The two candidates vying for Kane County Board chairman met Thursday in a forum where they laid out their cases to local business leaders to vote for them on Nov. 6.
Former St. Charles Mayor Sue Klinkhamer and state Sen. Chris Lauzen skipped the partisan rancor that seems all to common in politics today, focusing on responding to the questions presented at the forum, reserving their criticism primarily for the existing Kane County Board leadership.
The forum was in a question and answer format.
Q: What are three things that you would specifically do to help businesses to make a better business environment in Kane County?
Lauzen: “I’ll use the financial management and personal lessons that small business owners have taught me my entire life … things like, ‘You can’t spend more money than you have;’ ‘Protect your reputation for integrity,’ and ‘Employ the best people and practices you can find.”
He said his three priorities are:
To freeze the property tax levy. “We’re being taxed out of our homes. … The less taxpayers have to pay government, the more discretionary income they have to pay you (businesses).”
He said the Kane County portion of the property tax levy has increased 50 percent in the past seven years.
Kane County Board Chairwoman Karen McConnaughay on Friday countered a budget proposal by the board’s Finance Committee chairman that would raise the property tax levy in spite of declining real estate values. McConnaughay’s budget proposal would freeze the levy for the second consecutive year.
To eliminate even the perception of pay-to-play cronyism in county government.
Lauzen said the $1.5 million in political contributions have been raised over the past seven years by McConnaughay, which he said is too much money. Lauzen said two-thirds of that came from contractors, employers and others seeking favor with the county, and said he would put an end to that with a self-imposed campaign contribution limit and by tightening the county’s ethics ordinances.
To ensure honest, competent administration of county business through innovation and austerity, seeking best practices for county operations to rein in spending. He noted DuPage County’s board chairman has reined in spending by $15 million in the past two years. Lauzen said he would turn Kane County to the use of zero-based budgeting, prioritize county government functions the state requires, and then rank other county serves after that in terms of spending priorities.
Klinkhamer: “No. 1, I would work with municipalities and villages instead of against them. Most big businesses are located within … the limits of a municipality.”
She said she would work to ensure all rules and regulations are applied fairly across the board.
“No. 2, I would encourage public transportation to get people to their jobs.”
She pointed to Randall Road as a perfect example of a corridor with commercial development, two major hospitals and residential areas that would benefit from a comprehensive bus transportation plan.
Third, is education, she said. Klinkhamer noted that the state and county have cut back on work force development programs in recent years, but she praised the initiatives undertaken by both Elgin and Waubonsee community colleges. The wants to see the county work with the colleges to improve the quality of the work force here.
Q: What opportunities do you see for intergovernmental cooperation or consolidation in Kane County either to improve services or decrease costs?
Klinkhamer: “We all have to work together just to survive.” She noted, as Lauzen did early, DuPage County’s effort to rein in spending and to consolidate all its taxing bodies. “But nobody wants their job eliminated or their salary and benefits cut. But people have to start thinking about taking a politically courageous stand instead of worrying about their next re-election.”
She pointed out that the Kane County Board, when given the opportunity to reduce its size, did so by only two members — going from 26 to 24. The state statute, she said, requires only 18 members. That would have saved the county $125,000 a year. She also advocates cutting the county board chairman’s salary by 25 percent, and using the combined savings to hire a county administrator to better ensure efficient, effective county government.
Lauzen: “Relationships build within the county, with legislative leaders in Springfield … as well as relationships in Washington, D.C. … will all be important to Kane County.”
Those are relationships he has developed during his political career, and they are relationships he would bring to the table on behalf of Kane County.
He also said he would meet twice a year with local municipal leaders to learn their concerns.
Lauzen also suggested Kane County could work toward consolidation of some services, such as duplicate water service between Otter Creek Water Reclamation District and the village of South Elgin. Still, he said consolidations can be complication, and he prefers the carpenter’s rule — “measure twice before you cut once” — to ensure whatever action is taken is done well.
He also discussed consolidations in densely populated township road districts, where there are few miles and large salaries. “The county and these towns could get the job done with half the levy,” he said.
Lauzen also said Kane County should continue to explore opportunities to work with other government, as it did with DuPage County to save money on a juvenile jail.
About the Candidates
Thursday’s Legislative Luncheon at Hilton Garden Inn, 4070 E. Main St., was sponsored by the St. Charles, Geneva and Batavia chambers of commerce.
Klinkhamer, a St. Charles resident since 1975, served as 1st Ward alderman from 1989 until 1997, when she was elected mayor, a position she held until 2005. She served from 2006-08 as deputy director of of Chicago’s Washington, D.C., office of Intergovernmental Affairs, then became district director for U.S. Rep. Bill Foster.
A native of the Fox Valley, Lauzen has served in the state Senate for 19 years, serving on the pensions, revenue and appropriations committees. The Illinois Chamber of Commerce has recognized Lauzen with the Champion of Free Enterprise Award and the NFIB Guardian of Small Business Award.