Mary FitzGerald Ozog: 2022 candidate for DuPage County Board District 4
Office sought: DuPage County Board District 4
City: Glen Ellyn
Occupation: DuPage County Board member
Previous offices held: Glenbard Township High School Board District 87 vice president, 2011-2018
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.
A: Right now the county is in excellent financial shape. We have a $100 million reserve and are now discussing ways to spend an unexpected $40 million in sales tax revenue this year. The county continues to receive more revenue from sales tax than property tax. Sales tax can be fluctuate more than sales tax so this dependence on sales tax is a concern. Continuing to keep a very healthy reserve, and prudent spending of both this new $40 million and the federal dollars we've received for COVID relief and recovery for DuPage County is very important to me.
When it comes to spending my constituents' money I have always been and continue to be a fiscal conservative. I manage the county's money the same way we spend our family's money. I am very happy to report that every year for the past 12 years I've been a member of boards (the county and Glenbard High School 87 Boards) which have approved balanced budgets.
Q: Is there a specific service or amenity that is lacking in the county? If so, how do you propose to provide and fund it?
A: Three areas of concern where I believe we have great need are affordable housing, food insecurity, and transportation unavailability for underserved constituents. During the past four years, we have been able to invest, through our Community Services Department, in a purpose built homeless shelter in the former Red Roof Inn in Downers Grove, which is up and running and providing shelter to over 300 residents daily. We have allocated significant federal COVID relief funds to food banks and pantries. Public transportation for those without cars in our automobile-oriented county continues to be a big concern for me. I am the current chair of the public transit committee, and we are working with PACE (suburban bus) to look for more ways to provide on-demand service, especially to get residents to work and medical appointments.
Q: Should the county board continue to start its regular board meetings with an invocation? Please say why or why not.
A: When I served on the Glenbard Township District 87 High School Board for 8 years we always started our meetings with the Pledge of Allegiance. We would then go on to honor various members of our school community. I think the county should start meetings with the Pledge and move on to the recognition section of the meeting. During my four years, the county has made an effort to bring in many of the various religions representing our constituents, but I think the Pledge is an excellent way for government bodies to start their meetings and commit themselves to good government and the rule of law.
Q: Does there need to be more bipartisanship and cooperation on the county board? If yes, what would you do to help make that happen?
A: On an elected body no one should expect complete agreement on any given issue. During my time on the board, there have been numerous contentious issues, as well as a great deal of collaboration. In particular, the board has worked very well in allocating the tens of millions of federal government CARES and ARPA money we have directly received to help businesses and individuals recover from the far-reaching effects of the COVID pandemic.
I work well, especially in committees, with members of the other side of the aisle, but have always spoken up if I object to a proposal or can offer ideas to change proposals to benefit our constituents. I worked with my Republican colleagues in the Fall of 2021 to redraw the district boundaries for the county, and we achieved a fair, non-gerrymandered map that was passed by the board.
Q: If your political party has control of the county board after the November election, how would that benefit DuPage residents?
A: Because of the Democratic majority on the board right now we were able to appoint the leadership to the committees. For the past two years, I have been the chair of the $47 million public works department, which provides water, waste water treatment, facilities management for the county's properties and many other functions.
Numerous multimillion dollar contracts have been bid fairly and are nearing completion on time and on budget. I am also the chair of the public transit committee, and vice-chair of our transportation committee. Other Democrats have done great work chairing our finance committee, judicial and public safety, health and human services committees, and legislative committee. When deciding the chair positions soon after the 2020 elections we retained four Republican chairs of major committees, recognizing their experience would help continue the smooth operation of these committees' functions.
Q: The COVID pandemic put a spotlight on the need for mental health services. What role should the county play in this?
A: Through our Health and Human Services Committee, the county supports numerous mental health initiatives. I will certainly work to make sure the county's support continues, through funding for mental health from our budget, federal grant money, and COVID relief monies. I personally supported the successful referendum, and the allocation of funds for the new 708 Board in Milton Township, speaking at meetings and advocating for these new initiatives whenever I could. The need for these services (as noted on today's Daily Herald front page (8/29/22)) has increased exponentially as our community continues to recover from the many effects of the COVID pandemic.
Q: What is the single most important issue facing your district and how should the county address it?
A: Recovery from the effects of the COVID pandemic is the most important issue facing my district. Every area of our lives have been impacted, from provision of local services (food pantries, park districts, mental health, public transportation) to economic impacts (changes and loss of jobs, commuting changes, the impact on small businesses) to our education system. The county board has done a great job so far of assisting so many of these entities, in particular small businesses, community services, and local government units (fire and park districts) but there is a lot more work to be done, and federal COVID money to be allocated. I look forward to working toward this recovery in my second term.