Sara Frederick Knizhnik: 2022 candidate for Lake County Board District 18


Party: Democratic

Office sought: Lake County Board District 18

City: Vernon Hills

Age: 50

Occupation: Chairman, Gun Violence Prevention Initiative, Lake County State's Attorney's Office

Previous offices held: Vernon Township trustee


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'm running for the county board to work with my constituents to build a safer, greener and more affordable Lake County. I believe passionately in local government because that is where everyday people can help build a better future. I've been a professional gun violence prevention advocate for five years. In this role, I've organized grass-roots volunteers and taught them to advocate for policy change. To improve my effectiveness in this role, I served as state Rep. Bob Morgan's director of Constituent Services. I held this role during the most challenging period in recent history - the COVID-19 pandemic, and I helped hundreds of people get much-needed services. Because of these experiences, I know how to get things done from both inside and outside of government. That, combined with the cultural competence I gained during my 17-year career as a university-level English as a Second Language teacher, makes me uniquely qualified and well prepared to serve as a Lake County Board member.

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'm an independent thinker who always puts community over party, and, I have a proven record of leadership and effectiveness at driving policy change. My passion is facilitating collaboration between constituents and elected officials - people both inside and outside of government - to solve problems. I have achieved this at all levels of government. At the local level, I was the driving force behind the creation of the Gun Violence Prevention Initiative at the Lake County State's Attorney's Office. At the state and federal levels, I led the grass-roots effort to pass three gun safety bills into law in Illinois and the nationwide effort to drive support for several gun safety bills in Congress. These bills evolved into the Safer Communities Act, the first federal gun safety bill in 30 years to become law. I excel at communicating effectively with people from diverse backgrounds and building coalitions of groups with differing priorities in order to achieve shared goals and objectives.

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: Yes. I think they have done a good job. The current board has held its levy flat for an unprecedented three years. But over the long term, the county should also continue to prioritize balancing investments in its people and services to ensure that Lake County government and the Lake County Forest Preserve District continue to provide the high-quality services our residents expect and deserve.

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: Yes.

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

A: The single most important issue facing my district is climate change. As a result of CEJA and the Infrastructure bill, significant state and federal funding has been directed to Lake County in recent months.

Members of the county board should do everything in their power to ensure that county residents benefit as much as possible from this funding opportunity. They should do so by creating a comprehensive plan that takes full advantage of the provisions in all three bills so that we can: 1.) Meet the goal of making sure 50% of electricity in Lake County is provided from renewable energy sources by 2040 - while meeting the equity and labor standards requirements outlined in CEJA; 2.) Provide new financing resources to support equity eligible contractors and diverse communities, as provided by CEJA; 3.) Close polluting plants while at the same time support the creation of clean energy jobs and opportunities for impacted employees to retrain for the green energy economy.

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 COVID-19 pandemic and its concomitant stresses and challenges, the increase in crime, gun violence and interpersonal violence, the opioid crisis, and the climate crisis have combined to create a mental health emergency. Waiting lists are often months long for mental health services. There is simply not enough supply to meet demand. A significant portion of these funds should be spent to expand the services of organizations like The Living Room Wellness Center, the LGBTQ+ Center and Live4Lali. Also, law enforcement officers are often unfairly burdened with the mandate to provide services for which they do not have expertise. Alternative dispatch programs and an alternative 911 number would allow first responders who are specifically trained to resolve emergencies that do not involve criminal behavior. These programs provide communities with a critical means for addressing crises, while also freeing police to focus on preventing and solving serious crimes.

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