulty reaching that conclusion is a severe indictment of their judgment when it comes to the financial facts of life. Further, it's a disappointing manifestation of their indifference to the need to safeguard taxpayer dollars.

How much money are they prepared to squander to delay the inevitable?

In our view, Ingram and Young have disqualified themselves from any position of trust that involves public money.

For that reason and others, Petrie is endorsed for the Democratic nomination for a county board seat her party will almost assuredly win in November.

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Pointblank wrote on March 01, 2018 at 7:03 am
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Pattsi Petrie is a jail builder, and privatizing the nursing home to a for-profit entity places the current nursing home staff and residents at risk. Quality of care should be the priority. Not dollars and cents. Why is this county so eager to jail its citizens at the expense of quality of life in our senior years?

johnny wrote on March 02, 2018 at 3:03 am

Sigh.  Petrie is the superior candidate but has almost no chance this year.  Not in that district.