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updated: 2/10/2012 4:22 PM

Bonnie Kunkel: Candidate Profile

Kane County board District 4 (Democrat)

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  • Bonnie Kunkel, running for Kane County board District 4

      Bonnie Kunkel, running for Kane County board District 4




Note: Answers provided have not been edited for grammar, misspellings or typos. In some instances, candidate claims that could not be immediately verified have been omitted.

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BioKey IssuesQ&A



City: Aurora

Website: Candidate did not respond.

Office sought: Kane County board District 4

Age: 53

Family: Daughter of James and Mabel Kunkel, both deceased.

Occupation: Family law attorney since 1982 with office in Aurora.

Education: West Aurora High School graduate University of Chicago, BA in Sociology University of Illinois College of Law, JD

Civic involvement: Civic involvment has included: Aurora Township Senior Service Committee Member Hesed House volunteer and co-founder of Hope Legal Clinic Aurora Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Member Sierra Club Member Kane County Bar Association Member including Founding chair of committee which created Kane's arbitration system to reduce time & expense of civil cases CASA pro bono attorney and guardian ad litem "Kids in a Divorcing Society" teacher Teacher of legal issues for Breaking Free's TAP program for pregnant teens Scitech board member Aurora Study Circles participant Stormy Weather Benefit for victims of Hurricane Katrina organizer

Elected offices held: Kane County Board Member and Kane County Forest Preserve Commissioner, 2004 - present

Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No

Candidate's Key Issues

Key Issue 1

Government must be fiscally responsible. I am best known for the tough questions I ask about budgets and expenditures, especially lobbyists and consultants. I save my constituents more than they pay me with the cuts and alternatives which I suggest. Even small expenditures are important. We cannot waste taxpayer money because (1) taxpayers cannot afford it! and, (2) then the money will be gone when we really need it.

Key Issue 2

Government must be honest and transparent. I abhor 'pay to play' politics and I am unhappy with how difficult it is for even county board members to ferret out 'inside deals'. To combat this, I support a strong ethics ordinance. (See below.) Additionally, I support transparency (1) to keep government honest, and (2) to make government more understandable to lay persons. Transparency can be improved by videotaping all county board general meetings, executive committee meetings and Committee of the Whole meetings. These tapes should be available for local television broad- cast, online access, and archived at local libraries. Also, the Committee of the Whole informational meetings should return to an evening time slot to accommodate more public attendance.

Key Issue 3

Government should serve and protect its citizens and their environment. "The moral test of a government is how it treats those who are at the dawn of life, the children, those who are at the twilight of life, the aged, and those who are in the shadow of life, the sick and the needy, and the handicapped." (Hubert Humphrey) Further, government should preserve the earth which supports us all.

This philosophy is reflected in my fight to save county health programs, reform animal control, and open community gardens on forest preserve land, as well as my delight in the 'Fit for Kids' program to fight childhood obesity and the 'Ride in Kane' program to expand transportation options for the elderly and disabled. Although I unsuccessfully advocated to prohibit discrimination against the homeless who apply for County government jobs, I still feel that economic adversity is one of the greatest challenges of our time. I recommend that the County more vigorously pursue job creation and economic development by the creation of a new committee devoted to this purpose.

Questions & Answers

Do you support a more stringent ethics ordinance for Kane County governing the conduct of elected officials and county employees' Why or why not? If so, what should the ordinance contain?

Yes. A strong ethics ordinance is important to prevent improper influences from distorting government decisions and expenditures.

Most importantly, it must be enforceable. That is a problem with the current ordinance. That is also a forseeable problem with the proposed ordinance. I have suggested fixing that in part by mandating that enforcement is funded. It cannot conflict with state laws which take precedence, e.g.,State Board of Elections rules.

It must address bribery and 'pay to play' politics.

It must prohibit on the job politicing.

It must protect employees from political coercion.

It should apply equally to officeholders and candidates.

Ideally, it should be clear and concise, making it easier to understand and to enforce. This is one of the many issues where my legal skills enhance my understanding and contribution.

The county's portion of gambling proceeds has been decreasing every year for several years. What is your plan to prioritize use of that money? What might be done to wean the agencies and programs that receive this money off of it?

To prioritize the use of Riverboat funds:

1st- More closely follow the current requirement that funds be limited to educational, environmental and economic development programs.

2nd- Reconsider the funding of county programs, especially those which were recently added.

3rd- Evaluate the value and necessity of each program using a cost benefit analysis. As to each, ask whether it is fair to ask a low income person to contribute to its cost and, if not , what is the compelling reason that government should support it?

4th- Consider the program's historical dependence on Riverboat funds and the effect of decreasing or eliminating these funds.

Wean programs that historically depended upon Riverboat funds by giving notice that future funding will be reduced in proportion to the reduction in revenues.

Do you believe the Kane County court system needs a computer system upgrade that might cost as much as $12.6 million? If so, do you support using RTA sales tax money to fund the cost, or do you have a different plan? If not, what is your alternative plan?

Yes, we need to upgrade the court system computer system. This is obvious to even a casual user who 'clicks' to check court information. The site certification is outdated (since 6/17/05), immediately triggering a security warning, and the 'JWalk" feature often does not work. For the judicial system, the dismal state is more than just an inconvenience. The Circuit Clerk's office battles it regularly. Auxillary departments, e.g., States Attorney, Public Defender, Court services/Probation, are too often unable to compile the data needed for state reporting and grant applications without hours of hand counting. More importantly, if this computer system should breakdown, the court system would come to a standstill, stopping all civil and criminal cases, bond calls to release prisoners, collections of fees and fines, and so on.

Nonetheless, $12.6 million is an extravagant sum and more than we need to spend. First we should explore a cheaper upgrade with Jano, the basis of our current system. Jano is not to blame for years of Circuit Clerk directed changes and missed annual upgrades and maintenance. Much updating will be needed anyway in order to stabilize our current system before exporting data to a new system. Second, we should consider in-house creation or customization such as successfully done by the Kane County Recorder and DuPage County. Third, we should look at cost sharing through collaboration with other counties, e.g., DuPage County.

While we can use RTA monies to fund part of the upgrade, we should ask the offices that will benefit the most to share in the cost. For example, the Circuit Clerk, whose system would be upgraded, has an automation fund which should be tapped. The States Attorney, Public Defender and Court Services who will save hundreds of manhours, should decease their related budget requests.

Do you believe county board members and the chairman should receive health insurance and pension benefits' If you are running for one of those positions, do you plan on accepting those benefits' Why or why not?

Yes. The amount of time required to adequately fulfill a board member's duties is often incompatible with holding an additional full time job. Consequently, benefits must be available to attract and retain talented representatives. The jobs of county board member and forest preserve commissioner, which run concurrently, are much more time consuming than I had imagined. I belong to ten committees and subcommittees, most which meet monthly, plus there are 'special' meetings (like redistricting) and I sometimes attend other committee's meetings. With the attendant reading, discussion, mail, constituent contact, community meetings, etc., the time adds up.

Most of the criticism about benefits comes from people who have benefits available from other sources, e.g., retirement, or who are in or seek the chairman's seat which pays $100,000, much more than the $25,000 paid board members. I do not have another source of benefits. I would continue to take benefits on the same basis as the other county employees.

Pension benefits are offered through IMRF and are governed by the State. The County has no control over these benefits

How do you resolve the ongoing debate over the county board setting budgets for departments run by other elected officials whom the county board has no control over? How should the county board enforce the budgets it sets'

Few citizens realize the County Board must, by law, tax them to support county offices which the Board has no control over. The Internal Control Statute allows the independently elected Circuit Clerk, County Clerk, Sheriff, Coroner, States Attorney and Regional Office of Education head to make entirely independent decisions about the internal workings of their offices. Recently, the Circuit Clerk filed suit when the County Board refused to fund her additional unbudgeted employees. (The County Board was, and is, in a hiring freeze.) The prior sheriff, Sheriff Ramsey, often made headlines with his unbudgeted expenditures, much to the Board's chagrin.

There is no simple solution to the inherent budgetary tension between the Board and the other officeholders. It is part of the checks and balances of county government. The situation is improved by a respectful budgetary process with full disclosure by both sides, i.e., the County's resources and the departments' needs and resources (special funds, anticipated grants, ect.) We accomplished a successful reduction in the County Clerk's budget in this manner.

When officeholders anticipate exceeding their budgets, they should address the issue immediately by bringing this to the Board's attention. The Board should consider whether the expenditure is necessary and was unforseen, e.g., created by new legislation or weather emergency, and if so fund it when funds are available. If not, the officeholder may need to trim his/her other expenditures or forgo the new expense. The Board should cooperate in exploring funding alternatives. As a lawyer, I know that litigation is time consuming, contentious, and expensive so I prefer to avoid it.

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