Mary Kay Crantz: Candidate profile, Kane County Board District 10
Democrat Mary Kay Crantz and Republican David Brown are newcomers vying for a seat on the Kane County Board in District 10, which covers parts of Batavia and North Aurora.
The Daily Herald recently asked the candidates to answer a series of questions. Here are their replies.
Q. Why are you running for this office, whether for reelection or election for the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you? If so, what?
A. This is my first time running for any public office. Like many people, I've been increasingly frustrated by the negativity of political discourse in recent years; the lack of respect for marginalized groups; and the decline in availability of basic needs to many. After being approached to run, I discussed the possibility at length with my family. They were very supportive when I decided that I could continue to complain -- or work to make positive changes.
Q. If you are an incumbent, describe your main contributions. Tell us of any important initiatives you've led. If you are a challenger, what would you bring to the board and what would your priority be?
A. I believe public policy should reflect the needs and values of the people it serves. I commit to District 10 voters to learn what matters most to them to help make county policy reflect those needs and values. I will be in continued communication with voters. I want District 10 people to know what the County Board does, as I believe many people currently do not know. And I want people in District 10 to understand how we can help both individuals and businesses.
Q. Describe your position regarding the balance between county spending and revenues as it exists today, then describe the chief threats you see looming in the future and how the county should deal with them. In particular in the suburbs, Cook County President Preckwinkle has set a goal of eliminating unincorporated areas from county oversight. Do you agree with this approach? If so, how should the county go about it
A. Due to COVID-19, businesses in our community are struggling, which in turn means the tax revenue is struggling. We must get the CARES Act money given to us by the federal government out to businesses and people now. The lives and livelihoods of many people in District 10 are desperately dependent on that money, which has been inexcusably delayed. We need to also get money to our first responders, such as the sheriff's office, so people feel safe. As for President Preckwinkle's plan, I don't have a firm position, though I believe on the surface, it has some financial merit. In any case, within my district (10), there are little unincorporated areas, so the effect of such a plan would be minimal.
Q. How do you rate the county government on transparency and the public's access to records? If you consider it adequate, please explain why. If you think improvements are needed, please describe them and why they are important?
A. While I believe that Kane County government is generally transparent, there can certainly be improvements. In particular, consider the special committee set up by the Chairman without prior board notification -- which means definitely no notification to the public -- for disbursements of the CARES Act money. The board needs to be nonpolitical, and open communication must be shared by all, with all. Not just a select few from one side or the other.
Q. What, if anything, should be done to improve automation and customer service in county offices? What steps should be taken to make that happen?
A. Even normally adequate county customer services must be streamlined and made easily accessible via the internet during this pandemic period. To that end, a detailed review and gap analysis should be undertaken to ensure residents have adequate virtual access to as many county services as possible.
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. First and foremost, we need to make sure everyone is counted in the Census. We know from numerous media accounts that all over the country many people of color and undocumented residents are either unaware or fearful of completing Census forms. So our priority -- and time is of the essence here -- is to educate and ensure that all Kane County residents are counted in the Census. If the count is accurate and reliable, I believe the resulting number of seats will be adequate. We do not want members spread so thin that they cannot properly serve their districts. The fairest redistricting reflects population, not geography. It is people we must represent, not land.
Q. Do you support the current salary and benefits structure for the county board?
A. The current structure for pay and time commitments of the Board unfairly benefit people who do not need to rely on its compensation as a primary income. In other words, if you can work during the day (which is when the Board and most committees currently meet), you can run for office and serve. If, however, like most people, you require another full- or part-time job to make ends meet, you cannot realistically serve on the Board. Almost by definition, then, the pool of potential candidates becomes limited to either retirees or people who can comfortably rely on other means. To ensure the make up of the County Board reflects the actual population, we should raise the compensation to a livable wage and consider moving meetings to evenings and weekends.
Q. What actions must the county take to continue to address COVID-19?
A. We must get the county safe and profitable again. To do this we need to start by disbursing the CARES Act money immediately and fairly. We need to make sure all first responders' needs are addressed so they can successfully do their jobs and the people can feel safe again. We need to reach out to small businesses and landlords who are struggling to determine how our federal funding might help them, either directly or through meaningful county programs. And of course, we need to continue free and fast testing in multiple locations throughout the county.
Q. The new board 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. Kane County's budget shouldn't be partisan, though current leadership has made it so. I point, again, to the 60-day delay, caused entirely by politics, in releasing federal COVID-19 aid money. The administration failed to use its budgetary power to help all residents when they needed that help desperately. As long as people and businesses struggle because of the pandemic, our tax revenues will suffer. One way to address this is by prioritizing spending so people can feel safer. This means fully funding all first responders. Also, we need to be bold when it comes to pot sales in our county. We've seen how related tax revenues have benefited other areas. I've heard the criticism from the Sheriff's Office, that it doesn't have proper resources to manage pot sales. But again, we must look to the budget to rectify the problem. If indeed it is needed, some revenue brought in by pot sales could be earmarked to assist in its management by appropriate county offices. If elected, I'd work with my colleagues to review budgets for other savings, such as potential capital spending delays. All options must be on the table in such unprecedented times.