Q&A with Ralph Langenheim, Democrat, Champaign, candidate for District 9, Champaign County Board
1. Why should the county government continue to support a nursing home that needs financial assistance from taxpayers and the county government and serves, at most, about 200 citizens at a time. All of this during a time when the future of health care is so uncertain?
The Champaign County Nursing Home is the only one who takes Medicaid patients in any number. It serves the people of the county and making a profit is not its primary purpose. The Nursing Home sets the standard of quality for all area nursing homes and should be supported.
2. Should the county do anything toward planning for the construction of a new county jail, or an addition to the existing satellite? Or should the county government wait until it institutes a reentry program and any other criminal justice initiatives aimed at reducing the jail population?
There is no present intention to construct a new jail. The last time the jail was condemned by the state the county board had little idea of what was involved and, as a result, the present downtown jail was constructed without taking into account the best practices in jail construction. We want to avoid repeating these mistakes.
We want to be prepared when and if the present facility requires modification. However, we already face a new set of problems — gangs, the state's closing mental facilities, and of course the steady increase in population. In regard to reentry programs, and other initiatives aimed at reducing the jail population, the present Champaign County justice system — sheriff's office, courts and state's attorney — are ahead of the curve.
3. Would you support merging any county offices, in particular the county recorder and the county clerk? How about any other combinations? Are there offices or programs you'd like to eliminate?
I have yet to hear arguments either for or against merging the recorder and county clerk offices and I have no suggestions for other mergers. That is not to say that possible mergers might indeed save the county money. If and when these proposals are made I will consider them and come to a conclusion.
4. What is your opinion of the recent change to the county board, reducing the number of board members from 27 to 22 and increasing the number of districts from 9 to 11?
I don't think it made a significant difference.
5. Should Champaign County have its own building code and building inspection program?
Yes! Presently Champaign and Urbana residents are protected from shoddy construction practices and contractor's malpractice by building codes. However, the rest of the county is not so protected. This is a real deficiency. We need to protect people living outside the municipalities.
6. What can the county do to prevent housing problems like the notorious Cherry Orchard complex outside of Rantoul?
At present, without its own building code and building inspection programs, we can do very little. This is a prime example of why we need countywide building codes and inspection programs.
7. What can the county do to encourage economic development? Are there particular businesses you would like to attract, any incentives you think should be offered?
Continue with its present program of incentives.
8. What's your opinion of the county's current financial condition?
So far, we have successfully walked a fiscal tightrope — precarious but stable.
9. Do you believe the county government should offer 2 percent pay raises for the next four years to the sheriff, county clerk and county treasurer? Generally, according to the county administrator, they are paid less than officers in similar counties.
If we wish to have efficient and effective public employees they need to be reimbursed at the going rate. According to the county administrator they are not compensated at the going rate at this time.
10. What's your opinion of the plan to contract with the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District to take over operations of the Champaign County Rural Transit Services later this year? Is this a program you support? Would you ever want to commit county resources to it?
I support this program. Before I would commit county resources to the program I would need to hear arguments for and against doing so.