More contrasts between the four candidates for Kane County Board chairman became apparent at a forum Monday night where taxes, ethics and red-light cameras became the questions voters in attendance were most interested in.
Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns spelled out more specific plans about what he hopes to accomplish if he becomes the GOP nominee. Burns billed himself as more qualified than his GOP challenger, state Sen. Chris Lauzen, by saying his experience in local municipal government is more relevant to the job.
Burns then called for an 18-month moratorium on the county's road impact fees to spur economic development in the county. The county charges would-be developers such fees to offset the cost of building new roads, bridges and sidewalks created by the increased transportation needs the new development causes.
Burns also said he would fill the county's vacant economic development director position to further spur growth and increase court fees as necessary to fund the local judicial system.
Lauzen continued his call for an end to government growth by saying he'll use zero-based budgeting to focus on government services that are true needs rather than wants. He renewed his pledge to freeze the county's property tax levy.
The Democratic candidates perhaps drew an even further contrast when it comes to taxes as Sue Klinkhamer painted her opponent Bill Sarto's pledge to cut county taxes as unrealistic and possibly harmful.
"Always remember that if you cut taxes, you also must cut services," Klinkhamer said. "I won't promise to lower your taxes because no one can predict future needs. If you sign pledges, you can never be open to compromise to solve a lot of real issues."
But Sarto said he's confident he can cut taxes without slashing services. The trick, he said, is in finding cheaper, more efficient ways to provide the services and ending the recent problems of government officials suing each other. Sarto said that as village president in Carpentersville, he discovered the village wasted thousands of dollars on hiring contractors to perform services that the village staff should have performed themselves.
"I'm sure that is also the case in Kane County," Sarto said.
Sarto also raised some eyebrows by lending his support to Lauzen's accusations of political pay-to-play running rampant in Kane County government. Lauzen spelled out his evidence for that charge last week in comparing the political contributions of Kane County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay with county contracts.
"We need to end this political pay-to-play situation that is going on," Sarto said. "Too many contractors end up being contributors to candidates and officeholders. That's what's costing taxpayers so much."
Burns criticized that view by saying the candidates should focus on the future of the county, not on "what may or may not have happened in the past." He called on the county board to pass an ethics ordinance and amend it as needed.
Klinkhamer said the best way to address an ethics concerns, past or future, is to bring it to the attention of the Kane County state's attorney's office.
Klinkhamer, Sarto and Lauzen then all jumped on the chance to condemn the use of red-light cameras after a question from the audience that seemed to target Burns. Geneva has two red-light cameras, which Burns defended as being implemented only after factual analysis of police data and a consensus of elected officials.
All the other candidates said they believe red-light cameras are a sneaky means of increasing government revenue and do little to increase traffic safety. Lauzen called the cameras government overkill when it comes to "surveillance and intimidation" of drivers.