District 2 candidates opinions vary on benefits, other issues
Should Kane County Board members receive health insurance and a pension? Does Kane County need a full-time administrator? And do the county board and elected department heads, such as the circuit court clerk, need to get along better when it comes to finances?
These questions were posed to Kane County Board District 2 candidates in a Daily Herald questionnaire and in subsequent endorsement interviews.
Sal Abbate and Will Passalaqua, both of North Aurora, are seeking the Republican nomination in the March 20 primary. Theresa Barreiro of Aurora and Art Velasquez of North Aurora are seeking the Democratic nomination.
• County board members receive pension and health insurance. Abbate said that board members should have access to the same benefits as all other part-time county employees, but that they should be required to contribute in part. He doesn't intend to take the benefits if elected.
Passalaqua said he would not take the benefits as long as he has health insurance through his regular job, and doesn't want to take the benefit away from others. But, "The pension should go," he said. "I will not take it."
Velasquez doesn't want to cut health insurance, because he thinks people may not be able to afford to serve without it, if they have to cut back their work hours. "If it is going to make them more able to do their job as a representative of the people," keep it, he said.
• Velasquez cited ethics as his No. 3 campaign issue on a Daily Herald questionnaire. He thinks the current version proposed, however "lacks teeth." Barreiro said the proposal "is too comprehensive, trying to regulate everything, which I think is impossible to do." If people have an allegation, they should make it using the current law, she said, and amend it only if it proves inadequate.
Passalaqua and Abbate agreed that the document means nothing without enforcement.
• Barreiro would like to move county board meetings to the evening, so residents who work day jobs could attend. Passalaqua worries the county doesn't have enough cash in reserves for infrastructure improvements, or emergencies. Until the reserves are sufficient, he does not favor freezing property tax levies. "We have to have our ducks in a row (first)," he said.
Velasquez believes riverboat fund money could have been used to prevent layoffs in the county health department. Especially those who provide preventive care. "Prevention is fantastic. Prevention saves a lot of money," he said.
• What do the candidates suggest as far as improving on the sometimes thorny relationships between the county board and elected department heads for whom the board sets the budget?
Velasquez says the current chairman, Karen McConnaughay, " ... has tried to do her thing with everybody." He said he suspects departments might be padding their budgets, or at least spending every dime budgeted, because the budgeting system does not reward efficiency.
Barreiro said she thinks "it will probably never be improved," and that the county has to prioritize its needs. The department heads "need to be a little more realistic on their wish list." Passalaqua said relationships should improve because of how Circuit Court Clerk Deb Seyller's lawsuit was resolved — not necessarily in her favor. "It set the tone for this year. The well is only so deep," he said.
Abbate said improving relations starts at the top, with the chairman setting the tone. "There needs to be mutual trust and respect among all the elected officials. Let's not lose focus of the end goal, which is to serve the best interests of the citizens of Kane County."
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