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updated: 9/21/2012 4:34 PM

Tony Michelassi: Candidate Profile

DuPage County board District 5 (Democrat)

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  • Tony Michelassi, running for DuPage County board District 5

      Tony Michelassi, running for DuPage County board District 5

 

 

 

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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

 

Bio

City: Aurora

Website: http://http://www.tony4dupage.com/

Office sought: DuPage County board District 5

Age: 27

Family: Parents, Cindy and Roberto, and aunt, Jo Anne, live in Aurora.

Occupation: County Board Member

Education: A.A., Political Science, College of DuPage, 2007

Civic involvement: Candidate did not respond.

Elected offices held: DuPage County Board Member, District 5, 2008-present

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

Candidate's Key Issues

Key Issue 1

Careful stewardship of the County's finances should be the Number One priority of any Board Member. During my tenure as a Board Member, I have supported initiatives to increase the scope of our financial planning and look well into the future - be that 5, 10, or 15 years down the road. We need to ensure that the County remains solvent and retains the AAA bond rating we've achieved for years. Fiscal responsibility means accounting for every project and initiative before it is enacted. We should never spend money we don't have, and we should always work to spend that money in the most efficient and effective way possible. I enjoy the amount of depth our County Board packets go into in describing the bidding and implementation processes of every individual contract and change order we vote on; there are some who think we should delegate approval of these contracts to staff to lessen the burden our work entails - I disagree.

Key Issue 2

As Chairman of the Development Committee, I have taken on a task that few others on the Board seem willing to accept. Since I was first appointed to this Committee after being elected, I have seen it as a forum where neighbor will be pitted against neighbor, sometimes vehemently and passionately. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with both sides of every controversial zoning petition and code initiative, to make sure everyone has their voice heard and everything is conducted under public scrutiny. It is my belief that the size and diversity of the County Board allows each Member to find their niche interest, and I have discovered in myself a passion for zoning and land use I never thought I had. I would be honored and privileged to be allowed by the voters to continue exercising this passion in a fair and balanced manner.

Key Issue 3

For the past ten years, DuPage County has routinely slashed its budget for storm-water abatement and retention, to the detriment of our communities. It took a portion of a federal ARRA grant to the County to see some critical storm-water projects along the West Branch of the DuPage River become a reality. We need to stop cutting back on this critical area of our infrastructure, especially in Districts 5 and 6. These two districts are the "last frontier" for large-scale land development in DuPage, and with that development comes an increased burden on our storm-water abatement systems.

Questions & Answers

Why are you running for this office, whether for re-election or election for the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you? If so, what?

I am seeking re-election to this office because I believe the work we do at the County is rewarding and intriguing in a way I could not have imagined when I first ran. As a young person and a Democrat, I believe I have provided a perspective on the Board that is not often seen in local politics. I came to the Board during a time of dynamic changes. I've seen the passing of a Chairman's legacy onto a new leader, and with that have seen a power shift among the Board Members. I sat on the Ad-Hoc Transparency Committee in early 2009, which drafted sweeping changes in the way the County conducts its business. We've started streaming our meetings on-line, holding an increased amount of budget hearings across the County, and dramatically restructured our website to give the public greater access to the knowledge and functions of their County government. The County Board has reclaimed a great deal of authority over its own matters from the Chairman's control. We have adopted a new ethics policy that, while I believe it does not go far enough, has done a great deal to enforce greater accountability on DuPage's elected leadership. We also are seeing a new era of transparency and accountability entering into the dozens of County-appointed bodies we oversee. The investigation into county-appointed bodies spearheaded by Chairman Cronin has caused a dramatic restructuring in some agencies that have failed to live up to DuPage's high standards for quite some time. If there is any particular issue that motivates me, it is the necessity of minority representation on the County Board. DuPage County is growing ever more diverse as time passes, and as new demographics call our County home, they should be afforded the same protections and attentions of government that others receive. I believe that as a Democrat it is my duty to provide the voice of a sizeable political minority in DuPage, but more than that, I believe minority representation goes beyond identity politics. It is possible for someone not of the same gender, ethnicity, religion, orientation, or political affiliation to support and promote the protection of another - that, I believe, is a truly American invention. And above all, I want to continue to provide the role of a consensus-builder on the Board. On some divisive issues, I still believe a middle ground can be found and negotiated, and I want to be there to make those changes happen.

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?

Since 2009, I have been the Chairman of the Development Committee of DuPage County, which handles zoning and land use issues in unincorporated areas. In this capacity I have presided over some of the most controversial land-use cases of the past three years, including several mosque proposals and most recently the assuming of authority over the College of DuPage's zoning. I was elected to serve in this position again, unchallenged, by my fellow Board Members from both parties in early 2010. I worked with County staff, other Board Members, and the religious community of DuPage County to help craft text amendments to the Zoning Code that recognize the rights of places of assembly while balancing their infrastructure needs with what the County can provide. These amendments are the culmination of over five years of staff research and previous attempts at Code reform. I voted to ban video gambling in unincorporated DuPage, protecting our communities from the damage the ?crack cocaine of gambling? can cause. I voted to support Navistar?s relocation to Lisle after listening to neighbors? concerns about the move and weighing its potential impact on the area both economically and environmentally. I have never taken a pension from this job and I oppose the exorbitant pension plan the County Board has secured for itself. I voted against the plan to outsource DuPage?s juvenile detention program to Kane County. I believe it was wrong to give up on a nationally recognized and commended program that has made our communities safer, and to put hard-working and passionate employees out of their jobs, all to save a tiny fraction of our budget and shift the blame to Springfield. I voted for bringing in over $70 million in federal funds for dozens of infrastructure projects in DuPage County, including flood mitigation along the DuPage River and improvements to our Convalescent Center. I am most proud to say I have never voted to raise taxes in DuPage County.

How can the county best manage its growth, growing diversity?

We need to invest in our road network, not just on County-operated roadways, but on our critical State-operated routes. Already the County is partnering with the State and local governments on the widening and expansion of Route 59, within my district. This is an example of the cooperation we need. Elgin-O'Hare Western Access is another way the County can lead, to the benefit of alleviating the congestion and transportation issues of a County nearly 1 million people strong. I still believe public transit is under-utilized and under-advertised in DuPage. Over the length of my term I have spoken on numerous occasions with Pace and local officials to attempt to increase the volume of public bus traffic, but the funding for transit at the County level is woefully low. I don't propose increasing that budget from our corporate fund, but there is a way the County can gather revenues from grants and redirect those funds to an increase in transit advertising. District 5's largest minority population is of Asian ancestry, accounting for nearly 10% of the people living here. Many of these residents are just coming to DuPage from Cook County or overseas and settling into work with any number of our local businesses. I believe diversity brings culture and enlightenment with it, and as a local official it is my duty to ensure that diversity in DuPage is welcomed and protected.

If incumbent, are you satisied your attendance at county board/committee meetings has been adequate? Describe the rough percentage of meetings you've attended. If non-incumbent, are you aware of the incumbent's attandance record and is it adequate?

I experienced a set of personal setbacks in 2011, and as a result I may have missed some meetings I shouldn't have. I have worked to resolve these private matters and am confident that I can move forward. But I have not been remiss in my duties to the County and have accomplished a lot. I believe my voting record and my performance as Chair of the Development Committee are evidence of that. I would like to note that while I did miss committee meetings, I was absent from only one County Board meeting, and attended every meeting of the committee I chair. I am also proud to say that I pay all the public commentators that attend our meetings the attention and respect they deserve; it is a shame there is a lack of will on the Board to relocate our meetings to a time when they can attend more easily. I am proud to say I have been there when the tough decisions had to be made, such as on controversial zoning petitions, appointing a new State's Attorney, keeping Navistar in DuPage, and voting against the outsourcing of our Youth Home. I do not collect my full salary for this position and am not enrolled in the County's excessive pension plan for elected officials. I am proud to call DuPage my home and am honored to serve the people that live here. I do offer my sincerest apology for the earlier lapse, and if re-elected I promise to continue to make the people of DuPage proud.

What is your stance on county board members' pay? Too high, too low, just right? Would you propose any changes? Do you think county board members should receive pensions? If not, would be willing to pledge not to take one?

I believe the pay for County Board Members is too high for the time and qualifications necessary to execute their duties. Elected positions are meant to be rewarding through the service one provides to their community, not through monetary gain. While some may justify the pay level because the time they devote to it takes away time from their primary employment, I would argue that if they do not wish to lose money on public service, they should not run. In the past and to this day I support efforts to reduce the salaries of County Board Members; it is unfortunate there has never been enough support on the Board for such measures to pass. I also believe County Board Members should not receive pensions for the work they do. When I held part-time employment previously, the most I received was a 401(k) account with my employer. Perhaps this is the route the County should take instead. The current pension plan is exorbitant and unfair to the rank-and-file employees of DuPage County. I have never taken a pension since I have been elected, and will continue not to if re-elected.

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