Dawn DeSart: 2022 candidate for DuPage County Board District 5


Party: Democratic

Office sought: DuPage County Board District 5

City: Aurora

Age: 59

Occupation: Journalist

Previous offices held: DuPage County Board District 5, 2018 to present; Indian Prairie District 204 Board of Education, 2009-13


Q: Describe your position regarding the balance between county spending and revenues as it exists today, then describe the chief threats you see looming in the future and how the county should deal with them.

A: DuPage County has passed a balanced budget every year I have served on the board, and we have an excellent financial rating. This year, due to higher that anticipated sales tax and tax dollars generated from cannabis sales, the county is seeing a nearly $40,000,000 surplus. With the unexpected windfall, one of the projects I'm most excited about is the rehab of the county's Care Center. The home was built in the late 1800s, and hasn't had a facelift since the 1970s. Funding for this necessary initiative is coming from ARPA dollars, foundation funds, reserved capital funds, with the rest coming from the sales tax surplus. Every patient's room will be modernized, as will as communal areas and nursing stations throughout the facility. This is a fantastic use of county resources. On the other hand, the sheriff wants to spend $10,500,000 on a parking garage. The county campus has two parking garages, which are never full, so I would rather see the money invested in other ways.

Q: Is there a specific service or amenity that is lacking in the county? If so, how do you propose to provide and fund it?

A: I want county leaders to stop talking about "affordable housing," and make affordable housing a reality. I asked the chairman to create a formal county committee on affordable housing, inviting all of the county's stakeholders to participate, and he said no. I'm looking forward to a new chairperson after the election in November who will make affordable housing a priority.

Q: Should the county board continue to start its regular board meetings with an invocation? Please say why or why not.

A: I brought this conversation forward early in my tenure on the board, and I'm glad I did. In the two years before I was on the board, there had only been Christian invocations, and just one invocation given by someone of the Jewish faith. That is not representative of DuPage County.

Since I brought up the conversation regarding invocations, we've had many more faiths represented. We've heard from Muslim, Sikh, and more Jewish faith leaders. We've even heard a hopeful invocation from an atheist. I do believe in the separation of church and state.

And as a Christian, I believe Matthew 6:5-6, "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others ... But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." I believe the practice is virtue signaling, and unnecessary at governmental meetings

Q: Does there need to be more bipartisanship and cooperation on the county board? If yes, what would you do to help make that happen?

A: No. This board works together beautifully, when it really matters for the benefit of our citizens. As Chairwoman of the Legislative Committee, I worked tirelessly with the Republican chairman of the Animal Services Committee to lobby Springfield to ban puppy mill-sourced pets to be sold in pet stores. That legislation passed in 2021. As a member of the transportation committee, working with a Republican committee chair, we have hundreds of road and bridge projects scheduled now and well into the future, many funded wholly or partially by grants. This dynamic committee accomplishes so much good work, and it's completely nonpartisan.

Republican colleague, Jim Zay, and I agree more often than we don't on fiscal responsibility. I seek out Republican member Tornatore's vast knowledge about zoning issues. I like and respect most of my Republican colleagues on this board, and we accomplish amazing goals for the benefit of our residents.

Q: If your political party has control of the county board after the November election, how would that benefit DuPage residents?

A: The Democratic majority on the board has accomplished remarkable achievements. Most importantly for taxpayers, the board has passed a balanced budget every year, despite uncertain financial times. It's important to remember that this Democratic majority has served during the most unprecedented of times - a worldwide pandemic. We've allocated millions to help small businesses. Millions to those who are housing insecure. Millions to food banks and food pantries for those who are food insecure. Money was allocated to school districts to provide Wi-Fi to families who couldn't afford Wi-Fi, so their students could participate in online learning. Money was allocated to the Health Department for COVID testing, and then once a vaccine was available, getting shots into the arms of thousands of residents. This Democratic majority has done incredible work in the most difficult of times, and there is more work to be done.

Q: The COVID pandemic put a spotlight on the need for mental health services. What role should the county play in this?

A: The DuPage County Board and Health Department understand the rise in mental health needs. That is why roughly 25% of the health department's annual budget goes toward mental health, and why we have doubled the budget for the county's HOPE Task Force. (HOPE stands for Heroin/Opioid Prevention and Education.) We are hearing that one of the major challenges is that people who seek out mental health professionals have to wait months to be seen. Many aren't taking on new clients. This is the challenge that must be overcome, because by the time someone is brave enough to seek help, waiting months just isn't realistic. Many of us on the board believe that this disconnect is one of the greatest concerns facing our county.

Q: What is the single most important issue facing your district and how should the county address it?

A: The mental health crisis in our country, our county, and in my district specifically is certainly a top priority. So is affordable housing, which we do not have enough of.

I also serve on the DuPage Housing Authority Board of Commissioners, and I see monthly how much housing vouchers are, and I know these families won't be able to find housing at those levels.

For example, a housing voucher for a two-bedroom apartment in Naperville is just $1,359. I challenge someone to find a two-bedroom apartment in Naperville at that price. Likewise, employees who work in the retail or food service industries most likely have to come in from outside of DuPage County, because living costs are too expensive here.

We must tackle these hard issues to best serve our residents, and those who would like to call DuPage County home.

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