Christine Hotchkin: Candidate Profile
Downers Grove Township Clerk (4-year Term) (D)
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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.
City: Downers Grove
Office sought: Downers Grove Township Clerk (4-year Term)
Family: Married: husband Randy Hotchkin Two adult sons: Gunnar Hotchkin, killed in action in Afghanistan, June 2010, and Kurt Hotchkin Three grandchildren who live in Montgomery, IL
Occupation: Retired special education teacher, with Maercker District 60
Education: B.A. sociology, Grove City College, PA, 1973 M.Ed. special education, University of IL at Chicago, 1988 Certificate of Advanced Studies, Educational Organization and Leadership, University of Illinois, 2000
Civic involvement: Precinct Committeeman since 1980, former Vice Chair and former Secretary of Democratic Party of DuPage County, former Chair of Downers Grove Township Democratic Organization, Secretary of Democratic Women of DuPage County
Elected offices held: Candidate did not respond.
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No
Key Issue 1
I am a candidate for Town Clerk. As Clerk I will promote the visibility of township government activities to taxpayers by publicizing township meetings, meeting agenda, financial activities as allowed by law, and township programs. I will thoroughly create, maintain and organize all township records to efficiently provide the Trustees with information they need, and to be accessible to any taxpayers.
Key Issue 2
The Township Board of Trustees needs to do a better job of long-range planning. This planning should include collaboration with other governmental entities and private agencies to ensure there is no duplication of services, and that citizen needs are being met in a way that makes the most efficient use of taxpayer dollars. Our motto is that every dollar counts.
Key Issue 3
The Township Board of Trustees should work to create a budget based upon actual needs, looking forward, rather than just tacking on percentages to previous budgets. The township levy on tax dollars should be based upon what is needed to fulfill the mandated mission of the township. This mission should not creep into services already provided, or better provided, by other agencies. We intend to make sure this happens by using zero-based budgeting practices in which we will look at each budget item and consider what is really needed for that item.
Name the three most important goals or objectives this board should tackle in the coming term. Prioritize them, and briefly discuss why you believe each to be critical, and how the board should go about addressing them.
1. Take a line by line look at the budget to determine actual need for each line item. This determination should be based upon a clear vision and definition of the township's mission, not just on what has happened in the past. So, the Board needs to spend some time developing this definition of its mission, and its vision of how to achieve it. We believe that the development of this definition of mission and long range vision should include some collaboration with other governmental entities and local private agencies. At a recent board meeting when a new trustee questioned how a levy amount was decided upon, the response wasthis is how we have always done it?. When using taxpayer money, that is not good enough, and we can do better. 2. Take a thorough look at township assets and resources to determine the actual needs of the township, and determine if there are unnecessary assets in equipment or property. If so, this equipment or property should be sold in a way that best serves the interests of the taxpayer. This requires competent long-range planning, and a willingness to cedeturf? if it is in the best interest of the taxpayer and citizen needs. 3. Ensure that the Assessor has the resources needed to accomplish timely and accurate property assessments.
In the 21st Century, with municipalities gobbling up vacant land, why are townships needed? Should they be serving a new role? If so, what?
Township government is mandated by state statute. However, the necessity of township government, especially in highly developed suburban areas, has long been questioned. The mandated functions of township government: road maintenance, general assistance, and property assessments, could all be handled by other governmental entities that overlap with the township, specifically municipalities or county government. Those who favor retaining township government argue that it is the level of government closest to the people. This is just not reality. There are school boards, village boards, park boards, library boards, all of which have direct citizen involvement. In reality very few citizens pay much attention to or are engaged with township government. However, in order to eliminate township government, at least 10% of citizens in the county would need to petition for such, or it could be done by state legislation. Until such time as that would happen, townships should ensure that they are spending taxpayer money on only their mandated obligations and not engaging in activities that can be accomplished by other levels of government or even private agencies. In other words, we believe townships should have as minimal role as possible, spending as few taxpayer dollars as possible, to fulfill their mandated obligations. Townships certainly should provide for citizen needs that truly are not being met or could not be met by other entities, if the township is the most efficient level of government to meet those needs. Townships should avoid engaging in programs and services simply as a way of justifying their existence or to hang on to "turf."
What should be the primary responsibility of township government?
To properly maintain roads in unincorporated areas, to provide general assistance to those who need it, and to provide property assessments.
In these hard economic times, can you identify some township expenses/programs that could be trimmed or eliminated to reduce the tax burden?
The Downers Grove Township General Fund balance is about 50% of yearly budgeted expenditures. This is a larger fund balance than necessary for a taxpayer-funded entity. In the General Assistance Fund, the expenditures for personnel are almost dollar for dollar what is actually given out to those who need assistance, and that is not very efficient. In the area of Human Services, programs that are currently conducted in public schools, using school instructional time, must be held accountable for being an effective use of this valuable instructional time. Although these programs are funded by a grant from the Department of Human Services, this grant accounts for about one third of the total township human resources spending. While these programs may provide valuable social education to adolescents, we should assess whether the township needs to be amiddle man? or if it would be a more efficient use of taxpayer dollars if funding were provided directly to the schools or local private agencies. This assessment will require some honest dialogue with the schools and other local agencies serving youth about the effectiveness and efficiency of these programs. This kind of assessment is currently not being done by the incumbent Board of Trustees.
What specific background or experience do you bring that makes you the best qualified candidate to serve as an elected official in the township?
I have an advanced degree in organization and leadership from the University of Illinois. This includes knowledge and experience in collaboration, personnel evaluation, goal setting and long range planning, finances, public relations, and training in school law. I am knowledgeable about public entity financial reports, budgets, and tax levies, knowledge gained as a public school teacher who engaged in numerous successful contract negotiations with our school board, several as lead negotiator. I have a lot of experience in taking minutes of meetings and keeping records for various organizations, including a county-wide political party. I am currently retired and will give the time to the job of Town Clerk to make sure records are created, organized, and publicized as thoroughly as possible.
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