Jennifer Clark: 2022 candidate for Lake County Board District 15


Party: Democratic

Office sought: Lake County Board District 15

City: Libertyville

Age: 52

Occupation: Assistant professor of economics, Carthage College

Previous offices held:


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: I originally ran for the Lake County Board in 2018 because I believed that we need more economists in government. As a professor of economics for over 15 years, I decided to run so that I could use my economic experience to make educated real life policy decisions.

After being on the board for three years, I am glad that I did. I advocate for efficient economic policies in both the long and short term. I have been able to stress fiscally responsible budgetary policies and increased economic development, especially by increasing investment in county infrastructure and providing job training and support to our residents.

I have the opportunity to use examples in my classroom from my experience on the board. I know that my students benefit from hearing timely and topical stories that directly relate to our course materials. They can see first hand how important economic reasoning and knowledge is to making decisions both in government and also in their own lives.

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: As an economist, I am especially proud of our achievements in fiscal responsibility. We have kept the county tax levy flat for the past three years and maintained both Lake County's AAA bond rating, saving taxpayers money.

We increased government transparency by recording all committee meetings, continuing hybrid meetings and requiring vendors to disclose conflicts of interest when bidding on county contracts.

We increased sustainability practices, including implementing Net Zero building standards, the Clean Air ordinance, a ban on single use plastics in county operations, composting at the Lake County jail, and increasing the use of electric and hybrid vehicles.

The new Ride Lake County Paratransit program has allowed seniors and people with disabilities access to low cost transportation within Lake County. We launched 211, a free and confidential service to help residents find the help they need.

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: We have been very fiscally prudent by keeping the tax levy flat for the past three years without decreasing the vital services that Lake County and the Lake County Forest Preserves provide. This was done through a careful analysis of budgets and programs and implementing efficient government policies in addition to the funding provided by the CARES Act and ARPA. Budget policies and goals are developed throughout the year to guide the budgeting process, culminating in three days of budget hearings. Looking forward, the board will have to keep its focus on economic and fiscal efficiency since we are faced with such an inflationary climate.

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: I would support a referendum to allow voters to decide whether to expand the Forest Preserve lands and renovate and restore our current preserves. The Lake County Forest Preserves are a treasured resource and help improve both the physical and mental health of our residents. Our residents take advantage of the recreation and educational opportunities available in the district. The preserves also provide land for stormwater retention which decreases flooding and provides habitat for wildlife and pollinators. One of the reasons that I decided to run for county board was my love and appreciation for the Forest Preserves. They are essential to the wonderful quality of life here in Lake County.

However, we also need our state legislators to change the Downstate Forest Preserve Act to allow us to also have a referendum to help fund operations of our Forest Preserve. Currently, we have reached the state mandated cap for operations and can only have a referendum for land purchase.

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

A: Flooding is the most urgent issues facing my district. The disastrous flood of 2019 was a warning of the danger of increased flooding due to stronger storms caused by climate change. These stronger storms have already brought large amounts of water in short amounts of time. What used to be considered a 100 year flood now occurs much more frequently and we need to plan accordingly to keep our community safe. Flooding destroys homes, businesses and put our community's lives at risk.

Lake County is helping address flooding by increasing stormwater rules for new developments. Lake County is also working on funding and building regional watershed projects to help decrease flooding in existing neighborhoods. Funds are provided to buy and take down homes that flood frequently so that land could be used for additional stormwater storage and filtration. Our planning department provides model ordinances so that municipalities can easily adopt more stringent stormwater requirements.

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: The ARPA funds are a once in a generation opportunity for transformative projects for our community. They should be used to both address immediate needs of our residents, such as food and rental assistance, and also projects that will benefit our community for years to come.

In addition to the funds that have been already allocated for resident assistance and urgent long term county needs, I would like to see funds used for projects that can help address some of the most pressing issues of our time, including the devastating effects of climate change, availability of affordable housing, the epidemic of gun violence, and increasing the health of our community and our natural world. The county can partner with local nonprofits and governmental agencies to seek out projects that address these needs.

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