Angela Clay Thomas: Candidate profile
Name: Angela Clay Thomas
Office sought: Kane County Board, District 4
Family: Husband, Juan Thomas
Occupation: Executive director of a nonprofit
Education: MBA, The American University / B.S. Communications, University of Miami
Civic involvement: City of Aurora 2020 Census Complete Count Committee, vice chair, 2019 -- present; Aurora Historical Society, board member, 2015 -- present; Kensington Lakes Homeowners Association, secretary, 2015 -- present; City of Aurora African American Heritage Advisory Board, 2013-2015 (Mayoral appointment); Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley; West Aurora High School interview team 2013-2014; William L. Clay Scholarship & Research Fund, president (board member since 2000.
Previous elected offices held: Kane County Board
Incumbent? Yes, elected in 2016.
Questions and Answers
1. Why are you running for this office, whether for reelection or election for the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you? If so, what?
I am seeking reelection to address the revenue shortfall that has resulted from freezing the property tax levy. For nearly eight years, Kane County has cut programs, services and staff, yet the funding gap continues to grow. The board must implement a multipronged approach to bring in more revenue without overtaxing residents. One element to such a strategy, I believe, involves local government consolidation. Our counterparts in DuPage and other counties have taken the lead. It's time for Kane County to weigh the options.
Building strong partnerships within the county, between the county, city, township and others in the community has been a priority. I look forward to strengthening relationships and pursuing new opportunities for collaboration that maximize resources and bring new ideas to problem solving. For three years, for example, I have been working with residents in the Golfview neighborhood to address a longtime flooding issue. I have succeeded in bringing all parties to the table, for the first time, to address the drainage and flooding issue. Significant resources have been directed to this infrastructure project, but the work remains ongoing.
2. 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?
In 2018, I was unanimously elected by my peers as vice chair of the Kane County Board. In my role as vice chair I have invested time and effort into cultivating relationships with every board member, which has resulted in the full board working in better cooperation. Despite an environment too often wrought with misinformation, manipulation and lack of consideration (under the current county board chairman) the board continues to come together on key votes that bring savings to taxpayers, encourage good growth and improve efficiencies.
I led the effort to make information on the county's appointed boards and commissions current and more accessible. Whether you're interested in applying for a position, reviewing minutes from a meeting or learning who's on which boards, information can now be more easily and quickly found through a link on the county's homepage. Given all the important work done through boards and commissions, primarily on a volunteer basis, it's critical to encourage community involvement by eliminating obstacles.
As a member of the Jobs Committee for nearly four years, I worked to engage the Regional Office of Education (ROE) to formally partner with the Kane County Development & Community Services Department. Development is working to make Kane the go-to county for manufacturing, through grant programs, training opportunities and other initiatives that attract new companies and help existing companies grow. Ensuring Kane County has the workforce manufactures need is critical to the efforts of the Development & Community Services Department. ROE is now literally at the table learning about the skill sets manufacturers need and career paths; disseminating information to school districts about training and learning opportunities; and working to identify candidates for employment/internships, particularly students in the Regional Safe Schools system.
3. 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 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?
Kane County has done well maintaining programs and quality of service while costs increase (e.g. health care and pension) and revenue fails to keep pace. The problem is not the county's spending, per se, its mandated services and their associated costs. Unfunded mandates from the legislature are a major problem. Some mandated services undoubtedly add value to residents and community, such as Veterans Treatment and other specialty courts, but Kane County cannot continue to do more while the state does less. A big part of the solution to the spending-funding gap is for the legislature to direct a more equitable share of state income tax dollars to the county. The Local Government Distributive Fund should be restored to 10% of total income tax collections, for distribution to municipalities and counties.
As I understand it, the proposal from Cook County President Preckwinkle is to merge all unincorporated areas into surrounding municipalities. I believe efficiencies and savings can be achieved to ultimately bring taxes down. I need more information, however, about costs to provide services and infrastructure, transfer of resources, etc. in order to draw a conclusion about whether Kane County should move in the same direction.
4. 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.
There are many examples that illustrate the high standard Kane County observes when it comes to transparency and providing access to public records: OPENGOV (Auditor's office) provides information on monthly expenses, department revenues, head-count across the county, etc.; Compensation and meeting attendance is linked to each county board member's Web page; the Division of Transportation posts reports on road and bridge projects, traffic accidents and other key performance measures; the Finance Department posts all documents that are the basis of the final annual budget which allows residents to follow the budget process as it goes along. Recognizing that there's always room for improvement, the county board passed Resolution 19-420, this past December, authorizing posting of meeting audio recordings to www.countyofkane.org.
5. What, if anything, should be done to improve automation and customer service in county offices? What steps should be taken to make that happen?
Based on my experience and comments from constituents, customer service can be improved in some cases. County offices need to ensure phone coverage so constituents reach a person during business hours. In instances when someone gets voicemail, the outgoing message should provide answers to one or two commonly-asked questions and/or direct callers to a website for more information. Similarly, anyone who deals directly with residents -- answering phones or face-to-face -- should be able to answer basic questions, such as filing deadlines, election dates and voting periods.