John J. Reinert: Candidate profile, McHenry County Board District 2
Incumbent Republicans Jeffrey T. Thorsen and John J. Reinert face a challenge from Democrat Jessica Phillips in the race for McHenry County Board District 2, which includes parts of Crystal Lake, Lake in the Hills, Cary, and Algonquin.
The Daily Herald asked the candidates a series of questions. Here are their responses.
For complete election coverage, visit www.dailyherald.com and click on "Election Central."
Q: What do you bring to the table that your opponent does not?
A: Personally I do not know my opponent. But what I bring to the table is my life experiences here in McHenry County. I've been in real estate and a homebuilder my entire adult life. My wife and I raised our 2 daughters here in the community. I enjoy the great lifestyle that McHenry County has to offer. Obviously we have many challenges that lie ahead. I'm enthusiastic and I look forward to those challenges and I am hopeful that I can help make McHenry County a shining light for generations to come. Serving on the County board has been an honor that I do not take lightly. I handle every decision with this simple equation: will it help the taxpayer, will it promote positive growth and, will it help secure a better future. I assure every voter no tax levy is safe and above all, I wont waste your money!
Q: What is the biggest challenge facing your district and how do you propose tackling it on the County Board?
A: Taxes Taxes Taxes. I've sat with constituents and business owners, I share many of their concerns, over regulations burdening growth and prosperity that hold back many struggling business people and homeowners through out the entire county. Tax paying homeowners spending what should be discretionary income or life savings on real estate taxes. I have been successful in curbing growth in many over bearing regulations that almost became law in McHenry County. I helped initiate a 401(k) style account in lieu of lifelong pensions on future countywide elected officials. I stopped an increase in permit fees on new businesses looking to grow in McHenry County. I also ended the unjust impact fees collected for new construction homes that lowered the cost by thousands of dollars. A few of us were successful in persuading the conservation district to cut their budget also. There was a proposal to charge licensing fees for every business operating here. I made sure the Economic development community knew we're open for business. Growing business commerce assure tax payers at least have a shot at paying less real estate taxes and everyone living here enjoys much needed job opportunities.
Q: What have we learned as a county from the COVID-19 pandemic and what changes should be made looking forward as a result?
A: One thing that bothered me the most was we were not in this together, Big box stores stayed open to sell food, but also home goods, mattresses, shoes, clothing furniture etc., while the local shoe store or furniture store, clothing stores etc. were shuttered. Some of them never reopened. I'm hopeful this does not happen again. I find comfort in knowing all of us realized what priorities are important in life.
Q: Do you support a 10% salary reduction for McHenry County board members? Why or why not? Are there other cuts to the budget you would pursue first?
A: This was a simple decision to a tough question. Currently there are 24 board members. The Board of 2022 will have 18 members, possibly less doing more in their roles as board members. The question of the 10% cut doesn't take effect until that 2022 board is sworn in. Additionally the board salary has remained unchanged since 2011 I believe. The 2020 board will be better informed to make that decision. A cut to a future board with unknown size or roles made no sense. Tough cuts certainly lie ahead. We, as a board will have to work together and rely on the support and advise of our administration. Thankfully the McHenry County government is fiscally sound.
Q: Should the McHenry County Jail keep its contract to house U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees?
A: Yes, At this time. And here's why. Many years ago the previous Sheriff entered into a contract with the Feds to finance the jail through a contract with ICE. On a larger scale this is a Federal level decision on how we handle immigration. I suggest we ask for their actions to this topic. I know that the vast majority of the population are convicted felons, murders, rapists, drug and human traffic criminals that should not be released. If we ended this contract the detainees would not be released. They would be shipped to another facility. A week or so back a few board members had their personal properties trespassed and bags of ice with a note NO ICE were left at their front doors at 3 a.m. in an attempt to intimidate us. This action was a violation that not only went way beyond the line, it was a federal offense.
Q: Should on-duty McHenry County sheriff's deputies wear body cameras?
A: Yes, I believe they are working on a solution to fund body cameras in the future. The board will assist the funding if necessary.
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, 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?
A: I currently serve on the PE & D and Finance and Audit committee. For 2020 I feel we can handle our spending / revenue balance. Moving forward, unless the entire board make some tough decisions we will either be a big part of the problem or a part of the solution that all of us will experience here in McHenry County. Much of taxes collected other than Real Estate taxes are Motor fuel taxes to maintain the roads which thankfully most of our major improvements will be completed in the near future. Other revenues are sales taxes gambling taxes and taxes that rely on a healthy economic economy. We must strive to foster growth in all of our actions. Keeping spending in mind at all time. I am hopeful, if we maintain a strong partnership with our economic development leaders we will do even better. As for eliminating unincorporated areas from county oversight. I do not agree with abandoning our unincorporated communities. I feel the smaller communities need our services and will continue to need them even more in the future.
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: Not bad and getting better all the time. I recently looked up records on a property in McHenry County and was able to find a history of past permits, health dept. records and much more. The Clerk's office is efficient and the Government website has information from every department. I have no doubt the software will only improve as time goes on, especially in our new environment caused by COVID-19.
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 am confident we are improving automation all the time. I feel customer service is job one as the Government is the servant of the people. Not the other way around. Currently any one interested in what is going on in McHenry County can visit the website and find contact information on every department. Public service is every county employees duty, and should be their top priority.