Marah Altenberg: 2022 candidate for Lake County Board District 19
Office sought: Lake County Board District 19
City: Buffalo Grove
Occupation: County board member, small business owner
Previous offices held: Town Youth Commission member
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?
A: I chose journalism as a career because I wanted to help safeguard society and give back. A career in print journalism was supporting a way to encourage a strong democracy. Government can be confusing and sometimes not always pointed in the right direction.
Now I am excited to be on the other side and have the power to make important decisions that I believe can impact my neighbors and fellow constituents for the better. My constituents are experiencing a tough time with COVID, crime issues on the rise, women's health rights in jeopardy, inflation, high taxes, and more. I am proud that I was able to help seniors in my county through COVID, that I could help ease the burden on taxpayers through COVID with a four-payment tax plan I helped develop, that I supported the eradication of single-use plastics in county venues, and supported the removal all carbon emissions from the county by 2040. I also supported the elimination of the Recorder of Deeds office.
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: My main contributions the last few years on the county board include my huge efforts during COVID to partner with our health department. I saw that the health department was overwhelmed and that our senior citizens needed more attention and help with online services to manage COVID appointments. I single-handedly created a 100-person volunteer call center to help seniors. I recruited all volunteers and trained them. My call center partnered with our health department call center and we also helped answer thousands of voicemails from the department. I worked with County Treasurer Holly Kim on a four-payment property tax option for COVID relief. I proposed a $500 tax credit for those purchasing electric cars. Lately, worried about women in our county having their quality of health care threatened, I introduced a resolution to the board proclaiming that all services for women's reproductive care will absolutely continue.
Q: Given the recent history of flat tax levies, do you think the county/forest preserve have done good jobs of budgeting or do you see specific area that can be improved?
A: I am extremely proud that I supported and was able to keep property taxes flat for each year that I have held office on the county board, while the county has maintained its AAA bond rating. However, we need to do more to give property tax relief to residents and look for more places to consolidate and cut and operations. This is my top priority. I believe the county has been able to support incredible programs. Additionally, our staff has expertise in identifying grant money to cover a myriad of expenses in all departments. However, they must continue to increase their efforts to find more opportunities. With direction from me and other board members, our department heads have been able to budget tightly and have done a good job of using their department budgets efficiently. I have also voted not to increase any elected officials' salaries. The forest preserve has done a responsible job of budgeting, but more can be done by tightening our belts and seeking out more types of grants.
Q: Would you support putting a referendum on the ballot for voters to decide if they wish to issue new bonds to preserve open spaces, restore habitats, create more trails and upgrade forest preserves?
A: I would like to see what more creative budgeting we could do with the forest preserve to cover as many projects as possible, before we would ever go to referendum. I would understand that increasing tax burdens at this time may not be received well by our residents. Identifying other financial resources that would not encumber our residents with more property taxes is what I prefer.
Q: What is the single most important issue facing your district and how should the county address it?
A: The single most important issue facing my district is high property taxes. During COVID I put out a news release saying that our board needed to offer some relief for our constituents. I partnered with Lake County Treasurer Holly Kim to come up with a four-payment option for COVID relief. Additionally, I worked with my colleagues across the aisle, to make sure that business owners were included. In my next term, I would like to advocate for a property tax payment plan each year. I also believe in consolidating operations within the county government and outside of the county government. For example, I supported the recent consolidation of the county Recorder of Deeds office with the County Clerk's office. My hope is to not only continue to freeze property taxes, but possibly to see some decreases in the future.
Q: Lake County officials want public feedback on how to spend portions of some $135 million in leftover federal pandemic funding. What are your thoughts on how the money ought to be spent?
A: This $135 million was a true gift to our county. It will help fund extremely important resources and infrastructure projects. A portion of the funds will be used for a new proposed 911 Center for the county. The old 911 building is crumbling and far too small to house all of this vital equipment. Some of the money, which I support, will be used to create and preserve affordable housing in different areas throughout the county. Some will also be used to construct a permanent shelter for homeless individuals. I also support using some of the funding for investment in the county's wastewater treatment plants to update and improve treatment capabilities. Additionally, I am supporting investment in programs that will bring a reduction in violent crimes and prevent gun violence. I support investment in personal protective equipment, as well for our first responders. I would also aggressively seek out available federal funds to hire more law enforcement professionals