Q&A with Shana Jo Harrison, Democrat, Savoy, 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 residents of Champaign County reaffirmed the nursing home as a public good when voters passed a referendum to continue public support. The nursing home helps the residents of the county with not only in-patient care, but also daily outpatient care. Health care concerns for the county should remain under local control instead of inviting a third party into the mix so residents can have input on what the county should be doing. The turnover rate at the nursing home is too high because wages have remained the same. I believe it is in the best interest of the county to support higher wages to reduce the turnover and improve care. The nursing home can be managed to succeed.
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?
The restorative justice programs have helped reduce the prison population of Champaign County. I believe it is imperative that the county implement restorative justice measures in the county to help put people on the right path. I also believe that it is critical to have facilities that serve our citizens properly. The current downtown jail is not suitable for female inmates. Female inmates need safe quarters within the prison population. Building a new facility would give more space for safe quarters for all people in our criminal justice system. The new facility should be directly used as a prison, and if the sheriff's office needs more space, then I believe there are existing locations that could be used like the old nursing home.
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 can see the potential monetary savings for the county by merging county offices. I can see the potential benefit of a non-partisan county board of elections to help reduce partisanship in elections.
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?
The changes in the county board make up allow for smaller districts, which allow county board members to know their district better and be a stronger advocate for their community. But by having fewer members, there are fewer opportunities for a diverse board.
5. Should Champaign County have its own building code and building inspection program?
Yes. It is critical for the county to ensure that buildings within its jurisdiction are quality built and safe for community members to use the facility. It is not enough to have codes because the codes must be enforced. I strongly support building codes and building inspection programs to exist in Champaign County.
6. What can the county do to prevent housing problems like the notorious Cherry Orchard complex outside of Rantoul?
One way to reduce housing problems like Cherry Orchard is to adopt building codes and inspection programs to ensure the safety of residents in a housing complex so they can enjoy safe proper amenities.
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?
The county needs to encourage investment in vocational training through high schools and community colleges. Vocational training proves a pathway to higher wage jobs for workers. Businesses would have access to highly trained workers to help promote advanced manufacturing in Champaign County. Champaign County should also support building programs to up date the infrastructure of the county and infuse green technology into the buildings in order to promote cleaner practices by the county.
8. What's your opinion of the county's current financial condition?
Champaign County has been making difficult decisions in order to keep the budget in the black and from slipping into the red. I support the financial controls that have been in place to keep the county fiscally responsible. As the budget begins to grow, I believe it is critical the county make investments for the future and support the workers that have been hit hardest by the rough fiscal times.
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.
I believe this issue needs to be studied more, but I firmly believe that a raise for county employees at the nursing home and head start needs to be a higher priority than raises for the sheriff, county clerk, and treasurer. During the financial hardships, the working employees of the county took the hardest hit in their pocketbooks. I believe it is in the county's best interest to support living wages.
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 the need for public transportation for rural residents so they may have access to commercial businesses, pharmacies, grocery stores, etc. C-U MTD has a proven track record of good management and responsibility for running an effective transportation system. As of right now, the program is supported by federal grants that are renewable annually.