Jarett Sanchez: Candidate profile, Kane County Board District 24

  • Jarett Sanchez, Democratic candidate for Kane County Board District 24 in the Nov. 3 general election.

    Jarett Sanchez, Democratic candidate for Kane County Board District 24 in the Nov. 3 general election.

 
Updated 10/21/2020 10:40 AM

Incumbent Democrat Jarett Sanchez of Carpentersville is being challenged by Republican Bobbie Andresen of Carpentersville for the Kane County Board District 24 seat in the Nov. 3 general election.

Sanchez was first elected to the board in 2016. He has served on the Carpentersville Parks Commission and the Schweitzer Environmental Center Board.

 

To explore his campaign website, visit sanchezforkane.com.

District 24 covers portions of Carpentersville and Barrington Hills.

For a district map, visit countyofkane.org.

The Daily Herald recently asked the candidates to answer a series of questions. Here are Sanchez's 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: To continue serving and representing this area at the county level. Being an advocate for this district is something I take seriously. There are so many great programs the county is involved in, and services we provide, so it's very fulfilling to be a part of it all.

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In addition, we are going to have a noticeable change in the board lineup as well as a new chairperson, and I think it is important to have experienced board members helping newcomers learn the ropes.

We have a lot of very difficult challenges ahead of us, and I see one of my roles as helping the board work together more as a collective.

We didn't even have a training session for new board members when I started, so there's still much work to be done in onboarding and education for the board. Handling the dire budgetary circumstances will prove to be our greatest focus next year, in my estimation.

I would like to see programs to improve the health, well-being, and education of our residents, but that is very hard to do at the county level, especially without money to fund it.

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 try to be as present as possible, both in attending meetings and in sharing input and ideas with other board members, staff, and elected officials. We all have different backgrounds and expertise so it helps to try and connect those ideas together.

Sitting on eight committees as I do, you get to see a good deal of what's going on at the county, and it's easy to miss things if you're not there all the time. Currently I am on the CARES Act Allocation Committee, which meets weekly and has the state's attorney's office working directly for it.

I've been very active and vocal in and out of meetings as we try to wrap our heads around the gargantuan task of allotting $92 million dollars. Because of COVID we now livestream our meetings, but before that I pushed for over two years to get that put in place, and it was in the works already when the pandemic arrived. I was surprised to get such great pushback on the simplest way to provide more transparency to the people ... but we made it happen!

I also continue to oppose the Longmeadow Toll Bridge project, even though there's no way to stop it or even get rid of the toll portion. My constituency doesn't want it, so I continue to vote no.

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 Toni 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: The county is a tightly run ship and our budget is about as lean as it can get. We had a Mandated Services study done a few years ago, which showed how little fat there was to cut, and we've taken up their recommendations for reductions. So we're doing good with what we have.

But the biggest threats we face, even without COVID, are stagnant revenues and increasing expenses. These increases are in things like payroll, contractual services, capital improvements, etc. These are necessary expenditures given our mandated requirements.

And now with COVID we are seeing an incredible reduction in our revenue into the foreseeable future. This is the biggest challenge that we are facing.

I don't know enough about Preckwinkle's plan to comment on its efficacy in relation to Kane County, but I would be interested to learn more. I can't imagine how that would look for us, but if it's something that would actually be better for taxpayers then I am in favor of it.

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: Now that we are livestreaming our meetings straight to YouTube (where they are archived), I'd say our transparency is very high in Kane County. On the day that we first started streaming, I noted that it had been 903 days since I had first suggested we consider livestreaming as the simplest option to provide the public access to our proceedings.

I've joked that all it took was a pandemic to get it started. When transparency was mentioned before it was only in relation to our finances, but now it includes giving them a front-row seat to what we do, not just showing them the books.

We're losing our Kane County Connects editor next year and so that publication will cover less county news, and newspapers can't cover most things that happens in our 13+ meetings every month, so I think this improvement in transparency is very significant. I have not heard of any other ways in which we are not being transparent, but I'm open to ideas and suggestions as always.

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: The county board does not have the ability to make any changes to the offices of elected officials, that's called "internal controls." I do think that the people should look to the county board to share their ideas and opinions with.

We don't see the day-to-day customer experience in any county office, so it's helpful to know what ideas people have for making improvements. I think there's a lot of potential that can be captured when more good ideas are shared across the various levels of public life. Each of us members have roughly 22,000 people we represent; imagine if we could collect all of their good ideas and apply them? At the very least, the public should not be afraid to give suggestions to any county office they interact with. Let us know!

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: My understanding is that the county board will work with the chairperson and our IT department to come up with the redistricting plan. I think it's safe to say that everyone wants it to be fair and equitable, and we want to avoid any hint of gerrymandering.

But board size is the first consideration, and yes, I do support reducing the size of the board.

We even had a resolution go through Legislative Committee to put this question on the ballot as an advisory referendum, which I voted for.

But it was problematic and didn't address things like increasing compensation or the effects of less representation.

If you introduce it to the public primarily as a cost-savings measure, of course they're going to say yes, so why go through the exercise of a nonbinding referendum? I'm not against it, but we need to have many more conversations on this before we can accurately determine how best to do it.

Q: Do you support the current salary and benefits structure for the county board?

A: I do support the current salary and benefits. I'm glad that we can't take the pension anymore, I don't see how any politician can accept it with how high everyone's taxes are.

We could save $7 million a year if we didn't have to pay those out. Some people say we get "Cadillac" benefits which are undeserved because it's only a part-time job. But what other part-time job handles a $200 million budget and makes important decisions on behalf of over 532,000 people?

It's true that anyone can get elected and show up to a minimal amount of meetings and collect a paycheck. But there are many commissioners that put in the time and go to more meetings and take more calls and put more energy into figuring things out. There are also commissioners that don't come to as many meetings, but their contributions are great enough that their absence isn't noticed. Good compensation is the only way to ensure that these positions aren't entirely filled by independently wealthy or retired individuals. Regular, everyday people should have a seat at the table alongside the "bean counters" and lawyers in order to represent the diversity of the county and its people.

Q: What actions must the county take to continue to address COVID-19?

A: I think we're doing everything we can to respond properly to COVID. We've had months to transition workflows, office arrangements, telework capabilities, etc. Outside of the public health department, our IT department and the Sheriff's Office have been key players in helping us adjust to the situation. I'd say we're doing pretty good in the event of another wave of pandemic activity and we made it easy for the public to view our meetings from home, so we have all bases covered.

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: How we are going to balance the budget going into the near future is the most significant challenge we face, in my opinion.

Each year we start with a large budget gap, and our finance department works with department heads and elected officials to find ways to close it. It's one thing to say you'll keep the tax levy freeze going, but how we actually do it is another.

I've seen across-the-board cuts happen and it's not fun, so each year's budget comes with some anxiety. Because of the pandemic we're down about $6 million in revenue this year. How we work this out will be close to a miracle.

Commissioners provide input at various parts of the process so it's a group effort, but we rely on the expertise of our finance team to help us make sound decisions. Our spending is focused almost entirely on things that are mandated or that are tied to grants.

There really aren't many places we can cut spending, which I know doesn't sound right to people, but I have been very active in soliciting budget feedback from residents across the county, and so far many of the good ideas that have come in are already being done, or are not possible to do.

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