Ann B. Maine: 2022 candidate for Lake County Board District 3
Office sought: Lake County Board District 3
Occupation: Assistant Professor, Biology, Lake Forest College
Previous offices held: Trustee, Lincolnshire; current: County and forest preserve boards
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?
A: want to work for the people of Lake County to make sure it is a great place to live, work and play. The environment is an overarching theme for me. This is more than open space. Ensuring that there is safe, sufficient and secure water supply is crucial for individuals and businesses. Enhancing our stormwater watershed management plans to protect properties from the increasingly high rainfalls impacts the environment, safety and reduces economic costs to individuals, businesses and governments. Improvement in traffic flow and alternatives to motorized transit have positive impacts on air and water quality. Changing environmental conditions will require additional improvements to water quality and transportation. At the forest preserve, I have been involved in the strategic planning and purchasing of thousands of acres of land and their restoration. All these actions benefit the people, plants and animals of Lake County
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 have a Ph.D. in biochemistry and have been on the Biology faculty at Lake Forest College for 28 years. The challenges that face us require a strong understanding of the sciences and the ability to analyze and interpret data. These skills are fundamental to my contributions. I advocated for conservation water pricing, and the 1st watershed working group in Lake County, bringing together agencies and groups to improve water quality. I championed the first roundabout in Lake County -- we now have more than a dozen; by facilitating traffic movement they also lead to decreased air pollution. Ride Lake County is a county wide borderless transit system for seniors and the disabled -- I worked for this for many years. At the forest preserve, I promoted increasing educational outreach, ensuring that we have environmental leaders of the future from all parts of Lake County. I restructured the financial calendar and initiated other changes, making the district more effective and financially secure.
Q: Given the recent history of flat tax levies, do you think the county/forest preserve have done good jobs of budgeting or do you see specific area that can be improved?
A: The forest preserve has been operating under a tax cap for a number of years now, so their levy has often been lower than it was in 2008. So the forest preserve has done an excellent job. When I was president of the forest preserves 2010-2018, I initiated a number of steps that allowed us to be more streamlined, including changing the fiscal year, adopting a 10-year horizon and separating the capital planning and budget planning. The county has done a good job with a flat levy the past couple years. At a certain point efficiencies become maximized and the CPI increases. We need to look at specific programs to determine if they still need to be funded; this conversation needs to take place months in advance of the budget hearings. I also support legislative changes that do not penalize taxing bodies for not taking a full CPI each year.
Q: Would you support putting a referendum on the ballot for voters to decide if they wish to issue new bonds to preserve open spaces, restore habitats, create more trails and upgrade forest preserves?
A: No, not at this time. I was involved in the 2008 referendum that had county wide success and led to the acquisition of thousands of acres of land as well as restoration projects. We spent 18 months developing goals for which preserves would be restored, so we were able to go out to the public with a well defined plan, which was key to the success. At this time we are at our financial limit to restore and maintain the land that we have. The forest preserve had an internal goal of 40 acres/1,000 residents and that is met at this time. Given the current inflation rate and the tax cap, we need to look for other ways and partnerships to preserve open space. I advocate a 1-2 year planning and listening strategy to develop alternatives and goals.
Q: What is the single most important issue facing your district and how should the county address it?
A: Taxes. The forest preserve has a deceased levy and the county levy has been flat; this represents about 10% of the typical tax bill. But people look to the county for solutions. The current taxing structure encourages taxing bodies to "use it or lose it" -- that is, take the full CPI each year. We need to work with our state legislators and have conversations about changing that system, so taxing bodies don't face long term penalties for not taking the full legal amount. In addition, the county can continue to work with municipalities and other units of government for shared services and contracts. The county and the forest preserve have done this, resulting in savings for tax payers. We need to lead the way on hard conversations, with government giving up certain. programs, when others can do it better. For example, Ride Lake County, many years in the making, required numerous villages and townships stop having individual programs and combined into a program now run by Lake County.
Q: Lake County officials want public feedback on how to spend portions of some $135 million in leftover federal pandemic funding. What are your thoughts on how the money ought to be spent?
A: I believe the money should be spent in three general categories. The first is for services related to physical and mental health. The pandemic showed more clearly the existing health disparities. Programs that tackle chronic illnesses as well as basic immunization and primary care need to be strengthened. Mental health services have always been scarce, especially for young people; our students have suffered greatly these past years. We need to build out capacity, and importantly find ways to compensate providers. The second category would be to continue to assist those small businesses, including landlords, who incurred costs and continue to be unable to fully operate as they did before. The final group is those other taxing bodies that were not able to access federal funds, and yet had overtime and other costs that they had to cover.