Steve Carlson: Candidate profile, Lake County Board District 7
Incumbent Republican Steve Carlson of Grandwood Park and Democratic challenger Carissa Casbon of unincorporated Warren Township are facing off in the Lake County Board race for the chance to represent District 7.
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: There is still so much to do. I have made it my stated goal to secure a reliable, sustainable funding source for the United Way 211 program. This program has proven, in this time of crisis, to be absolutely necessary in ascertaining and addressing the needs of a population under financial, physical and psychological stress.
The county faces many challenges caused by the pandemic, financial as well as in the areas of housing and, obviously, health care. The 211 reporting tool as of the last 90 days indicates over 43 percent of all inquiries were related to housing and shelter. The next highest need, at 17 percent, is for utility assistance.
The county has created a committee, of which I am a member, to distribute whatever federal funds that become available to address these needs. The current funds need to be spent before Dec. 31. If another relief package is passed by Congress, the same committee will address how they are distributed.
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 was instrumental in bringing the 211 program to Lake County. As stated above, permanent, reliable funding for this program is my main priority.
It took over 14 years, but we finally solved the Winchester House problem by assisting a private company in building a replacement, while ensuring that the primary mission of Winchester House, which is service to the indigent, will continue to be honored.
I was instrumental in bringing the Smoke Free and Tobacco 21 programs to the county through my service on the board of health.
I and my colleague, Linda Petersen from District 1, championed the distribution of video gambling funds to human services agencies, starting with Nicasa, which offers treatment for gambling addiction. This is also the source of county funding for 211.
I was able to bring Lake Michigan water to the 7th District.
The addition of the Mill Creek Forest Preserve, as well as pedestrian access to the Rollins Savannah, which connects Gurnee Trails at 45 and Dada.
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 county board is very proud of the financial stability of this county. We have maintained a AAA bond rating for as long as I have been on the board. The threat, obviously, is COVID-19 and the cuts in revenues and increases in services that this necessitates. Hard decisions are going to have to be made, the longer this goes, the harder the decisions.
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: I am pleased to report that the county has already taken great strides in ensuring the transparency of county government. We have received the "Sunshine Award" from the Sunshine Review, a nonprofit organization dedicated to state and local government transparency.
"Lake County Gets an 'A' for Transparency"
Lake County's website ranks among the best state and local government websites in America for transparency according to "The Sunshine Review," a nonprofit organization dedicated to state and local government transparency.
Lake County is among 39 "Sunny Award" winners to earn an "A" transparency grade out of 5,000 government websites. Sunshine Review's "Transparency Checklist" analyzes websites for information about budgets, meetings, elected and administrative officials, permits and zoning, audits, contracts, lobbying, public records, and taxes.
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: Whenever new methods that are more efficient are available, they should be implemented. The clerk, the recorder of deeds and others have been addressing this issue ongoing. As far as customer service, one of the greatest complaints I used to get had to do with the lack of centralization of county services. This has been greatly alleviated by the Central Permit Facility in Libertyville.