Megan Larson: Candidate profile, Kane County Board District 16
Democrat Megan Larson of South Elgin is challenging incumbent Republican Michael J. Kenyon of South Elgin for the Kane County Board District 16 seat in the Nov. 3 general election.
Larson is a school representative and chair of the U-46's Citizen's Advisory Council's student safety committee. She is president of the Kane County Chapter of the National Organization for Women.
To explore her campaign website, visit www.facebook.com/larson4kane.
District 16 covers parts of Bartlett, Elgin and South Elgin.
For a district map, visit countyofkane.org.
The Daily Herald recently asked the candidates to answer a series of questions. Here are Larson's replies.
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 have lived in South Elgin for 17 years. During that time, I have been involved in organizations within Kane County to support victims of domestic violence and reduce violence against women.
In 2017, the Kane County Board voted to cut funding for the electronic home monitoring program without public notice. This put hundreds of women's lives at risk. This prompted me to want to get more involved at the county level, but it wasn't easy. All meetings were held during the day, making it difficult for people with a traditional 40-hour work schedule to attend or make a public comment. Meetings weren't livestreamed or easily accessible. To get any information, you were instructed to submit a FOIA request. This was not making the local government transparent or accessible to people.
The county board is responsible for serving over half a million people in Kane County and I am running to make sure it serves everyone efficiently, responsibly, and transparently.
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: As a new board member, I want to make sure the Kane County government is efficient and streamlined to make it easier and more cost-efficient to serve the public.
Investing in technology can help provide more transparency, more accountability, and more efficiency to county services while eliminating the costs associated with outdated technology.
One of the main priorities needs to be responding to COVID-19 and addressing the budget deficit while supporting critical county services. I have experience in Fortune 500 companies, family-run companies, and have owned my own business. I also have a Doctorate in Organizational Leadership. I would like to bring the innovation and growth-mindset of the private sector to help improve county government.
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. In particular in the suburbs, Cook County President Toni 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?
A: Businesses and families have been devastated by COVID-19 and the difficult, but necessary, measures put in place to control the spread. Kane County is significantly behind distributing federal CARES funding intended to provide relief for county businesses.
The CARES act funding should be dispersed now and efforts should be made to help support current businesses and encourage new partnerships so that we can increase the tax pool. This not only helps raise new revenue, but it also increases jobs and opportunities for residents of the county.
In emergency situations like this, it is important to invest in our community to help support businesses and families. In my opinion, Kane County shouldn't be overly reliant on property taxes to fund services. We need to create opportunities for new business to open in Kane County. By smart investment within the community and partnerships with NGOs and private companies, we can create an environment for business to thrive and increase tax revenues through progress and growth. The county needs to spend where it makes sense -- on critical services to the community and also areas that will help drive growth.
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: Kane County is far behind where we need to be when it comes to transparency and ease of accessing county records. A common complaint I hear is government is a bureaucratic mess that is hard to navigate and even understand what is going on. The county government serves the people and should make the process easy, clear, and transparent. Government only works when people are invited into the process.
For too long, the Kane County Board has hidden the decisions they made and I'm happy to see meetings are now available to listen to in real-time via Zoom, but the county needs to go further to inform the public of what decisions are being made before they are made so the public has an opportunity to comment.
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: We need to make it easier for people to access services within county government. Outdated technology, bloated processes, and inefficiencies cause frustrations with residents, but it also costs the county money. By utilizing technology and automation we can more easily collect county revenue and reduce the cost of doing business so we can invest that money into areas that provide more benefit to residents or to provide tax relief.
Q: The county board will undergo redistricting following the 2020 Census. What is the most fair process? Do you support the current number of seats on the board?
A: Government works best when people have accessibility to their representatives. I think the size and structure of the board right now is adequate. After the census data is reviewed, the board should solicit feedback from those within the county and combine those data points in an effort to evaluate if the current structure of the board is meeting the needs of the community.
Q: Do you support the current salary and benefits structure for the county board?
A: The Kane County Board salaries are less than half of that for DuPage County, Lake, or Cook and in line with other collar counties. I think it is fair for people to be adequately compensated for their time.
Q: What actions must the county take to continue to address COVID-19?
A: With nearly 200,000 deaths in the United States and nearly 12,000 cases in Kane County, COVID is a crisis unlike any other. It is critical to stop the spread of COVID.
Beyond the staggering and tragic scope of the deaths, the long-term serious health complications we've seen as a result of this novel coronavirus are deeply concerning. The county needs to set an example by reinforcing the public health messages of social distancing, masks, and hand washing. The public health department needs support to strengthen their contact tracing efforts.
The county needs to rely on science and facts and share that information with the public. We need to ensure testing is readily available and accessible and people know where they can get tested. The county needs to strengthen its relationships with local NGOs that provide critical services such as those that provide emergency shelter for the homeless, mental health services, and other public health services.
Q: The new board will take over during a time of unprecedented budget challenges. What is your plan to balance the budget? What will your spending priorities be?
A: Unprecedented times create unprecedented challenges.
The Kane County Board needs to invest wisely in technology to make the county more streamlined and efficient and better able to serve residents during the pandemic and beyond.
They need to invest in programs that support local businesses and create opportunities for businesses to pivot and respond to the challenges presented by COVID.
The county needs to move forward with the Food Hub to support local farmers and restaurants that are struggling right now.
The county can't look to the homeowners for additional tax revenue, but instead must look at other ways to reduce expenses and maintain services while growing other sources of revenue.