Jennifer Clark: Candidate Profile:
Name: Jennifer Clark
Office sought: Lake County Board District 15
Occupation: Adjunct professor of economics
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Economics, Miami University, Oxford OH
Juris Doctorate, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Civic involvement: I have been a dedicated volunteer in my community for years including as a Girl Scout leader, Sunday school teacher, high school parent swim team coordinator and parent water polo coordinator, Main Street volunteer and food pantry volunteer.
Elected offices held: None
Questions & Answers
Question 1: If you are a challenger, what would you bring to the board and what would your priority be?
My first priority would be to end the practice of no bid contracts to friends, family member and campaign donors of Lake County Board members and staff. I would open the bidding process to attract more bids. Competition should lead to lower prices, better services and savings for Lake County taxpayers.
I would work vigorously to enact rules that require disclosure of conflicts of interest for county contracts. It is unconscionable that any entity bidding on County contracts does not have to disclose financial or personal relationships to Board members or staff.
As an economist, I would work to enact policies to ensure growth for Lake County into the future. We definitely need to improve our roads and bridges, but we also need to focus on infrastructure that the companies of today and tomorrow will need. That may include stronger data networks, lower power costs by pursuing renewable energy, and perhaps even new road design to support self driving cars.
Lake County should start investing in renewable energy, especially solar power. In the long run, this will save money from lower energy costs, help attract businesses to the area, and help decrease carbon emissions. My goal would be to have all county building receiving at least 50 percent of their power from renewable energy by 2030.
I am always telling my students that they need to prepare for the economy of the future by making smart and educated decisions now: I want to implement smart and educated policies for Lake County.
Question 2: What is the single biggest need in your district?
The single biggest need in my district is for a comprehensive stormwater management plan. My district covers the entire village of Libertyville and Mundelein east of Route 45. Most of this area has stormwater sewers that were built before 1973 and have only a 24 inch stormwater drain. Furthermore, many neighborhoods were not developed with stormwater management in mind and have very few drains that lead from the area or do not have retaining ponds and have low elevations. In addition, the land slopes down from Route 45 to the Des Plaines River which means that all stormwater rolls down across my district. When you also include the increased heavy rains due to global climate change, this has led to a dramatic increase in flooding in my district.
The villages of Libertyville and Mundelein are working on stormwater management plans. But implementing any plan is going to cost a lot of money and still will not be able to end all flooding issues due to extremely heavy rains. I would want to serve on the stormwater Management commission because this is a problem that requires a regional approach. Every area in the county must work together to coordinate stormwater issues. The County should help support funding of the stormwater management plans developed by many towns and villages, either through low cost loans or grants or support in finding funding sources. The County should be a leader in developing a comprehensive plan.
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?
Since it appears that some County Board members and staff have abused their procurement cards by using them for personal expenses in violation of Illinois law, I believe that they should be eliminated for all employees and limited to one per department. A thorough investigation and audit should be done immediately of the use of the P-card for all County Board members and staff member that have one. I am stunned that there are currently 260 County credit cards.
Furthermore, if the P-cards are not eliminated, then strict procedures regarding their use need to be implemented immediately. The taxpayers of Lake County should not be expected to spend thousands of dollars on meals and outings for Lake County Board members and staff.
It was stated at the August Board meeting that the County Board cut its contribution to health care for many employees, which may make health care unaffordable for them. The Coroner's office is apparently understaffed and does not have the appropriate space to perform its duties. Support for programs for youth outreach and training have been cut, yet the Board and Lake County staff has no qualms about spending thousands and thousands of tax payer dollars on meals, travel, bowling outings, etc. for their own enjoyment and benefit. This must end now.
Question 4: Is the county doing enough to control expenses? What additional, specific steps do you recommend?
The Lake County Board has not done enough to control expenses. There is the huge issue with over spending with the Procurement card, as stated above. Obviously procedures must be put into place to limit the use of taxpayer money on things that do not directly benefit the taxpayers. I would start with limited access to the County credit card and having a strict and well defined set of rules that govern its use.
The Lake County Board usually has extra money that it did not use at the end of each fiscal year and it "sweeps" this money into a general fund. Yet even thought there is extra money, the Board continues to raise taxes. The budget should reflect the money that is actually needed and if there is extra money at the end of the year, then the next year's budget should reflect that and go down, not continue to increase.
Finally, the no bid contracts to friends, family members and campaign donors must end immediately. These contracts do not control expenses; there is no competition which leads to higher costs to the detriment of the taxpayers. The Board should immediately end no bid contracts and require a full disclosure of financial or personal interest to anyone that bids on a County contract. This should decrease costs to the taxpayers and help control expenses.
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?
When I decided to run for the Lake County Board, it was because as an economist, I am truly passionate about economic development and growth and the conservation of our natural resources. I thought this position would be a perfect fit. But after learning more about the abuses and partisanship that is going on with the board, I have been appalled. Personal attacks and bullying have no place in a county board meeting or in any government or place of business.
There needs to be much greater transparency and information available to the citizens of what the Board is doing. All Committee of the Whole meetings should be available by video. Public documents should be available on the County website: citizens should not have to resort to requesting public information under the Freedom of Information Act. Insider dealings and campaign contributions and personal relationships need to be disclosed.
If elected I will work hard to represent the best interests of the people of Lake County. I am not a career politician and will not be one if elected. I will still also be a college professor. This gives me the independence to do what I know is right after careful consideration of all the facts. I will be an educated and independent voice for the citizens of Lake County.