Lauren Fleming: Candidate profile, Lake County Board District 13

  • Lauren Fleming, Lake County Board candidate District 13

    Lauren Fleming, Lake County Board candidate District 13

 
Updated 10/7/2020 10:56 AM

Republican Lauren Fleming is challenging Lake County Board Chair Sandy Hart -- the first Democrat to lead the board -- in her bid for reelection. Hart, of Lake Bluff, and Fleming, of Gurnee, are running in District 13, which includes Lake Bluff, Wildwood, unincorporated Grayslake and parts of Libertyville, Gurnee, North Chicago and Waukegan.

The Daily Herald asked the candidates to respond to a series of questions. Here are some of the responses.

 

Q: 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?

A: The main reason I chose to run is that I feel we have lost our way as a community. Our local leaders have forgotten whom they serve, and it doesn't have to be this way.

I grew up with a strong role model, my grandmother, who reminded me that if I see something that needs to be done, then I should step up and do it myself. So I'm here, asking the hard question: when the smoke clears from riots, COVID, and this election, we have to decide ... who do we want to be?

I believe in public service and that we can do better and be better. My motivation is getting back to our core mission -- helping people, not advancing political agendas. We should be listening to each other, encouraging civil debate, and stop trying to be everything to everyone. We should build bridges not burn them.

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I've spent my personal and professional life building consensus. I was born and raised on a farm, and I worked full-time nights to put myself through college as a first-generation student. I'm a small-business owner, which requires a level of fortitude, perseverance, and integrity in serving clients, helping my team, and providing value to the people every day. I believe in building bridges and serving people.

Q: 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?

A: I will bring my strengths as a consensus-builder to the table as well as my experience engaging people, managing teams, and growing a business. As Chief of Staff at the Illinois Department on Aging, I worked in a bipartisan way to improve the program that allows seniors to maintain their independence at home rather than being committed to a nursing facility.

As the legislative aide to a state senator, I worked to build bipartisan support for legislation, including partnering with area high school students to pass a law for the safe disposal of prescription drugs to fight the growing opioid epidemic, and the expansion of the Safe Haven Law for abandoned babies to be safely surrendered to police and fire departments.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

When elected, my priorities would be: 1. Stop spending money we don't have 2. Creating real reductions in the property tax burden by working with all taxing districts to find a solution 3. Growing our local economy with adult vocational training and technical education for area students, while meeting the needs of area employers to ensure they stay and grow in Lake County.

I plan to bring a fresh, unifying perspective that our community needs and deserves.

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.

A: Lake County has historically been very responsible with their finances. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case.

While our local leaders held the line on taxes, the narrative is grossly misleading. Under the current leadership, the board increased spending by 10 percent ($50 million) for 2020, creating a growing budget deficit to be solved at a later time. This is called "kicking the can down the road." The lack of foresight and leadership set the county up for disaster, jeopardizing its AAA bond rating and overall financial stability.

Now, Lake County is projecting a $30-50 million revenue shortfall that puts all services, jobs and the credit rating at risk. Lake County will be in the position of trying to determine where to make drastic cuts, risk tax increases, or taking on debt in 2021. The county needs a check on its priorities.

What are the core functions the county needs to provide to our community? Using evidence-based policymaking will achieve better outcomes. The county must do a line-by-line check on every department's expenditures and compare them to the value provided to residents. This process should be done with surgical precision for sound fiscal longevity and sustainability.

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: Prior to 2018, the county's record on transparency was notable. Today, FOIAs are denied in record numbers, hearings on ethics complaints against are withheld for months from the public, instances of improper use of county funds have not been disclosed publicly, and lawsuits are being settled behind closed doors for improper actions of its highest-ranking board members. This is absolutely unacceptable.

I believe we can do better, and the people of Lake County deserve better. We can quickly make improvements by adopting rules that guarantee proposed ordinances and other agenda items are heard in a timely way at the appropriate committee, without bypassing committees where an item might meet an objection.

We should allow duly elected board members to speak to an issue for whatever length of time they need. We should be reinstituting in-person meetings while we are in Phase 4 so critical executive sessions can take place and, most importantly, we should be implementing a deadline for hearings on ethics complaints and business licenses rather than allowing one person to delay and stall progress that prevent important disclosures to the public.

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: County services, including automation, can always improve, and should be an ongoing initiative for the board. Combining the recorder of deeds office with the county clerk's office will provide for efficiencies and cost savings.

The prior administration instituted new controls and automation to make doing business with the county easier and more service-oriented. Property tax appeals are now online, as well as all zoning and planning appeals. The next steps are to institute predictive analytics for a more anticipatory government rather than a reactive one.

Machine learning, analytics, speech and image recognition, and language processing have demonstrated an ability to not just affect quality of service, but can be key to matters of life and death.

Predictive analytics (which the private sector has been doing for years) could be beneficial for emergency management, law enforcement, public health (especially for breakouts in diseases like COVID-19), crime prevention, and public safety.

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