Yvonne M. Barnes: Candidate profile, McHenry County Board District 1
Incumbent Republicans Yvonne M. Barnes of Cary and Tom Wilbeck of Barrington Hills face a challenge from Democrat Theresa Meshes of Fox River Grove for two seats on the McHenry County Board District 1 in the Nov. 3 general election.
Barnes, a small-business owner, first served on the board from 2006-10, and was reelected to the board in 2012. She also served as a Cary Village Board Trustee for 12 years.
District 1 represents Algonquin, Barrington Hills, Cary, Fox River Grove, Huntley, Lake in the Hills and Trout Lake.
The Daily Herald asked the candidates to answer a series of questions. Here are Barnes' replies.
For complete election coverage, visit dailyherald.com and click on "Election Central."
Q: What do you bring to the table that your opponent does not?
A: I have a proven history of performance and achievement as the taxpayers' advocate. I am a 30-year resident with multiple reelections as a county board member and Cary Village Trustee.
My community involvement includes work with all age groups from toddlers to seniors. As an elected representative, I have served on almost every county committee and have been the chairwoman of three committees at the local and county level.
In my prior term, I was the county board vice chair, which gave me additional responsibilities and opportunities to work for and with individuals and groups throughout the county. I have positive working relationships with representatives in many different governmental entities and numerous organizations throughout the area.
My knowledge, experience, and ability to work with others benefits District 1 citizens. My voting record shows my commitment to cutting costs and reducing property taxes, while increasing service and productivity at the same time.
Q: What is the biggest challenge facing your district and how do you propose tackling it on the county board?
A: Property taxes and financial difficulties. Individuals and families face problems at home and our businesses experience it through work and economic factors. I will continue to reduce expenses and pare down projects.
Most important is my focus on the annual levy and ongoing budget. I will continue to work with state, federal, and social service agencies to gather resources that benefit residents and businesses. Grants and public health services are a benefit to the community on an individual as well as a group level. Economic development will be heavily centered around resources for retention and resources to maintain business operations. There will be a new emphasis on new ways of dealing with pandemic consequences in my next year.
Refer to later questions for more specifics related to the budget, which affects the levy and determines property taxes.
Q: What have we learned as a county from the COVID-19 pandemic and what changes should be made looking forward as a result?
A: We learned that we were not prepared for the pandemic. We did not have the proper technology, financial resources, PPE, and other necessities. We did not have a detailed plan ready to implement on a timely schedule. Moving forward we need to prioritize not only resource management, but also resource preparation. Extension and inclusion of disaster plans is a starting point. We need individual departments to provide a detailed, comprehensive plan for continuity of operations, finances, and services.
Q: Do you support a 10% salary reduction for McHenry County Board members? Why or why not? Are there other cuts to the budget you would pursue first?
A: I support a reduction for those who refuse to devote the hours necessary to make educated and informed, independent decisions. Members who do not research and analyze issues should not be collecting a "paycheck." For full-time work, $10/hour is reasonable to cover expenses and compensate time.
A responsible board member needs to read all information, talk with people about decisions, listen to meetings, and research alternatives prior to reaching a recommendation or decision. Members who are not putting in 40+ hours per week are not doing the job. I support cuts including unnecessary consultants, memberships, and activities. New programs can be delayed. "Niceties" are not necessities and should be removed from the budget. Lower budget amounts with realistic numbers vs. "worst case" numbers is a help.
Contingency dollar amounts are not always appropriate. The Purchase Policy needs a lower cap that requires board approval. Freeze new hire positions. Unfilled positions should roll out of the budget after a time period. Finally, I recommend a new policy that disallows spending money at the end of the fiscal year simply because there was budgeted money left that was not spent.
Q: Should the McHenry County Jail keep its contract to house U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees?
A: The contract is reevaluated prior to continued operations on a regular schedule. This evaluation is in process. The sheriff makes a recommendation for the board consideration. Information gathering and dissemination during this time period will determine if I change my support. At this time, I appreciate the safety and security provided by personnel.
Q: Should on-duty McHenry County sheriff's deputies wear body cameras?
A: Use of body cameras is a decision the sheriff makes. If the sheriff recommends them and requests the monetary authorization, I will evaluate the proposal. I am expecting a presentation on the decision making factors within the next few months. At that time I will know more about personnel, timing, constraints, and implementation. We do need to continue to provide appropriate resources to protect the public and the deputies.
Q: Describe your position regarding the balance between county spending and revenues as it exists today, then describe the chief threats you see looming in the future and how the county should deal with them. In particular in the suburbs, President Toni Preckwinkle has set a goal of eliminating unincorporated areas from county oversight. Do you agree with this approach? If so, how should the county go about it?
A: County spending should not exceed revenues. Government is not allowed to make a profit so expenses and revenues need to be balanced closely. A future threat to all local governments is a decline in revenues without a decrease in expenses. I support finding additional revenue sources and expense reductions through grants, intergovernmental agreements, joint purchasing cooperatives, timeline changes, resource sharing, consolidations, and work productivity and efficiencies. I have not evaluated the elimination of unincorporated areas from county oversight. There has not been any discussion or information about this topic during my McHenry County meetings.
Q: How do you rate the county government on transparency and the public's access to records? If you consider it adequate, please explain why. If you think improvements are needed, please describe them and why they are important.
A: Transparency can always be improved. Public access to information and government functions are a primary component of our democracy. Improvements can be made to the process involving information requests. Sometimes a denial to a request is not explained with a clear response. The county should not have required an email for public comment in the COVID process for remote meetings. There is an inconsistent procedure for public comment at committee meetings. Consistency, ease, and effective availability must be a priority all the time.
Q: What, if anything, should be done to improve automation and customer service in county offices? What steps should be taken to make that happen?
A: Many of the requests for services and paperwork have been automated to allow for remote submission. More departments and programs are planning additional in-person and paper process conversions in the next year. Technology to support these conversions takes time to implement, test, and operate.
A phased implementation with scheduled milestones and dedicated personnel must assist with the plan. There needs to be a coexisting process for those who do not use computers and cellphones. The pandemic situation increased this priority and it will continue as a priority in the future. Our staff members continue to value customer service as an important part of their job. Continued training, development, evaluation, and brainstorming better performance is appropriate through the human resource department, supervisors and managers, and county board strategic planning.