John Wasik: Candidate Profile:
Office sought: Lake County Board District 6
Occupation: Owner, President JK Enterprises (editorial services/speaking)
Education: BA, University of Illinois at Chicago, MA UIC
Civic involvement: Co-founder and former president, Citizens Action Project, member of the Exchange Club of Grayslake, environmental steward at Prairie Crossing (Grayslake), Sierra Club, Eagle Scout
Elected offices held:
Questions & Answers
Question 1: 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?
Since the current administration has done nothing to ensure fair property taxes (or lower them), I would fight for the following policies:
• A full review of assessments received by the chief county assessor. Are they fair? The only way to tell is to submit the assessment data generated by the townships to a rigorous statistical review. How many are being over- or under-assessed? How can we ensure that the assessment system is fair to everyone?
• A full review of the appeals process. To my knowledge, there has never been an audit of Board of Review findings. What kinds of property owners are receiving lower assessments? Is there any favoritism in this process? With the oversight of 21 board members and the administration, a thorough examination will answer the question: Is the assessment appeals process fair, and if not, what could be done to make it fair?
• After these two analyses are completed and reviewed by the board and public, the board will be able to institute best practices. These suggestions are contained in my campaign's Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which has been signed by hundreds of residents across Lake County. It's an innovation of our campaign because it pushes for increased oversight and transparency without creating another layer of government.
I'm uniquely qualified to lead these reviews. As co-founder and president of the nonpartisan Citizens Action Project, we co-wrote and helped pass a state law (with bipartisan support) that made the assessment and appeals process easier and more transparent. The old "blue" card (assessment notices) went from a postcard to an extensive detailing of appeal and assessment tools. It helped facilitate tens of thousands of appeals over the past half decade or so, enabling homeowners to lower their property taxes. (This is a rough estimate. Only a careful study will provide a better estimate)
Question 2: What is the single biggest need in your district?
Fairness and lowering property taxes. Homeowners are chafing under property taxes that keep climbing every year at roughly two times the rate of consumer inflation. In knocking on thousands of doors in my district, this is clearly the top concern. Not only do they not know how their assessments are calculated, few can keep up with the annual increases. It's pushing families out of my district. My opponent has done nothing to ease this burden. It's heartbreaking when you consistently hear "As soon as my kids are out of school, I'm moving out of Lake County!" I want to do something about that. I want to help families stay in their homes.
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?
The county board should reach a consensus on the best course of action after a careful study. That could entail requiring two independent reviews of all submitted expenses, posting those expenses online (on the county website) and having firm guidelines on what expenses should be considered for reimbursement. There's a clear lack of best practices regarding this issue, but it can be resolved with careful and fair policymaking, which has not been done.
Question 4: Is the county doing enough to control expenses? What additional, specific steps do you recommend?
No. The administration wasted some $5 million on an unusable software package for the court clerk's office and has spent untold millions on litigation for wrongful incarceration and jail abuses. We've filed several FOIAs and asked elected county officials directly how much litigation has cost taxpayers, but have not gotten a response. This information needs to be made public. A complete audit of county discretionary and contract expenditures is needed. It's clear that the county has not been fiscally prudent on so many levels. That needs to change. Lake County taxpayers pay far too much to see their money wasted.
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?
I've been observing county board meeting for more than a decade, but in recent months there's been a disturbing lack of decorum. Instead of doing the people's business, there's been partisan bickering and accusatory tirades.
Since I've had many successes working on bipartisan, nonprofit tax advocacy, I will gladly work across the aisle to accomplish the vital business to make Lake County fiscally and environmentally sustainable.