Edward Liberman: 2022 candidate for Lake County Board District 16


Party: Republican

Office sought: Lake County Board District 16

City: Round Lake Heights

Age: 53

Occupation: Professional trainer, self-employed

Previous offices held: Current School Board District 41


Q: Why are you running for this office, whether for reelection or election for the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you?

A: Elected officials need to be accountable to the public. The current board has recently become infamous for wielding its authority in contrast to the desires of the people. The current board member for District 16 said at a meeting discussing Lake County implementing the gas tax, "If you don't want to pay the gas tax ... buy an electric vehicle." The board then proceeded to implement a gas tax despite the fact that 90% of public response opposed such a regressive tax during such uncertain economic times.

Additionally, this board implemented a countywide burn ban even though survey responses indicated 80% of respondents opposed an all-out ban. Coupled with that was the franchise waste hauling agreements that stripped choice of waste removal from residents against their will. Either our current board is not listening to the people they serve, or they listened and simply don't care. Either way, I will make public input and interaction the cornerstone of my time in office serving the people.

Q: 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?

A: I am an educator by trade, communication is my specialty. My job is to take complex information and deliver it in a way so diverse groups can easily understand. I've used this skillset in my time on the school board to bridge the gap between administration and the public. Too often administration speaks a language that the public doesn't understand, and vice versa. I am a great go-to person to translate between groups and to find common ground where differences would otherwise dominate negotiations.

Specifically, I have used this skill during a school bond referendum that the public clearly opposed. I brought this information to the board, explained what I was hearing from the public, attempted to encourage the board to compromise on the dollar amount requested based on my public feedback. At the end of the day, I was able to successfully negotiate an arrangement that delivered the schools the repairs administration required while saving the public about $20 million.

Q: Given the recent history of flat tax levies, do you think the county/forest preserve have done good jobs of budgeting or do you see specific area that can be improved?

A: The same year the board initiated a flat tax levy, they increased expenditures over $10M. Since, the budget has increased an additional $70M. We can't increase expenditures while keeping levies flat for more than a few years without expecting it to lead to a budget crisis. Regarding the forest preserve, 37 cents of every tax dollar levied goes straight to debt service. That is huge! Only made acceptable to credit rating agencies because the debt is secured by $25M in tax dollars/year. If a business held that level of debt, banks would be scrutinizing them.

The forest preserve does a good job with what it has, but more must be done to start retiring some of the debt and find ways to offload some costs so that they too don't find themselves in a budget crisis. The forest preserve district is already near the very top of their statutory tax cap. The 2023 EAV could put the district in a very difficult place, which may require a referendum just to keep up with the district's current obligations.

Q: Would you support putting a referendum on the ballot for voters to decide if they wish to issue new bonds to preserve open spaces, restore habitats, create more trails and upgrade forest preserves?

A: Open spaces, habitat restoration, and more trails are awesome goals for the forest preserve and I fully support them in theory. In practice, however, as I mentioned above, the residents of the county need to be aware that the forest preserve is already at the very top end of its levying authority based on the equalized assessed value of the county. If they were to take on more debt at this time to acquire more open space and trails, they could be forced, by statute, to reduce operational spending and maintenance of what the district already controls to be able to take on the extra burden of additional debt. We already pay 35% of our budget every year toward debt service for the forest preserve. We cannot risk the great work the district has already done by forcing us into a crises that could cause us to not be able to afford to maintain our current progress. Any decision to move forward must be very carefully measured.

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

A: Really depends on who you ask: Crime, drugs, taxes, jobs, roads, inflation, flooding, a government that doesn't listen or care, etc. The county has to recognize that it can't be everything to everyone and it has to take a powerful look at itself to evaluate the core services that it is required to provide to its residents. Promises of everything to everyone has potentially made county government bigger than it needs to be while failing the public in the areas the public needs most. The people I've spoken with are afraid what tomorrow may bring. They want assurances of safety and security for their families. No starving family, out of work, or who recently lost a business due to lockdowns, is very thrilled the county spent $50,000 on an electronic sign at the Greenbelt Cultural Center. While we slowly recover in a post-pandemic world, the county must take a hard look at itself and deliver what our communities need.

Q: Lake County officials want public feedback on how to spend portions of some $135 million in leftover federal pandemic funding. What are your thoughts on how the money ought to be spent?

A: Lake County saw so many businesses vanish during the pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns and closures. The businesses hurt the most were local owned businesses who provided not only needed services for our communities but also countless jobs. We need to do everything we can to help those struggling businesses and their employees stay afloat so we can get back to a level of normal where we empower people through gainful jobs to be able to start providing for their families again. We also must recognize that so many people lost their jobs due to having to stay home with their children due to school closures, and we must invest that money in economic development and providing a path back to work for them as well.

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