John Frazier: Candidate profile, Lake County Board District 16
The race for Lake County Board's District 16, which covers portions of Round Lake and Round Lake Beach, pits Democratic incumbent Terry Wilke against challenger John Frazier, a Republican. Wilke lives in Round Lake Beach and Frazier lives in Round Lake.
The Daily Herald asked the candidates a series of questions.
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: I am new to politics. This is my first campaign. I am a fiscal conservative who believes in the mantra "live and let live." I believe in America and I believe in its people. I am deeply concerned with high property taxes, higher than average unemployment, people fleeing Lake County and Illinois for less taxed states, weak economic development and ever increasing opioid related deaths. I believe we all are more alike than we are apart, and that we can find common ground to come together as one.
Corruption at every level of Illinois Government has created such distrust of our elected officials, even right here in Avon Township. Sadly, those who are corrupted use division to tear us further apart. They use people as pawns to secure their own power. Maybe that makes sense in national politics when so much is at stake, but here, so close to home, it is tearing us apart, and I believe I can put a stop to it by being open to all, representative of all and putting people over politics.
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 am a working class guy with a background in health care. I am literally the everyday man on the street with a beautiful wife and kids who mean the world to me. I understand the people because I am the people. I am going to be the representative that I would want representing me.
I will do that by bringing an entire new level of transparency that has not been seen by the public before, at least not in Illinois. I will message to my constituents and ask for everyone's opinions. I promise my votes belong to you and to no one else.
Sadly, on the county board right now, while they claim to be transparent, they are everything but. My opponent had an ethics complaint filed against him in March of this year. His friends on the board sat on that complaint for five months before even addressing it, nor letting the ethics committee even know there was a complaint filed against him. My opponent was personally receiving mileage reimbursement from the county for 14 months. I ask you, is that right? Is that fair to the taxpayers? If elected, I will put a stop to that type of corruption and partisan politics immediately.
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: The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has created one of the worst fiscal perfect storms in all of our lifetimes. Revenues to the county are projected this year to be down $30 million to $50 million, and there are no projections yet what they will be down next year. Homeowners will start losing their homes, and landlords who have spent so many months without collecting rents will begin to lose their houses as well. I believe we will see unprecedented declines in the usually stable property tax revenues, as more and more tax liens get sold at auction.
Historically, Lake County has had the luxury of growing through expansion and relatively good fiscal times. That expansion has caused the county to invest in services beyond the core services that residents expect. However, as revenues decline and homeowners get strapped financially, Lake County will be forced to make serious decisions on what it can afford to provide and finding ways to cut the budget.
Sadly, last year, the board voted to increase spending by about $50 million and did not put together a plan on how to pay for it. Now we are in the worst-case scenario, and very important decisions are on the horizon.
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: Lake County has a huge transparency issue. My opponent is one of the perfect examples of how the public has been shut out of the process and being fed information only that benefits him. That, in my opinion is disgraceful. Even more important than transparency, however, is honesty. Transparency is the tool we can use to force honesty. When backroom deals are made outside of our sight, we get sold down the river. That is what Terry Wilke has done during his tenure as county board member and his dual role as Avon Township Supervisor. He is often voting on two sides of the same contract, which should be a conflict of interest, but yet he gets away with it. My opponent has been caught lying to the public, on video, time and time again. Had he not been being protected by political forces above, he would have been censured or forced to resign long ago.
Elected officials are there to do the people's work. They should not be there for their own gain, two taxpayer funded salaries, fraudulent mileage reimbursements, and lifetime pensions. Full transparency is the only way we can work together as a team to eliminate all of that.
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: I've walked and talked with thousands of voters in my district. Countless hours and countless conversations. Unfortunately, not one person I spoke with talked about a burning need for automation. If it becomes an issue for my constituents, I will be happy to prioritize it and do everything I can to accomplish what my voters want. As for right now, my focus is on increasing transparency, removing corruption, helping our residents and businesses who have been decimated by the coronavirus fallout, focusing on how to protect populations the most vulnerable to deadly effects of the virus, reducing spending, working together and giving the power of government back to the people.