Michael Danforth: 2022 candidate for Lake County Board District 17
Office sought: Lake County Board District 17
City: Fox River Grove
Occupation: Lawyer, Danforth Law Group
Previous offices held: Lake County Board member -- District 17 Lake County Forest Preserves -- Commissioner offices held: Lake County Board Member -- District 17 Lake County Forest Preserves -- Commissioner DeKalb County Board -- member, DeKalb, 1984-86; DeKalb County Forest Preserve -- Commissioner, DeKalb, 1984- 86; and DeKalb County Home, Health, Agriculture & Education -- Committee member, DeKalb, 1984-86.
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 am running for reelection because I believe I am one of only a few voices currently on the county board that understand what the purpose of limited government actually is. I do not believe that the purpose of government is to use tax payer dollars to fund pet projects or projects that are purely ideological and do not have a sound basis in either fact or science. As a trained constitutional minded attorney, I believe that the voice of the people actually matters and that most elected officials have short memories when it comes time to vote on issues of real importance. Two top issues of focus for me are we must show the public that we can repeal bad and repressive taxes like the county's new gasoline tax and that we are willing to lobby our state legislators to repeal or greatly modify the ill-conceived Safe-T-Act that will make our communities less safe.
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 the incumbent on the county board, appointed in February 2017, I was a vocal opponent against the county implementing a new county tax on gasoline and fuel because of the regressive nature of the tax hurting lower income residents, especially during the COVID pandemic and job layoffs. I recently sent a survey to all household in my district and by a margin of 75%, residents want this gas/fuel tax repealed. I was selected to serve on a finance subcommittee, the ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act), charged with allocating $138 million of federal relief money committee. We have been able to allocate millions of dollars for countywide food relief, housing and rental assistance just to name a few.
As the county board's only practicing attorney and as a member of the Law and Judicial committee, I serve on the chief judge's Bail Bond Reform committee to assist in working through the implementation of the Safe-T-Act and the elimination of cash bail when goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2023.
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: The county for the most part does a very good job of governing itself by sound financial principles. This is quite evident with our AAA bond rating as well as the thoughtful budgetary process that we go through on an annual basis. However, in light of the impact that the COVID pandemic has had on our economic growth and the reduction of our tax base as has been projected, I believe there are some departments within the county in which we should have an across-the-board 5 to 10% spending cut, in order to bring some tax relief to the taxpayers. We know that just to implement the unfunded state mandate that the state's Safe-T-Act will impose on taxpayers that we will need to spend an addition $6.5 to $8 million that we did previously anticipate. As a member of the county board's Finance committee, we will have to be looking very hard at increasing efficiencies and reducing numerous line items in the county's budget.
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: Yes, I would support this type of referendum if requested to do so. I believe that a government that gives the people a more direct way to participate and have their voices heard, especially when it comes to spending their tax dollars is a government that is concerned about what the people say is in their best interests. We have seen that during the COVID pandemic that our county forest preserves were havens that our residents depended on to whether through some of the darkest times caused by the requirements of indoor social distancing. We know that for many Lake County residents, the environment of our forest preserves was key to both their physical and mental health. We need to continue to make sure that our forest preserves offer the best in restored habitats, improved trials and outdoor amenities.
Q: What is the single most important issue facing your district and how should the county address it?
A: The most important issue that faces the county presently is that of public safety and community policing. Lake County residents that I have talked with and surveyed are growing fearful of what they see as a lack of real concerns in their elected officials for keeping their communities safe. We have seen increases in both violent and nonviolent crime in Lake County and residents need to know that their political leaders are working to address the problem. I know that of all the services that the county can provide for its residents -- safe streets and guarded neighborhoods are the most important. If residents do not feel safe in their community, they will move to one in which they feel safer.
In a recent electronic survey that I conducted, over 93% of those surveyed want the state's Safe-T-Act either modified or repealed all together because they believe that the new law will make their communities less safe for them and their children.
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: I was selected to serve on a Finance subcommittee, the ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act), charged with allocating $138 million of federal relief money committee. We have been able to allocate millions of dollars for countywide food relief, housing and rental assistance just to name a few. I do believe that we have an opportunity to use some of these federal funds to cover some of the unforeseen costs caused by the pandemic that will lead to budgetary short falls. While the ARPA money should not be used to justify new programs it can be utilized as a type of bridge funding for some of the unforeseen mandated budget items that new state laws will force us to fund, like the Safe-T-Act and an increase from less than $1 million to over $5 million of needed funds for the Veterans Assistance Commission.