Yeena Yoo: 2022 candidate for DuPage County Board District 2


Party: Democratic

Office sought: DuPage County Board District 2

City: Elmhurst

Age: 43

Occupation: Legal aid attorney, Catholic Charities Legal Assistance

Previous offices held: Democratic Precinct Committeeman for York 83


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 a balanced budget, including a surprise and recently announced $40 million surplus. However, a review of the 2022 budget and financial plan for the county shows that expenditures are projected to outweigh revenue by year 2026. This is mainly due to increasing capital costs and improvements, rising employee wages, as well as pension and health insurance changes in various critical operations funds for the county.

In order for the county to maintain quality of care and services by county employees, the board must explore all avenues to increase revenue.

First, we must continue to support our existing DuPage businesses. We must also expand the tax base by promoting diverse small businesses; build partnerships with global companies, particularly in data and technology; and pursue entrepreneurs.

Finally, we should choose more sustainable practices with long-term benefits to the county, such as using renewable energy sources on our county campus to bring energy savings.

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: Recently, I met with a city manager of a local municipality who described to me an incident involving first responders and a person with mental illness during a community event. These incidents are becoming more prevalent, yet few people know about a mobile response unit though the county's Behavioral Health Services. This program deserves greater attention and expansion, with the collaboration of different county departments.

Using federal dollars, the City of Schaumburg just started its pilot project for a mobile response unit. Similarly, county mobile response units, which would deploy social workers and other mental health professionals for calls related to substance abuse and mental illness, can be paid for by local, state, and/or federal dollars dedicated to mental health support.

As these services are in such high demand, with strong public support, the county board should find a way to pay for these multidisciplinary response units.

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

A: The invocation at the start of regular board meetings is a dated practice that previously represented one viewpoint and religion.

In the last two years, however, the invocation has changed to now reflect the different cultures and religious communities in the county.

Although I believe in the importance of prayer and meditation, I adhere to the idea of separation of church and state, and would prefer conducting regular county business without it. With that said, removing the invocation is not a priority of my campaign; there are many more pressing issues for the county board to address.

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: Having attended multiple county board meetings that seemed more political theater, I recognize the need for greater bipartisanship and cooperation on the county board.

It's my understanding that all county board members receive a certain amount of training after they are sworn in, but I question whether there is enough guidance designed to help members look at the big picture of governance, and how to make decisions based upon diverse perspectives.

Cooperation occurs when there is a common issue of interest that affects all residents. Board members need to make more decisions based on the desire to improve the lives of all residents (not just a select population or interest group), with future-forward benefits.

Various boards in other states and counties are required to attend a board retreat for these purposes, and our county board should be required to do the same. This would be one way to build rapport among members, and help members understand the impact of their policy decisions.

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

A: Democrats, who currently control the county board, have already delivered tangible benefits for DuPage residents.

For example, in the last year, the board allocated $10 million of federal ARPA funding to address critical needs in our community, including mental health, and food and housing insecurity.

In addition, Democrats increased funding to the sheriff's department, which has led to a decrease in crime in the county. Should Democrats retain control of the board after the November election, there would be continued benefits to all residents in such areas as gun safety, climate change, and access to critical services for senior citizens and other at-risk populations.

Specifically, I plan to promote lifesaving solutions to prevent gun violence; connect residents to needed resources; and advance renewable energy and climate-friendly measures. These are the priorities and values not only of my campaign, but also that of the other Democratic candidates.

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

A: The county should play a significant role in providing resources and access to mental health services. While knocking on doors, I have heard residents repeatedly tell me that they recognize the importance of mental health not just for individuals, but for the community at large.

In fact, in 2021 the county health department's Behavioral Crisis System handled roughly 45,000 calls - an increase of more than 25% from the prior two years. We can do a better and more coordinated job in educating the community and providing mental health services in schools, in homeless centers, and in the criminal and judicial system.

Further, until 708 Mental Health Township Boards, which fund grants to community-based agencies that tackle mental illness and substance abuse, are established in every township, the county must fill the gaps for these needed services.

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

A: There are many important issues, but I return to the issue of mental health. Mental health has not only been linked to rising opioid deaths, but also as a precursor to gun violence.

Along with access to firearms, mental health is strongly connected to mass shootings, gun suicide, and school-related incidents.

Not only this, but when people are experiencing mental illness (anxiety/depression, or other disorders), they have higher health costs and are at an increased risk of experiencing poverty.

As both a psychology major and social work graduate, I believe that people are unable to meet their full potential without sound mental health.

Consequently, the county needs to make a strong investment in our health and the safety of our community, whether that comes in the form of expanding outpatient services; residential services for people with severe mental illness, or wraparound substance abuse treatment programs through the county health department.

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