General Election Campaign News
Report praising Rickert, Treasurer's Office draws political ire
Pierog: 'A political puff job using taxpayer money'
Kane County Chronicle by BRENDA SCHORYE 10/18/20 15:40 am
A press release and report praising Kane County Treasurer David Rickert’s property tax collection during the COVID-19 pandemic is either an honest assessment of a job well done or a straight-up political ad to promote Rickert, for county board chairman in the Nov. 3 election, over his Democratic opponent, Corinne Pierog.
Rickert and Kane County Auditor Terry Hunt both say the report is an honest assessment while Pierog called it a "shallow stunt" and a "political puff job."
The Oct. 14 report was created by Hunt and two deputy auditors who work for him. Hunt also sent the news release.
The review of how Rickert handles his office states that it “is for information purposes only. However, the analysis and comparisons included in the report would lead the reader to the conclusion that for fiscal year 2020, despite the challenges of operating the office during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kane County Treasurer has continued to operate the office effectively and with greater efficiency than that of the similar neighboring counties.”
Pierog blasted the report and news release as “a political puff job using taxpayer money less than three weeks before an election.”
“I am much more concerned with Mr. Rickert’s role in holding up $93 million in COVID relief than I am with manufactured praise for him performing basic functions of his job,” Pierog stated in an email.
Pierog was referring to Rickert being part of a short-lived task force appointed by Board Chairman Chris Lauzen to handle the federal COVID money. County Board members dissolved the task force in June and took over the responsibility of disbursing the federal funds to speed up the process.
“At a time when pre-foreclosures are up by 71%, evictions are looming, and people are suffering, it’s sad to see Mr. Rickert participate in this shallow stunt,” Pierog’s email stated.
In a text, Rickert said, “I am pleased the treasurer’s office scored well.”
“I’m sure Ms. Pierog would criticize anything I do. I’m not sure doing a good job running my current office is a stunt. The fact is the treasurer’s office is well-run, despite her obvious political attacks,” Rickert’s text stated.
“If she thought about it, a better argument would be that he’s doing such a good job as treasurer, we should leave him there,” according to Rickert’s text.
Rickert, who has served as county treasurer for 20 years, was elected for a sixth term in 2018. If he loses to Pierog, he would remain treasurer, as that position is not up until 2022.
For his part, Hunt stated in an email that the release of the report so close to the Nov. 3 election was “coincidental and was really in response to the most recent Public Service committee reports and questions.”
The treasurer’s report to the Public Service Committee is a regular agenda item, Hunt's email stated.
“The efficiency review report was prompted by concerns over the impact of the pandemic, so in that regard, it is the first year of the expanded report. Tax collections and the election cycle are established independently although they both occur within a relatively short period of time on the calendar,” Hunt’s email stated.
“The question related to the property tax collected this year, as compared to more normal times, has been raised in several committee meetings, and was most recently reported at last month’s Public Service committee meeting,” Hunt’s email stated. “While the results (of the report) should be considered positive, it is important to explain that the results were generated in an objective manner supported by public documents.”
According to the news release, property taxes are the single biggest source of revenue for the county and collection of them is critical, “not only to Kane County itself but also to over 700 other taxing districts in Kane County – including municipalities, school districts, library districts.”
The release states that now that the second installment of the 2019 payable in 2020 property taxes has come due, the year-to-date collections “are actually slightly ahead of the previous year, both in terms of gross revenues and percentage of taxes collected.”
Both the release and the report notes that Rickert’s budget is the smallest per capita among the five collar counties – and the most efficient.
“Treasurer Rickert has accomplished this with the smallest budget of the five collar counties – DuPage, Lake, Will, Kane and McHenry,” the release stated.
“The Kane County Treasurer’s budget is also the smallest per capita among those counties, and office efficiencies implemented under Treasurer Rickert have allowed Kane County to be the most efficient in terms of parcels processed per employee,” the release stated.
The full report is available online at kanecountyauditor.com.
Letter to the Editor: Pierog's compassion needed in Kane County
Daily Harold 10/12/20
My vote for Kane County Board chair goes to Corinne Pierog who has been endorsed by the people who work for Kane County. She is also honored to have the endorsements from several organized labor unions who represent most of the county employees: AFSCME Council 31; Teamsters Local 30; and Operating Engineers Local 150, among others. And she has my endorsement because she clearly shows compassion and support for the average everyday citizen.
Unlike her opponent, who is aligned with the current administration, Corinne will work to improve and stream line county services by limiting spending on all unnecessary and wasteful expenditures. She will also save taxpayers money by fostering a much-needed improvement in the work environment - which studies have proven to heighten workers' morale and increase productivity. This is efficiency.
I think Kane County voters should know that a meager 1 percent raise for Kane County employees was refused by the current administration, yet they tried to hire a legal service in an act that had dubious legal standing and created a conflict with their own state's attorney office.
Kane County's employees have demonstrated that throughout our county's public health crisis, these workers have fought for our county's safety in every office, whether it is dealing with public health issues, law enforcement, or in the Public Defender's office.
Corinne listens to the needs of others and responds effectively. Not only is she a successful business consultant for nonprofits, she significantly reduced taxes for her constituents while serving on the St. Charles school board.
Because of her compassion and her willingness to serve others' needs, a vote for Corinne Pierog is a vote that will benefit not only county employees, but every man, woman and child in Kane County.
At recent joint appearances, I discussed the economic advantages of allowing for cannabis dispensaries and production centers in unincorporated Kane County. Not only will this support small business development, but it will also add important revenue to Kane County’s stretched budget. My opponent dismisses the entire cannabis industry as a “vice,” without considering the medicinal and economic benefits of an already legal product.
Dave Rickert's outdated thinking costs Kane County taxpayer's access to revenue and social services. As your Chair, I will embrace change and trust our residents to make responsible decisions with their health and well-being.
Kane County Board candidates differ on recreational marijuana sales
Kevin Schmit and Rick West Daily Herald 10/5/2020 5:30 AM
With a budget shortfall projected at about $14 million due largely to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kane County Board could create additional tax revenue by allowing recreational marijuana sales in unincorporated areas.
Here's where the candidates in the Nov. 3 election stand on the issue:
Democrat Mavis Bates of Aurora is for allowing marijuana sales, especially if the move staves off other taxes. "We can't overburden our homeowners any more than we already are."
Republican Tracy Miller of Aurora said that even though it may be a lost opportunity at revenue, she's against allowing recreational marijuana sales. "There are so many harmful effects that marijuana has on our youth, I don't think it's a positive message, quite frankly."
Republican David Brown of Batavia said he was "absolutely against it. The little bit of revenue that I think we could create out of the expansion of this, I'm not quite sure is worth what the repercussion could be."
Democrat Mary Kay Crantz of North Aurora thinks Kane County needs all the revenue it can generate. Because people already are buying marijuana, she believes Kane County should be the beneficiary of sales in unincorporated areas.
Democrat Ruth Kuzmanic of St. Charles is for allowing dispensaries, saying recreational marijuana is legal and can help with budget shortfalls.
Republican Kenneth Shepro of St. Charles, however, said, "it's not a panacea," adding that members of both parties acknowledge "there are too many unknowns."
Republican incumbent Mark Davoust of St. Charles is against marijuana sales in unincorporated Kane County based on the difficulty the sheriff's department would endure trying to sufficiently patrol such a large area.
Because marijuana dispensaries already are legal elsewhere, William Bachman, a Democrat from St. Charles, believes Kane County should benefit from tax revenue that can be generated in unincorporated areas.
Republican incumbent Michael Kenyon of South Elgin said he's ready to go along with making marijuana sales available, "but I take a dim view of trying to go on the backs of people's habits."
Megan Larson, a Democrat from South Elgin, is in favor of marijuana sales in unincorporated Kane County with regulation and proper procedures in place.
Drew Frasz, the Republican incumbent from Elburn, is against marijuana sales in unincorporated Kane County. He wants keep dispensaries in less rural corridors to make them easier for authorities to patrol.
Democrat Sandy Kaczmarski of Elburn is for it. "I think the citizens in this county are responsible enough," she said, adding "we can regulate it and make it as safe as possible."
Lucio Estrada, a Republican from Elgin, doesn't believe marijuana sales would provide much tax revenue because the bulk of unincorporated Kane County consists of farm land and private property. But he'd listen to colleagues before committing to a position.
Democrat Cherryl Fritz Strathmann, also from Elgin, approves of medical applications and believes recreational marijuana sales with restrictions would provide needed revenue.
Incumbent Douglas Scheflow, a Republican from Elgin, said he has been consistent in his opposition to allowing marijuana sales, and his opinion hasn't changed when it comes to unincorporated Kane County.
Democrat Verner Tepe of Elgin is pleased with the legal status marijuana has achieved, but he's not convinced tax revenue would amount to much in unincorporated Kane County and would prefer to focus on better revenue generators.
Democratic incumbent Jarett Sanchez of Carpentersville sees racism in the arrests and imprisonment of minorities for marijuana crimes. He supports marijuana sales in unincorporated Kane County.
Roberta Andresen, a Republican, did not support marijuana dispensaries in her hometown of Carpentersville and she's not in favor of sales in unincorporated Kane County based on guidance she's received from law enforcement officials.
Corinne Pierog, Democratic candidate for Kane County Board Chairman
Daily Herald Updated 9/29/2020 9:46 AM
With two-term Kane County Board Chair Christopher Lauzen choosing not to seek another term this year, voters will choose Nov. 3 between a former school board leader and the county's longtime treasurer to replace him. Corinne Pierog, a Democrat from Batavia who previously served on the St. Charles Unit District 303 school board, is facing David Rickert, a Republican from Elgin who in 2018 was elected to his sixth term as treasurer.
Q: The new chairman will take over during a time of unprecedented budget challenges. What is your plan to balance the budget? What will your spending priorities be?
A: The political philosophy of the current Kane County leadership is to approach the budgeting process through the lens of austerity. With a property tax freeze, much of our services are leaner than our adjacent counties. After nearly a decade of reducing the size of the government, the budget is beginning to show cracks. Increases in inflation, compounded by the increase in the costs of payroll adjustments, insurance, retirement, and commodities, have outgrown the non-property tax revenues, which once supported it. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we now face the potential of a $14.6 million budget gap. To balance the budget, we need to review spending of the county's mandated services, many directed by the state of Illinois. We cannot spend money that we do not have. Truly this is not a time to raise taxes. I will make it a priority to fund the essential services being overlooked by the current administration. I will support our hardworking employees with the tools they need to do their jobs. As I review the budget, I see our people and their needs, not just numbers. That is the core value I will use in developing a sustainable fiscal path forward.
Q: What role do you believe the chairman has in the day-to-day operations of the county?
A: Kane County is rapidly changing, and it is incumbent that the chairman sets an agenda that collaboratively considers our diverse needs blended with strong fiscal oversight. With an elected board of 24, and it is up to the chairman to provide and assist the members to define the fundamental short and long-term needs of the county and the methods to fund them. The role of the chairman is defined by Statue 55 of Illinois' Counties Code. Requirements include ensuring that the will of the board is faithfully executed; the administrative and management functions of the county government are coordinated; an annual report and importantly a yearly budget is presented to the board for approval. The chairman must act as a facilitator and coordinator working with the other elected county officials and department heads. The chairman is also the county's champion-in-chief, including as an advocate in Springfield and in Washington, work effectively with the local mayors and village presidents. We do not stand alone, rather we form a partnership working together to develop sustainable long-term solutions for all of our residents. To address these goals, I plan to consider the hiring of a county manager.
Q: What actions must the county take to continue to address COVID-19?
A: Our economy began to wilt. The unemployment rate reached 16.80% in April of 2020; in July the rate receded to 10.30%. These crushing unemployment trends have been felt primarily by women and Black men. Food disparity is increasing, social isolation includes depression and anxiety. These all need to be addressed. The leadership in Kane County has been woefully incompetent in handling this crisis. In April, the county received almost $93 million from the U.S. CARES Act. The Chair installed a hand-picked partisan committee. This task force was sanctioned by the State's Attorney for its violation of the Open Meetings Act and it then was dissolved by the board on July 2. The new CARE's Act Committee has just released its spending allocations and grant applications. In these last six months, the residents of Kane County have had to move forward without the support of the county. My first priority will be to review the board's progress and make sure the current funds are all allocated and that we are in recovery.
Q: The county board recently approved a resolution calling on all local police departments to pursue reform efforts. Does the county need to act to reform the policing practices and jail operations of the sheriff's department? If so, what role should the chairman play in those efforts?
A: The Illinois Black Caucus addressed what has been identified as a system of systemic racism in Illinois, "What happens on the South Side and West Side of Chicago have once again shone a light on the intense, systematic discrimination of Black residents face every day." The chairman and board need to take the lead to bring together the parties who could affect Kane County's efforts toward criminal justice reform, offices of the State's Attorney and Sheriff. The chairman can gauge the decisions of the board to ensure that progress toward equity and social reform are on track. This course of action will also require the chairman to reach beyond the county to identify best practices, made in other Illinois counties, as well as, other states. Importantly, the chairman must understand that criminal justice reform is a human issue, which impacts people who are in a very stressful situation -- the officer, the victim, and the alleged perpetrator. We also need to continue working with community partners, like Amita Medical Center in Aurora, to establish crisis stabilization units throughout Kane County, along with the future expansion of supportive long-term transitional housing, and job training.
Q: The county board will undergo redistricting following the 2020 Census. What is the most fair process? Do you support the current number of seats on the board?
A: Recently, the board voted down a motion for an advisory referendum to decrease the size of the board from 24 to 18 to save money on salaries and due to COVID-19 pandemic, to allow for additional seating space between members. In 2010 our population was 515,269. Chair McConnaughay, in March, 2011, stated, "it will be my recommendation to ... that the size of the County Board be reduced from 26 to either 24 or 22 members. The Illinois Counties Code provides that counties of between 800,000 and 3,000,000 persons may have no more than 18 members. It appears to be a sound policy to begin downsizing the board to eventually reach the 18-member maximum." The 2040 Plan projects population to be over 800,000. In 2017, the county's Illinois Mandated Services Study recommended to decrease to 14, based on population per member, and with the goal to save money. A reduction from 24 to 14 would be a true logistical challenge. A more conservative reduction would be 20 or 22. This can follow the same process as in 2011. This is the approach that I wish to advocate for. I would also review the process of redistricting that was conducted in 2011 and determine if that is the fairest method.
Kane County chairman candidates contrast on budget cuts, taxes, leadership
Daily Herald by JAMES FULLER Updated 9/24/2020 11:31 PM
Both candidates seeking to become the first new Kane County Board chairman in eight years pledged to oppose any property tax increases as a means of balancing an unprecedented budget hole looming in 2021.
But there is a stark contrast on where they'd cut government and look for new money.
The county faces a deficit of more than $14 million for 2021, including about $10 million that stems from the COVID-19 pandemic. The county has received federal funds to help address some of that, but it faced a more than $4 million hole before the virus outbreak.
Republican David Rickert said during a recent Daily Herald Editorial Board interview that the county can save money by taking advantage of its relatively low debt and solid pension funding to dedicate a bit less money to those costs during the pandemic. He also said county employees and elected officials need better training to avoid the multimillion-dollar lawsuit payments it has experienced in recent years, which has also raised liability insurance costs.
"Taxpayers demand and want efficient and responsible government when it comes to property taxes," Rickert said.
He expressed skepticism that his Democratic opponent, Corinne Pierog, wouldn't raise property taxes. He pointed to Pierog's criticism of the county's austere budget practices.
But Pierog said her record of helping lower St. Charles Unit District 303's tax rate during her eight years on that board, and during a major recession, shows her commitment to frugality. District 303 had one of the lowest taxing rates among area districts.
Pierog said she'd lead by example, starting with cutting the salary of the chairman by 20%, and push for hiring a county manager to take the politics out of where additional budget cuts should occur.
Many of the county's largest expenses are in the sheriff's office and offices controlled by other independent elected officials.
"This would be a structural modification of Kane County's government to improve efficiency and promote independence by consolidating administrative functions into a single office responsible to the county board," Pierog said.
Rickert said if voters elect him, they wouldn't need to spend up to $175,000 to hire a manager. He believes his experience as the longtime county treasurer gives him the administrative experience and budget know-how to function as the leader of the county board and an overseer of the board's budget decisions.
Pierog said the county should lift its ban on recreational marijuana businesses and grow operations in unincorporated areas. She believes the county should max out the allowable county sales tax on all cannabis sales in the county. She would also welcome sports betting.
Rickert said the county doesn't need those activities to balance its budget. He pointed to concerns by Sheriff Ron Hain about being able to adequately police such establishments with the limited patrolling the county does.
Pierog said the limited patrols are an example of how the county has cut back too much, at the expense of public safety.
She also said the county health department needs better funding, an idea for which Rickert has also expressed his support.
• For more election coverage and help filling out your ballot, visit dailyherald.com/election.
Letters to the Editor: Pierog the county board chair Kane County needs
ELGIN COURIER-NEWS | SEP 25, 2020 AT 11:51 AM
Pierog sees Kane County as a whole, not a ‘budget’
As I watched the candidates for Kane County Board chair speak at a recent election forum, I felt like they were engaging in two different conversations.
Corinne Pierog was talking about unmet needs, policy ideas and making the budget serve the needs of the people. She talked about creating a better “end-to-end user experience” for Kane County residents and getting the politics out of budget decisions.
David Rickert talked about his knowledge of operations, long experience as county treasurer, his relationships with department heads and “willingness to listen and work with people.”
I got a sense that Ms. Pierog would leave no stone unturned in understanding the real issues and opportunities (climate change being one), that she would think independently, challenge the status quo and spark dialogue in open forums where people could make their best contributions.
Mr. Rickert sounded like a county treasurer. He would steer the budget to “what it can and can’t do for citizens.” Of course he cares about key issues like wetlands and “will make every effort to give opportunities” to diverse populations. But his focus, in my opinion, was on the numbers and the AA+ bond rating. Probably a good financial manager, not a policy leader.
I guess the question becomes: Who is better prepared to help achieve the best possible outcomes for Kane County? Clearly, one candidate will go out to the larger community and bring knowledge back to the board, support creative solutions, build bridges and help us get full value from each dollar. One candidate is passionate about listening, ideas and problem solving.
I’m excited about what we can achieve in Kane County with Corinne Pierog as board chair.
J. Smith, St. Charles
Kane State's Attorney, Board Chair candidates face off in Zoom forum
Forum hosted by ox River Valley Initiative
Kane County Chronicle By ERIC SCHELKOPF 9/25/20 5:51 am
The forum was hosted by the Fox River Valley Initiative, a nonpartisan group comprised of 18 religious and civic institutions organized across Kane County. All four candidates participated in the forum. Democrat Jamie Mosser of Campton Hills and Republican Bob Spence of Batavia are running for Kane County State's Attorney while Democrat Corinne Pierog of Batavia and Republican Dave Rickert of Elgin are running for Kane County Board chairman.
Pierog, who served two terms on the St. Charles Dist. 303 School Board, said she agreed with the need for more affordable housing in Kane County.
“The need for affordable, supportive housing in Kane County is dire,” she said. “It’s badly needed. We need it for our seniors, we need it for our children. We need it for our community.”
She also addressed the topic of defunding police departments as a way to achieve police reform. Pierog said she would support refunding the police, not defunding the police.
“Refund the police so there’s social services surrounding them, so that people who are in danger are allowed to have the proper kind of protocol, the proper kind of safety procedures so that they can go to a wellness center or a mental health center to get the necessary supports and necessarily put to jail,” she said.
Rickert was first elected Kane County treasurer in November 1998. He said has tried to provide better government transparency in his office.
"As county treasurer, I provided tax information online and worked with county auditor Terry Hunt to provide easy access to county finances," he said.
In talking about gun control, Rickert, who is a gun owner, said he supports the Second Amendment.
“I applaud efforts to work with gun manufacturers to improve product safety and to promote gun safety education to their customers,” Rickert said.
He also said the county needs to find creative ways to reduce its jail population and provide necessary social safety nets to reduce crime and place less of a burden on taxpayers.