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.
Office sought: Lake County board District 21
Family: Married to, Dr Gordon Wood, pediatrician, we have 4 sons ages 17-23
Occupation: College professor: Senior Lecturer in Biology, Lake Forest College
Education: PhD biochemistry University of Rochester 1990 MS biochemistry University of Rochester 1987 BA biology Williams College 1981
Civic involvement: Chairman, Northeast Illinois Boy Scout Council- Scouting for Food (2009-present) Volunteer, St. Patrick Church, Lake Forest (1992-present) Volunteer, Holy Family Food Pantry, Waukegan (1997-2010) Lincolnshire Garden Club (1994-present) Founder and volunteer of gardening program with boys at the Depke Juvenile Detention Center (2004-present)
Elected offices held: Lake County Board and Forest Preserve District 2002-present Lincolnshire Village Board-1997-2002
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No
Key Issue 1
Fiscal Responsibility The County and Forest Preserve account for 10% of the property tax bill, so it is important that we continue to look for ways to save money. Voters in my district want their government to be fiscally responsible, and specifically, for those of us in public service to remember that government money belongs to the taxpayers. Government MUST live within its means, just like every household must do. We simply cannot spend money we do not have and expect to increase taxes to cover the difference. That means we must prioritize expenditures and put County funds toward areas where they can do the most good for the greatest number of people. I am proud of the work we have done in this area to keep Lake County and the Forest Preserve system fiscally sound. Specifically, we have cut the number of County employees by 10%, saving $50 million in employee salaries since 2009. We evaluate the need for programs and departments continually. With the downturn in the economy, the Planning, Building and Zoning Department staff was reduced by 1/3. We reorganized that and other departments with more appropriate levels of staffing to better use resources. For example, at one time the Health Department offered widespread flu shot clinics; this program was reorganized as grocery stores and drug stores started offering the vaccines. We are examining additional user fees for certain services that are used by only a small group of people. Further, we ensure that programs funded by grants are discontinued when the grant ends, and are not continued at taxpayer expense. Within the Forest Preserve, we have outsourced jobs and restructured other programs to reduce the number of employees necessary to maintain the district. We eliminated some low-enrollment camps and educational programs. Our responsiveness to changing economic conditions is one reason that both the County and Forest Preserve have maintained a AAA bond rating, unlike the State of Illinois. I will continue to look for ways to ensure that each tax dollar is being used in the most efficient and effective way possible
Key Issue 2
Job Creation / Business Retention: Unfortunately, one of the fallouts of the poor economy in Illinois has been the loss of jobs as businesses leave the state to take advantage of lower corporate taxes in neighboring states. Recently we have also seen the City of Chicago draw businesses back to the downtown, including Motorola. Since Lake County borders Wisconsin, which has been aggressively pro-business, we have been hit harder than some of the other counties with job losses as companies understand that they can get many of the same advantages of Lake County (educated work force, proximity to Chicago and airports) with much lower taxes by simply moving over the border to Pleasant Prairie. Businesses are a crucial component of a broad tax base, and District 21 has a number of important businesses including Baxter, Takeda, HSBC, Walgreens and CDW to name a few, as well as numerous small businesses While County government has a more limited role in these issues, we still assist in important ways. First, we work with the public-private partnership of Lake County Partners to promote and actively seek new businesses in Lake County, while also providing assistance for current businesses of all sizes. Secondly, in the past decade we have invested over $200 million in the infrastructure of Lake County through our road programs. This includes not only important road improvement projects, but also programs such as PASSAGE, which gives real time traffic information to commuters. Time spent in traffic costs individuals as well as businesses time and money. We also provide a fiscally responsible County government with a AAA bond rating. Finally, Lake County has a number of task forces (of which I co-chair one) that are examining steps to safeguard a safe, clean, sustainable water supply. This important resource is vital for the health and well being of the county. A number of studies project that the Chicago region will have a severe water shortage in 20 years. By tackling the problem now, we can ensure residents and businesses that Lake County is a place to call home. All these factors help create an environment to retain those businesses and to attract new companies that will bring new jobs to our County.
Key Issue 3
Quality of Life in Lake County ? Lake County residents continue to be concerned about their overall quality of life. Many moved here because of the excellent schools, beautiful forests and open land, and to escape the congestion of Chicago. They want a balance between traffic improvements and open space preservation. They want to be able to enjoy the assets of Lake County and not sit in traffic. For ten years I have worked hard at that balance. I have worked to find creative solutions to traffic congestion --- a recent example is the roundabout at Riverwoods and Everett Road. . I will continue to work to increase the number of bike/pedestrian options as part of road projects or as part of trail connections in the Forest Preserve. This is a request I continually hear from residents. These paths and connections offer important alternatives to driving a car as well as the ability to spend time enjoying the open space. I have worked on these issues both as a member of the Transportation Committee as well as chair of the Land Acquisition and Preservation Committee. Typically these projects are funded through collaboration with different agencies including the municipality, the Forest Preserve, Lake County Dept. of Transportation (LCDOT), and some federal funding. Usually, these paths are constructed in shorter segments as funding becomes available, so they take a number of years to complete. Great progress has been made in this area including sections along Deerfield Road, along Everett Road, and short spurs off River Road in Libertyville. In addition, road widening and reconstruction often offer a cost effective construction schedule. The Forest Preserve District has negotiated 2 such projects associated with the Milwaukee Road widening north of Rt. 137. There will be a path along the north side of Rt. 137 from Milwaukee to the Des Plaines River Trail, as well as sidewalk on Milwaukee from Rt. 137 north to Rt. 120. and a tunnel under Milwaukee Avenue connecting the Independence Grove trail system to the western trail systems of Libertyville Township and Grayslake. Additional priorities include completing a bike path connection along Deerfield Rd, (LCDOT is working with the Village of Riverwoods on this), along Everett Rd (the Forest Preserve has this on a list of projects in the next 2 years), and better connections along the rest of Rt. 137 in the Libertyville area (this has been added to the County list of priority pedestrian/bicycle and in the last year we have applied for federal funding).
Now that golf at Fort Sheridan is a dead issue, what types of amenities should be added to the site?
The beauty of Fort Sheridan with its public access to Lake Michigan, excellent bird habitat and lovely views is already drawing more visitors. Over the summer the Forest Preserve enlarged the parking area. Since becoming President of the Forest Preserve Board, I have advocated taking another look at our master plans to work to find ways to provide public access and continued maintenance in a more fiscally responsible manner. The Forest Preserve held an open house in June to solicit input from local residents and other users of the site about future development. Among the suggestions that I support are additional trails for hiking and biking, a kayak launch and continued restoration of the natural resources. We will be holding additional open meetings as plans develop and funds are available.
What, if any, new ethics-related rules are needed for the county board and county staff?
I am pleased to have appointed and served on the first ethics committee of the Forest Preserve. This committee met for a number of months and evaluated the ethics programs of other counties, forest preserves and municipalities. We developed a comprehensive and far reaching Ethics Program. We clarified and strengthened our rules against nepotism and influence in the hiring. The Forest Preserve prohibits hiring relatives of Directors or Commissioners. In addition, we formalized the role of the Finance Committee in encroachment infractions and other matters. We also have a presentation by our counsel at the beginning of each rules session to review new and potential changes in ethics regulations and have an outside Ethics Commissioner on retainer. Starting this fall, Forest Preserve staff will have ethics training every 2 years. At the County similar steps were taken by the Ethics Committee.
Government transparency has been an important issue in recent years. Name one thing the county government or forest preserve district should do to improve transparency.
Both the Forest Preserve and the County have made great strides in increased transparency and have been recognized for this. We post on-line meeting agendas, document, bills, budgets and minutes. Our voting meetings are televised and available on-line. The Forest Preserve consolidated many offices in the past year and part of this move involved updating our computer platform system and web site which will increase public access. I voted for a new document management system, which will go live after the first of the year. This will streamline the search for documents by staff as well as the public, enabling residents to find important documents including the budget and bills more easily. One feature not included, which should be, is a link on the Forest Preserve web site to view televised board meetings. This will be possible with our new system this fall. In addition, most Board members, myself included, send weekly or monthly email newsletters that give residents up to date information on board action, meetings, and important notices. Many residents have told me they feel much more informed and connected to their government because of these newsletters.
Should the forest district use eminent domain to acquire the land needed for the final link in the Des Plaines River Trail? Why or why not? If your answer is no, how should officials go about acquiring that land sooner than later?
No, we should not use eminent domain. I know that this is a crucial link in our trail system and the Forest Preserve is committed to its completion. It is important to keep in mind that eminent domain is often a long and costly legal process that can have serious repercussions with our ability to work with other land owners. Over the past 15 years the Forest Preserve has successfully negotiated the purchase of over 10,000 acres with willing sellers. Land purchases are often the result of many years of discussion and the development of trusted relationships. For many years?and still today?there are land owners who refuse to discuss land sales with the Forest Preserve because eminent domain was used in the past. Therefore, the Forest Preserve should continue to discuss options with this and all land owners.
What will be the biggest issue facing the county over the next decade, and how do you propose dealing with it?
Our biggest challenge is one over which we have no control?changes in the state regulations. Each year as we work on our budget there are bills being discussed in Springfield that could negatively alter our budget. These include unfunded mandates, shifting of costs to local governments (state does not pay its mandated portion of probation services costs) and cessation of current revenue streams such as the County portion of the inheritance tax and the PPRT. As the State of Illinois tries to grapple with its insolvency, I believe the stress on county and local government will increase. We will continue to work with our legislators to try to minimize this negative impact. In addition, we should work with our municipal partners and continue to search for economies of scale as well as sharing of resources that can decrease all our budgets. This will be especially important because of the increased costs associated with the Judicial system. As the population of Lake County has grown, so has the demand on the 19th Judicial Court system. Since 1995 8 new judicial positions have been added by the State of Illinois and it is possible that 3 more will be added in the next few years. In 2011 there were 197,000 case filings which include civil (probate, arbitration, and small claims) criminal, family and traffic court. When many people think of the court system they tend to think of criminal court, but it is important to keep in mind that our court system impacts people in many different ways with their business and family. The judges, the jail system and the county have all worked extremely hard to increase efficiency and maximize resources, but still we have 3 temporary court rooms and 6 that do not meet state standards. Meeting the needs of a 21st century court system will require careful financial planning. It may also mean that we may have to cut some other programs. Coupled with the uncertainty at the State level, we will need to re-examine our statutory requirements and give priority funding to them.