How Lake County Board candidates assess COVID-19 response
With the COVID-19 pandemic upending the local economy, the Lake County Board faces a lot hard choices, along with decisions about how to distribute what's left of the county's $121 million in federal relief money.
Here's where the board candidates in the Nov. 3 election stand on what the county has done so far and what it should do in the future:
Republican incumbent Linda Pedersen of Antioch said the board has been administering the federal relief dollars responsibly. While some believe the money isn't being disbursed quickly enough, she said the board needs to be careful.
"If we're not making sure the applications are correct, we're going to get an audit at the end of all this and we're going to have to pay it all back," said Pedersen, who has 12 years of board experience. "We're taking our time to make sure that doesn't happen."
Democratic challenger Chase A. Thomas of Lake Villa said the board has provided an adequate response time to the pandemic but more could be done to help the poor. Thomas, who also is a trustee on the Lake County Regional Office of Education board, said he knows families who are unable to provide for their children because they are out of work.
Democratic challenger Carissa Casbon said she would love to see more support for small businesses, including as much grant money as possible poured into the local economy. For the county to handle a likely increase in the need for services, the board should look for efficiencies in other areas, the Gurnee-area resident said.
Incumbent board member Steve Carlson said even though it likely isn't politically profitable to say, he would consider supporting a tax increase if core county services were imperiled by the pandemic.
"This is just the beginning," said Carlson, a Grandwood Park Republican. "We're going to have to make some very hard decisions."
Board President Sandy Hart said the county focused first on getting federal relief money to those in need of rent and food assistance.
Hart, of Lake Bluff, said the county has processed more than 1,100 grants and is seen as a leader in the response to the pandemic.
But Republican challenger Lauren Fleming said she was angered at how long it took for the county to disburse the federal assistance.
"It took more than 100 days to get CARES money to the people who needed it," she said. "Congress acted faster than the county did."
Incumbent Terry Wilke said if the board has to reduce expenses because of COVID-19, the first cuts should come from capital improvement projects.
"As painful as that would be, it would be less painful than a family losing their home," said Wilke, a Round Lake Democrat.
Republican John Frazier, a retired military veteran, said the board needs to do a better job allocating money to address the issues the COVID-19 pandemic presents. He said the board needs to find a way to cut the budget and cut taxes because residents are leaving the state.
Democratic incumbent Marah Altenberg of Buffalo Grove said the county board has worked hard to help residents through the crisis. Altenberg, a former journalist who was appointed to the board in March, said area hospitals have been doing a fantastic job and the county board has worked hard to get personal protective equipment out there if cases spike this winter.
Republican Soojae Lee, also of Buffalo Grove, said the pandemic can bring out the best in us. He said an example of something the county can do to improve is to automate certain laborious tasks where people can make mistakes. The county has a great opportunity to utilize an adverse situation and create a new advantage, he added.