Lake County Board District 6 candidates cite healthy environment among priorities
Two Grayslake residents -- an incumbent touting a list of accomplishments and a political newcomer with concerns about partisan interests -- are running to represent District 6 on the Lake County Board.
Grayslake and Hainesville are the core of District 6, which also includes parts of Lake Villa Township and southern Round Lake. County board members also serve as Lake County Forest Preserve District commissioners.
In seeking a second term, incumbent Democrat John Wasik says he wants to continue work on property tax reform, environmental issues and fixing roads. The financial journalist has written 19 books and the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which is posted on the Lake County treasurer's website.
"There's a lot more work to do in that area," said Wasik.
High property taxes are the most important issue in the district, he said. Wasik said the county needs to work with state legislators to make the property tax system equitable and also needs to consider alternative sources to fund schools.
And while substantial progress has been made, there's still much to do on stormwater management and reducing the county's carbon footprint, said Wasik, a member of the county board's energy and environment committee.
Justin Kaechele is a senior tech sector consultant in the health field. He said passage of the county's 4-cent-per-gallon gas tax, effective July 1, 2021, motivated his first run for public office.
Kaechele wants the tax repealed, saying its 14-7 passage was an example of partisan politics. All six Republican board members voted against it.
He said people are frustrated with the county board's apparent mentality that they "simply know better than the people they serve." If residents are tightening their belts, so should government, he contends.
Safe communities, affordable living, a healthy environment and helping small businesses should be at the top of the county board's agenda, he added. Kaechele says he will "disrupt bureaucratic mentalities."
The gas tax, reduced from the initial proposal of 8 cents per gallon, was enacted to raise $10 million a year to help address a backlog of road projects.
Wasik said fixing roads and reducing traffic congestion are priorities. As chair of the county board's legislative committee, Wasik said he helped secure $31 million in state funds for stormwater management and road projects in District 6.
He said he'll continue working to get full funding and construction of an underpass at routes 83 and 120, a perennial bottleneck.
"I want to relieve congestion in every possible way while creating jobs," he says on his website.
Kaechele said residents are concerned with rising prices of food, energy and gas and have "serious concerns" about public safety and crime.
He said remaining federal pandemic funding should go toward mental health and domestic violence services and drug overdose prevention. Many small businesses affected by pandemic lockdown policies also could use funds, he added.
Wasik said crisis intervention for teens and veterans, gun violence prevention initiatives and a crisis center for mental health are the types of services critical for Lake County going forward.
As vice president of the forest preserve district, Wasik said he raised more than $2 million in private donations for a net-zero environmental education center at Ryerson Woods and advocated for a greener strategic plan. He also co-wrote the county's climate action plan.
He said he'd like to see forest preserves opened on unimproved holdings, "but we need money to do that."
"I'm not opposed to putting a referendum question on the ballot and let the voters decide," he said.
Kaechele said he generally is pro-referendum but would have to carefully consider anything that could increase tax liability.