Kerri Branson: Candidate Profile
Kane County Board District 18 (Democrat)
Note: Answers provided have not been edited for grammar, misspellings or typos. In some instances, candidate claims that could not be immediately verified have been omitted.
City: North Aurora
Office sought: Kane County Board District 18
Family: Married 17 years to my husband, Scott, a teacher and coach. We have 4 children. 14 y/o twin boys, Luke and Zachary, an 11 y/o boy, Samuel, and 9 y/o girl, Leah. Much of our lives and endeavors have been documented at www.theBransonProject.com.
Occupation: Stay at home mom for our 4 beautiful children and a personal trainer with my company, Trained For Change. I am also a Race Director and Graphic Artist.
Education: University of Minnesota: 1989, Animal Health National Federation of Personal Trainers: 2009, Personal Training certification
Civic involvement: Organize and serve philanthropically with 4 successful running events each year, which donate their proceeds to local charities in our community. Volunteering for these events include positions as race director, graphic coordinator, web designer, marketing director and event consultation. I have also served Hope Wall School with fundraisers, which my twin boys attend. Luke and Zach are both affected severely by cerebral palsy.
Elected offices held: None
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No
Key Issue 1
The county should create by example of living within our means to the public. This should include allocating funds in a fair and honest method to the most needed programs. The public has little trust in our politicians. Of course, debating issues is essential, but my goal would also be to create more transparency to the public and work toward team unity for the good of the county. Politicians should advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves instead of taking advantage of their situation or using their misfortune to get what they want. The public should be reminded that a county board position is a service. Their voices should not only be heard, but also acted on. My inexperience in politics can be an advantage, as I will look at issues with fresh eyes and an honest heart. The adversity my family and I have faced has also taught me the importance of faith and facing each day with a positive outlook. Among the public, I am not satisfied with status quo. I would like to see change. Change to improve our community in a balanced way and lifting the human spirit to promote a better quality of life for everyone.
Key Issue 2
Community health and education. I am interested in seeing the 2020 Fit Kids plan Kane County has started to implement succeed. This program is essential for our children and I would like to see the plan expanded to include the special needs population. The plan touches on this subject, but I have not seen it.
With more babies surviving, premature births and our increasing ability to diagnose syndromes and sensory disorders, our special needs population is growing fast. "Haley's Playground" in North Aurora is a perfect example of what the 2020 Fit Kids plan is all about and accommodates our special population who are so dangerously at risk for obesity and inactivity. Unfortunately and surprisingly, Haley's Playground was denied funding last year. We need to ensure these programs receive community support and annual funding which will increase the focus on educating our children to live healthier, more active lives. Our children's lunch menus at school still have not reflected any healthy changes. Having good health and well-being is a solid foundation to a better community.
Key Issue 3
Supporting farmland preservation and agricultural conservation. While Kane County has supported this, I would like to see more of a focus on the issue. The current state of our economy shows as you drive around to see the distressing sights of a farmer's field gone and a replaced unfinished sub-division or empty business. Let us preserve the appropriate green we have and create jobs by beautifying and improving what is here.
We need to make use of the empty buildings and finish the community projects we have already started. I would like to see increased promotion to the people regarding the importance of our farmer's markets and locally grown food. The goal is to give farmers more opportunities to reach out to our public so that they can benefit from their hard work and continue to stay in business. This will promote a healthier lifestyle and sense of unity within our community.
Do you support a more stringent ethics ordinance for Kane County governing the conduct of elected officials and county employees? Why or why not? If so, what should the ordinance contain?
Yes. I think a more stringent ethics ordinance would provide our community a little more assurance that our elected officials are upholding the values we expect from our public servants. I don't believe this is something that can wait and I think a strict ethics code is vital to assuring the public that Kane County officials are transparent, honest and working in the best interest of the community. I know the board has had trouble following through with this task because of the current laws going before what the board is trying to put in place. My suggestion would be to abide by what the law states currently and try to revise later to legally accomplish a more stringent ethics ordinance for the future.
The county's portion of gambling proceeds has been decreasing every year for several years. What is your plan to prioritize use of that money? What might be done to wean the agencies and programs that receive this money off of it?
As I said before, I believe the able bodies should always advocate for those who cannot. Our community should prioritize programs for the less fortunate before taking care of county projects. I don't believe any social services should be "weaned" as most programs are struggling with the minimal funds they receive today. Service agencies do not have the history of success in fundraising as do community projects. Informed decisions and compassion need to enter into the decision making for prioritization of funding. This is exactly the talent I will bring to this role. I have seen the single mother trying to make ends meet while caring for her special needs child. Hiring a trained caregiver so she can go to work is not an option. Respite from the Association of Individual Development is her Godsend...until they call to tell her respite hours have been cut. We need to minimize decisions to cut funding for these types of public services. In the current economy, the reality is that funds are decreasing. Prioritizing the services neediest of this limited funding is absolutely necessary as well as encouraging fundraising and donations to offset availability of public funding.
Do you believe the Kane County court system needs a computer system upgrade that might cost as much as $12.6 million? If so, do you support using RTA sales tax money to fund the cost, or do you have a different plan? If not, what is your alternative plan?
I would strive early on in this role to gain an education as to the ?need? for a $12.6 million update. I am a believer in gaining efficiencies thru innovation. This is the key to growth, but there must be a balance in what efficiencies are necessary and which are nice to have. $12.6 million for a new computer system is a significant investment when income to the county is in decline. I am sure there are ways to upgrade at a lower cost. I can buy a brand new state of the art computer for $3,500...or I can wait a year and buy the same system for $500. Technology is always changing and getting better and faster. Settling for last year's model is always going to be 20 times better than the 7-year-old computer you have sitting on your desk. Instead of looking for ways to fund the most expensive, they should buy within their means, as it will still be a vast improvement.
Do you believe county board members and the chairman should receive health insurance and pension benefits' If you are running for one of those positions, do you plan on accepting those benefits' Why or why not?
If the effort put forth by the board member is honest and hard working, I believe they should receive these benefits, especially if they have given a significant amount of time in serving. Of course, in my opinion, a board member should opt out if they do not need these benefits. If I am given the opportunity to serve on the board, I would most likely opt in for health insurance benefits because of my family's situation. My husband and I have a goal to continue to care for our severely disabled twins at home. Along with this responsibility, come a mountain of medical bills and continual extraordinary expenses. Taking advantage of an opportunity like this and possibly a pension will help solidify our goal and keep our boys from institutionalization, which is funded by the state.
How do you resolve the ongoing debate over the county board setting budgets for departments run by other elected officials whom the county board has no control over? How should the county board enforce the budgets it sets'
Setting budgets requires understanding of the necessary costs we must undertake to provide the quality of service we intend to offer. Understanding those costs requires that the departments provide transparency in their minimum needs and proof that the departments have taken steps to ensure they are receiving goods and services from the lowest cost provider available. In addition, there needs to be checks and balances that ensure the elected officials follow the spending plan they have submitted. If they intend to stray from the plan, there should be a process where they seek approval of the county board. We need to make sure that there is ongoing transparency to hold those accountable that have control of the budgets we approve.
The objective is the same for both board and departments...to operate on a balanced budget and within the approval of the budget set by the county board.