Dick Barr: Candidate Profile:
Name: Dick Barr
City: Round Lake Beach
Office sought: Lake County Board District 3
Occupation: Small business owner/licensed managing broker of Dick Barr Group Real Estate Consultants
Education: Studied political science/computer science at SUNY Oneonta and College of Lake County
Civic involvement: Planning and zoning commissioner, board of directors for the Round Lake Beach Police Foundation, board of directors for the Round Lake Beach Cultural and Civic Center (past), Jr. board of directors for the Save A Star Drug Awareness Foundation (past), member of Lindenhurst-Lake Villa and Round Lake Area Chambers of Commerce. I started and run a community group that now consists of over 700 active community members who work to promote stronger community, beautification projects, local charitable causes, government involvement and increasing communication. Member of the government & political issues committees for both the NS/Barrington REALTOR Board and the Mainstreet Organization of REALTORS.
Elected offices held: I am not a career politician. I'm a family man, community member and business owner, in that order. I am running for this, my first office, to make positive changes that will affect my family and neighbors. It used to be my goal to raise my family, keep our children close to us when they started their careers, then retire and relish in the grandkid visits. I no longer see it foreseeable to retire in Illinois at our current trajectory, and the career opportunities for young professionals have diminished. This is my opportunity to raise awareness and fix that.
Questions & Answers
Question 1: What would you bring to the board and what would your priority be?
I know how to get things done. I know who to talk to, and I have a giant network of friends, colleagues, acquaintances, business owners, politicians who I can turn to for help. My activity in the community has created great opportunity to meet many who can effectuate change. Years before I even dreamed of running for office, you could find me going door to door (often in below freezing weather) to educate the public on issues in local governments. I've been known to fill an auditorium or two with concerned citizens who want to fight back against decisions that affect them. Being a legislator on County Board is not just about sitting in meetings and voting. Being a legislator on County Board is about being in the community, meeting residents and leaders, finding out what most affects you, and being your voice in County government and lobbying for change in Springfield. It includes being open minded and willing to listen to every resident. Being a leader is not about towing some arbitrary Party line, it is about doing what is right for the area. You have told me loud and clear, through my walks through the neighborhoods, that you are FED UP with property taxes. As a Real Estate Broker, and one who gives frequent free seminars on property taxes, I understand property taxes better than most. Being a frustrated homeowner myself, and property tax expert makes me the right candidate for the right time for Lake County.
Question 2: What is the single biggest need in your district?
Property Tax Relief. Seniors are being forced to sell their homes with little to no equity due to downward pressure on home prices caused by outrageous property taxes. Young people can't afford to buy homes due to exorbitant property taxes. The middle class can't sell their homes and move up because their equity is nonexistent or they are upside down on their mortgages. Without home mobility that is crucial in every community, our children are aging out of the school districts, not being replaced by new families, causing declining enrollment, leading to less funding from the state to support the school districts. Some will tell you that County Board only accounts for 7 percent of a property tax bill, therefore nothing we can do. I reject that notion. I believe the County Board can and should create an additional committee of its members (at no cost to the tax payer) that addresses intergovernmental lobbying for the tax payer. Items addressed would include how taxing bodies can work together to share more resources and purchasing power, lobbying state representatives on issues that actually impact our constituents' property taxes, how the state can fund schools more in line with our neighboring states who are attracting our fleeing residents, among others. While we only directly control 7 percent of a tax bill, we can have a meaningful impact on the remaining 93 percent. Without MEANINGFUL Property Tax reform, we will continue to drive away residents and businesses from our county and our state.
Question 3: Should the county government eliminate procurement cards, or p-cards, for county board members? Should county board members even have expense accounts? County board members in some other counties don't, their salaries cover work expenses. Should employees' p-cards be eliminated, too?
Lake County needs to eliminate all avenues of potential fraud and abuse of tax payer dollars. P-Cards for County Board Members, while convenient, are not necessary, especially in light of the information that there is no oversight over their use by County Board Members, or limited oversight at best. I have proposed replacing the P-Card system with a requisition/reimbursement program to deal with expenses ONLY related directly to Constituent Services, office supplies, mailings, or travel in the course of training or lobbying efforts, as approved in advance by the Finance Committee at their regular monthly meeting. If the Board Member has the means to front the cost, they could ask for reimbursement after the fact upon submission of receipts, if not, they can requisition the expense to be paid directly to the vendor in advance. With regard to employee use of P-Cards: With the exception of employees with County Vehicles who need to purchase gas on occasion, I see little NEED for employees to have P-Cards. I would like, however, to analyze the findings from the ongoing investigation, to determine if eliminating the P-Card program, and associated staff time needed to account for reimbursement/requisitions of employees warrants a change. If it is determined that additional staff time costs exceeds potential savings, then I would not be in favor of eliminating P-Cards for employees, since employees do have a hierarchy of accountability to their P-Card use, as opposed to county board members, who do not.
Question 4: Is the county doing enough to control expenses? What additional, specific steps do you recommend?
Expenses can always be trimmed from a half a billion dollar budget. I favor zero based budgeting practices that build budgets from the ground up, rather than the top down. A department should not automatically rely on last year's budget to build next year's budget. Instead, departments should needs-assess their programs to determine which programs work/benefit tax payers and which ones do not. If a department cannot justify the programs and their value, then there should not be any funding budgeted for them in subsequent years. The first step to reducing expenses is to be able to see our budget line items. Millions of dollars are spent in combined line items that make it impossible to root out what was spent and where. The tax payers deserve to know where their money is being spent. It is the next logical step into accountability and transparency. Further, I reject the whole budgetary notion of "Use it or lose it" that we employ. This concept of spending money for the sake of spending money needs to go now. In a County that is losing population and losing businesses, yet growing in expenditures, drastic and significant changes must be made immediately to stem the tide.
Question 5: Historically, county board meetings have been free of partisanship and political antics -- but party-line fighting has become more noticeable in recent years. How do you feel about that?
The Lake County Board has a long history of working together in a bipartisan fashion, including up through the last two contentious referendum issues, one of which is going on this November's ballot, 'Elected Assessor' and 'Favoring a Constitutional Amendment to prohibit a Statewide Property Tax.' Both of those issues, while hotly debated on the board, were voted on in a very bipartisan fashion. Those two issues had both Republican and Democrat votes for and against. Where I see the partisanship creeping in is when the almost insolvent state of Illinois attempts to impose its will on Lake County in an attempt to make Lake County more like Cook County. Lake County is one of only three counties in the state with a Triple A bond rating and one of the very few with a balanced budget. Why on earth would we want Lake County to be more like Cook County? County board members must work together for what is best for Lake County and its residents, not their respective parties. We are losing too many people too fast. The feud between Republicans and Democrats is toxic. We all need to work together to push back against the State and its unfunded mandates, inequitable redistribution of our residents' tax revenue, poor school funding formula, singling out Lake County for legislative changes, etc. I want to be the Member who brings us all together, for our community.