Friday, September 21, 2018

Local Candidate Forum

[UPDATE: Notes for the Auditor portion of the forum have been added. Thanks Ann!


Last night there was the first of three forums coming up (see schedule here) for candidates running for County offices in the upcoming midterm election. Video here when available (probably some time Monday). From the News-Gazette:
Hopefuls in 3 races argue their cases
Some 70 people chose to spend their Friday evening at the Champaign City Building, where they heard from six candidates for three Champaign County seats.

In the first of three Friday forums hosted by the League of Women Voters, NAACP and The News-Gazette, candidates for county sheriff, clerk and auditor answered questions submitted by the audience.
Full article here with overviews of the forums with County Sheriff, County Clerk, and County Auditor candidates.

We have some rough notes from the Sheriff and Clerk candidates below for anyone interested. Special thanks to Ann for these!
General Candidate Forum

Here's the schedule:
7:30-8:00 Champaign County Sheriff: Allen Jones, R; Dustin Heuerman, D

Opening statements:

H: Surprising others due to assumptions about his sexuality, being judge by one aspect of himself. He’s running because he doesn't like what he sees, and he wants to make change. He knows what it’s like to to be stereotyped. No one should fear police, we should work together. Employees should be valued. It is our obligation to provide resources to prevent re-offending. We also need to protect and serve those living outside CU.

J: 29 year veteran, and other work experience. Education. Has experience of running the jail. Many outside sheriff position have little experience. 160 employees, 5 different unions, negotiate and manage. Implementing body cams, crisis prevention training, distributing narcan, co-administrator of grant to reduce jail stay of those with mental illness, substance abuse.

Q: Does current sheriff cooperates with ICE? Should they?

J: Illinois trust act followed by office, don’t detain beyond release point, only when warrant is issued; not detained based on request from ICE.

H: I don’t believe sheriff should cooperate with ICE. Citizens should feel safe and be comfortable. Actively work with immigration groups. ICE makes people not want to report crimes.

How will you handle prisoners with mental illness issues?

H: Collaborate with community organizations to get help before they are arrested. Once in jail they should be provided with resources.

J: Leadership and experience already taking place. Partnership with mental health board. Community providers are already in the jail. Those resources are immediately accessible along with follow-up appointments. He’s an advocate for non-violent offenders.

What is your plan for the downtown jail? Do you think we need additional capacity?

J: We need additional capacity at satellite jail. Downtown jail should be closed. Remodeling and expansion of satellite jail so corrections office can be run under one building.

H: Needs to speak with those who work there to know more details, but agrees with closing downtown jail to consolidate staff and materials. Also believes in alternatives to incarceration.

What features do you think the new jail should have?

H: Difficult to speculate. Study needed. Officer safety is number one priority. Space for GED and vocational classes.

J: The expansion has been studied, the need is 60-80 beds. Ability to house medically challenging or difficult inmates. Medical and mental health staff will be with population. Program space will be freed up. Male and female space should be available at the same time (right now it’s not).

What’s the best way to recruit women and minorities?

J: Go out and build relationships, using current staff who can give testimonials, be present at activities and programs with recruiting cards. Tests used to be once every two years. Now these online tests can be taken any time so recruitment is ongoing.

H: One of the best strategies is to partner with Parkland College and others with criminal justice programs, internships and ride-alongs. Also let them know policing is as much social work as enforcement. Anyone can do the job with right training.

How important would you say experience is when running for sheriff?

H: I think experience is very important. Type of experience is just as important as number of years. Named his experience, which provides best practices for criminal justice.

J: Experience is important, but it’s also relationships. Current relationships with Parkland and other colleges, students have already been doing ride-alongs and have been hired. Established relationships with community and how to navigate that, especially when it’s very challenging financially, it’s very important.

How will you handle racial profiling?

J: It’s illegal, it’s unacceptable, not part of training. RJTF has recommendations which we’re working to follow. Working with data analyst to see if changes need to be made and addressed.

H: Unfortunately it’s due to implicit bias so we’re working against that. Hiring diverse personnel, increase community policing, using data to address issues.

What is your leadership style?

H: collaborative, people who are impacted by decision need to be part of the process. Taking in multiple perspectives.

J: Creative and innovative. Take direction of sheriff and see best ways to make that happen, let the staff loose to follow those directions, while evaluating costs, and keeping the best interests in mind of the community.

What’s the most rewarding part of working on law enforcement?

J: Interaction with community, spending time in community, advocate for mental illness, substance abuse, establishing relationships, seeing and being recognized by those he’s helped, it’s a public service. It’s rewarding.

H: After you do this job for a long time, relationship aspect is rewarding. We see people at very low points in their lives. Helping people find solutions and resources, seeing them helping themselves, it’s very rewarding.

What motivated you to go into law enforcement?

H: I want to help people. Grandfather was part time police office. Now it’s more intelligence led. I’ve learned to appreciate the change being made in someone’s life. Primarily working in a county setting, getting to know people is rewarding.

J: Father, Allen Jones, police chief of Rantoul, growing up in military town, he served with integrity and desire to help the community, lead with a purpose.

Closing statements:

H: Thanking sponsors, husband and voters. Proud to be the first Democratic candidate for sheriff in 20 years. Giving up secure and tenured position because he’s passionate about the need for change. Importance of diversity and equality is an important perspective.

J: Thanking sponsors, family, voters. I don’t rest on laurels of work that’s been done but find ways to improve. With my leadership and experience, I’ve played a key role. Gun violence and domestic violence, opioid addiction, mental health issues, lots of challenges, jail consolidation. I’m the only one with corrections experience. I’ve led that agency. I’ll leverage my experience with the judiciary and the state’s attorney’s office. We have to continue working with crisis response center to give people the resources they need before they become part of the criminal justice system, and someone who doesn't have the right experience will have a lot of difficulty with that.
8:10-8:40 Champaign County Clerk: Matt Grandone, R; Aaron Ammons, D

Opening statements:

A: 1965, AA voting right advocates planned March with 600 people who were stopped by state troopers, Bloody Sunday. Over 3000 marchers then marched with Dr. King to Selma, Viola, a white woman who helped was killed. On the 15th anniversary I walked across that bridge. I value our democracy, this is more than a job, that’s why I’m running.

G: Born and raised in Urbana, has worked for Gordy for 4 years, yes it’s a job, the voters and taxpayers ask us to do it. I’ll talk about what I've already done in clerk's office, run last eight elections. Including largest election in our history, we do it better than any office in state because we hire competent people. Now hire the most competent person to lead this party forward. We Follow Illinois election code which changes every day. I’m the one who can do this.

Describe the job of county clerk. What are 3 most important duties:

G: 1) Run elections, 2) vitals department, 3) tax department, looking for easy ways to get documents that are needed, to help citizens get the help they need, providing information to trustees, etc, so they can provide the services needed.

A: Tax, vitals, and elections. That’s a given. What I see as most important is outreach to community, make sure underserved have a voice. It’s bigger than just a job, also providing a sense of security for voters. I’ve voted in 26 last elections, Matt voted in 10.

Position demands management and organizational skills and dealing with documents. Do you have the skills to do this?

A: Serves on state retirement board serving large number of pensioners. Alderman, also president of union, validating contracts, training, negotiations, etc. Endorsed by employees who work in county clerk’s office.

G: Running last 8 elections. Primary 610 different ballots, making sure every single voter gets right ballots, 550 election judges with equipment when needed,

What would you do differently or better?

G: Hiring full time programmer. Part time on contract currently, so we can continue to evolve and make sure we have secure networks. We use paper ballots so our system is secure.

A: Someone in this audience got the wrong ballot, so he knows it doesn’t always work the way they say. Spent countless hours registering voters already before I event chose to run, I would give $5000 of salary to outreach. There should be an independent commission to oversee process, I would not endorse a candidate.

What makes you qualified?

A: My passion for Democracy separates me. Given job of director after only voting 3 times, vs. someone who is committed to voting and studying the history of voting. I have the trust of people who put faith in me. Elected three times as president of the union. Values and exercise the right to vote.

G: I understand the difference between county clerk’s office and election commission. Election commissioner is not elected. County clerk is constitutionally elected office. Their office knew exactly what they were talking about during objections re: county board candidates.

Obama: Only ⅕ of millenials voted. What would you do to encourage new voters?

G: Parkland and Quad day to engage with voters. Any new registrants are sent email with options listing how to vote. They want the ease of voting and we’ve made it very easy for them.

A: I enjoyed meeting President Obama. I’ve been registering voters in Champaign county before I ever thought about running for County Clerk. It’s not Dem agenda to stop students from voting, with consolidated locations, moving polling places, etc. I’ve been involved in large drives to register voters, vs. county clerk being in one spot at Quad Day, making students come to them.

Should the recorder's office and clerk’s office be combined?

A: As a taxpayer, we should use revenue wisely. I want to save dollars by calling for salary freeze for four years. That would also help us balance the budget. It’s up to voters to consolidate those offices, but if they decide that I’ll go along.

G: I don’t want to comment on something that will appear on the ballot. I see no reason why the clerk's office couldn't handle that change without any loss of service or additional cost.

Do you support or oppose Crosscheck?

G: I don’t think there’s a way to support/oppose if it’s not being used. We haven’t used for two years. ERIC requires you to make a change. Crosscheck is a tool in the arsenal. We must use it correctly.

A: I strongly oppose Cross check, and I don’t want the right to vote taken away from any citizen. Grandone knows it disenfranchises voters. Other states have left Crosscheck because data isn’t secure.

What is the single most important issue or problem to address as county clerk?

A: Outreach: fundamental issue. People should know they have a right to vote, students, underserved communities, those who live in rural areas, voters with disabilities.

G: Is election equipment moving forward? It was purchased in 2006. We need to continue to upgrade our equipment, the bill would be 1.2 million dollars but that is nowhere in budget, but we need to advocate in Springfield, so equipment can be replaced. Paper ballots should continue to be used. But we need to keep equipment upgraded.

Transparency/consistency

G: Testing voting machines, public invited, live streams of machine test, 5% retab open to public, we’ve done the best we can. Consistency. We should be doing the same thing at all polling places, so voters have the same experience no matter where we go.

A: Voters are going to come out more when polling locations are consistent. The number of ballots should be right for all precincts. Grandone voted in 2017 Democratic mayoral primary. (He was interrupted at this point although his time was not up. He was allowed to finish his time.) This is not a record you can trust.

What service improvements would you make in vital records?

A: My experience (listed as before) to make sure there’s a seamless transition.

G: 1) Get away from vendor supporter system for processing requests to something that works with web site. Getting away from vendors is cheaper and provides more control, 2) index all private records so they are accessible and provide to businesses like genealogy for revenue stream.

Closing remarks:

A: It’s been a tough week for me, my wife has been ill but she’s resting and feeling better, thanking parents, friends and supporters, our democracy is strongest when citizens are engaged. Which candidate has a personal commitment to voting, which has inherited office like others before him? Who has experience and endorsements in working, I have experience and integrity. I’m Aaron Ammons, I’m asking for your vote.

G: Please vote early, don’t wait, it makes it easier for us. Was it a good experience? Did you find the information you need? When you consider those questions, think about which candidate made that possible for you. The wrong choice could lead to chaos. We already have free and fair elections. 4 of last 8 have been largest of their type. I’m Matt Grandone, next county clerk.
For the Auditor candidates, please check out the forum video when available (probably Monday) from the CGTV link here. UPDATE: Auditor notes from Ann:
Auditor Candidate Forum

Diane Michaels, R
George Danos, D

Opening Statements

D: CPA from UI, works as accountant for large non-profit, recently saved his employer 1.8 million dollars by finding an error on a complicated invoice. In 2016, nearly toppled incumbent, then that person decided to be treasurer, so he now faces someone who was appointed by her party. He brings accounting experience and indepence he doesn’t believe his opponent can bring to the race. 3 main goals: 1) rigorous in policing outgoing funds, budget deficit for years, 2) tighten up internal controls, restricting credit card use, 3) issue timelier annual financial reports. Last annual financial report currently available on web site is from 2016. We need competence and commitment a CPA could bring.

M: I have been on county board for 8 years, 5 of those on finance committee, including work as chair, experience in banking and lives in Champaign County, born at Chanute, long standing commitment to county, husband self-employed, knows vendors, has done a lot of community service. It’s a numbers game, know who you’re working with. We are the gatekeepers of taxpayers’ money and takes that very serious. It’s your money. In banking and finance for a long time, has a good name in the community for being loyal and committed. Not party affiliated for a line that comes into the auditor’s office. There aren’t a lot of gray areas. New accounting system, 40 years old, looking for efficiencies in the department.

Why do you want to be auditor? Have you run before?

M: I have ran for county board and precinct committee person. Held many offices in community, children’s schools, wants to support her community and being consistent in the auditor’s office, background knowledge is important. With my experience in banking and finance and my experience on the board, I bring that consistency.

D: I was the Democratic nominee, 2012 and 2016, endorsed in 2012 by Chamber of Commerce and News-Gazette. Showed strong interest in finance all life. After defeat in 2012, earned Masters in accounting from UI. I’ve only run for auditor, and I’m absolutely committed to this office. I lost by only 36 votes in 2016 election. If I had won, we wouldn’t be having this special election now.

Can you objective and independent of the claims on the county and how so?

D: Independence is a special strength of mine, coming from the private sector. The auditor has to challenge the expenditure requests and be a check and balance on the county board. My opponent relies on those she works with on county board and those who appointed her for this position.

M: Absolutely. The board is made of Democrats and Republicans. I was appointed to finance committee, working very well with all on the board. I’ve been told I’m too honest, too right down the line with policies and rules. Hold integrity of office and county. We have a balanced budget. Chief Deputy Auditor, Barbara Ramsey is strong. We do the job at hand. We do a good job regardless of who appointed me. Buck lies with me.

How would you help Champaign County have a balanced budget?

M: Budget is balanced this year. There are things that come up in the year that cause adjustments. Some things may help but we must be delicate with what we do, because they affect social services and we want to keep those. A budget is a guideline and we sometimes have to make adjudgements.

D: I differ from those statements on the budget being balanced. The estimates depend on nursing home being sold which hasn’t happened yet. Overdue coffer (?) states that we will have budget deficits and budget will be depleted by 2020. I spoke out about nursing home and opposed another layer of government, the county executive position. Current office has shown misplaced priorities.

Should auditor be an elective office?

D: Office owes its independence in not being appointed. If I’m elected, I will be first CPA to be elected. UI has flagship program, where I graduated. I think you need competence and independence.

M: I agree with Mr. Danos, we need an independent person responsible for the taxpayers’ money. Going over all items, we do have a competent staff including a CPA. It takes more than being a CPA. It’s not all just numbers, it’s contracts and dealing with vendors and should be independent of the county.

How important is party identification to rule of auditor?

M: I’m not your typical politician, I’m a numbers person, like my opponent. It’s kind of crazy that you have to choose a side. Look at the candidate responsibilities and experience. It’s important we work together for conservativancy. My track record will show I’ve worked with both sides.

D: Normally I’d say there’s no importance, the most important is dedication and  competence. Demeanor and relationships have something to do with it. It’s different this year, with so many county-wide officers with one party affiliation. Electing an officer from the opposite party provides a check on those officers. In this case, my party affiliation is an advantage to oppose one party executive rule. My third run for this office shows my dedication and commitment to this office.

What might be done to prevent misuse of county-issued credit cards?

D: 1) Employees pay for items and then apply for reimbursement, 2) ask that banks place vendor restrictions on the cards or item restrictions on the cards.

M: We go over every credit card statement that comes through the office. Sometimes it takes to the next statement to see the fraud, but you investigate and find out what’s going on. We have turned away some because we don’t pay sales tax. We watch the cards very closely. We don’t just focus on cards, we focus on everything to be paid.

What are your criteria for choosing a new accounting system for Champaign County?

M: working in banking business over 40 years in this community, I’ve gone through upgrades and transitions, we have a labor intensive system, we’re using DOS system now, too many inefficiencies, being able to see the history when you pull up a vendor, now we have to use paper documents. I’ve been through many transitions of software, and you have to balance your books, that’s important.

D: My criteria would be to make sure the cost is justified by the functionality and functions are consistent with needs of staff, especially making annual financial reports available earlier which affects construction of budget. I would consult with staff to get what we need for the right price.

Closing statements:

D: County auditor serves several roles, timely and accurate financial reporting and for authorizing – or declining or altering – the claims on taxpayer’s money, check claims for compliance and correct amount. An effective auditor is a watchdog and accountant.
Entered Masters program in 2012, in 2016 challenged incumbent, coming within 36 votes winning. Six months later, Republicans began appointing themselves to offices that are supposed to be elected. A banker whose background is better suited to treasurer is now auditor. None of the Republicans seek offices for which they received a single vote. The News-Gazette called it musical chairs. In an era of tight budgets, we must have the best professionals. It’s time we had a strong team devoted to offices they seek without leaving to grab the brass ring. It’s my goal to be the most effective auditor Champaign county has ever had, and the first CPA.

M: Thank you to the LWV, NAACP, and NG. It’s very important to me that we have an auditor who is responsible and well-respected not only for the decisions they make but for the decisions they’ve made in the past. My role in the community, I have a vested interest in community, experience in corporate world and nonprofits, my family also has business in town, I know how to look at books and make decisions. I’ve had and will continue to have respect from board on both sides, it’s a job and I take it seriously. I ask that you vote for me this fall.


Forum schedule from the News-Gazette Wednesday:
It's forum time.

Three of them — sponsored by the League of Women Voters, NAACP and News-Gazette Media — have been scheduled for the next three Friday nights at the Champaign City Building.

The lineup of confirmed Champaign County candidates:
Friday

7:30-8: Sheriff, ALLEN JONES (R) vs. DUSTIN HEUERMAN (D).

8:10-8:40: Clerk, MATT GRANDONE (R) vs. AARON AMMONS (D).

8:45-9:15 Auditor, DIANE MICHAELS (R) vs. GEORGE DANOS (D).

Moderators: THERESA MICHELSON and BARBARA SCHLEICHER.
Sept. 21

7-7:40 Circuit Judge, ROGER WEBER (R) vs. RAMONA SULLIVAN (D).

7:45-8:25 Circuit Judge, RANDY ROSENBAUM (R) vs. CHAD BECKETT (D).

8:30-9:10 Executive, GORDY HULTEN (R) vs. DARLENE KLOEPPEL (D).

Moderators: DEB RUGG and SHANDRA SUMMERVILLE.
Sept. 28

County Board races TBA.


[Originally posted on 9/15/2018 at 6:07am]

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Area Electronic Recycling Registration Open


If you have electronics to recycle, registration for the area's big recycling event is now open (registration and more information at the website here). From the News-Gazette website last night:
Registration now open for Oct. 13 electronics recycling event
Registration has opened for this fall's electronics recycling event.

Residents from participating communities can register for 15-minute slots between 8 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Oct. 13 at ecycle.simplybook.me.

A little over half the slots are full, said Nichole Millage, environmental-sustainability specialist for the city of Champaign.

At the event at Parkland College, residents can drop off up to two TVs and up to 10 items total per person.

Millage said residents should check the registration website for details on what items are allowed to be dropped off.

For example, computers, cellphones and microwaves are allowed, but batteries, dehumidifiers, smoke detectors and vacuums are not.

The event is open to residents in Bondville, Broadlands, Champaign, Fisher, Gifford, Homer, Ivesdale, Ludlow, Mahomet, Odgen, Pesotum, Rantoul, Royal, Sadorus, Savoy, Sidney, Thomasboro, Urbana, and unincorporated Champaign County.
A few additional details at the full blurb here. There is a lot of additional information, including a Guide for Residents, at the registration website here. It includes area recycling options for items not part of this event and year round recycling options if you can't make it to this one.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Week Ahead: 9/16 - 9/22

*** There is a County Board regular meeting this Thursday. Agenda here and addendum here (more information below). More information on how to attend a county board meeting here. ***



Vote By Mail requests are available to voters generally now. Ballot requests for the November 6th, 2018 General Election have already started and early voting begins later next week! More information on Vote By Mail in Champaign County here. Ballot request direct link for residents here. More information on County elections (including checking your registration, sample ballots when available, and early voting times and locations) at our Elections page.

Other Events:

There are a lot of political campaign and organizing events popping up (e.g. local candidate forums on upcoming Friday nights). Check out your preferred candidates and you will likely see campaign, canvassing, or voter registration events in the area. Many are using facebook to more easily share event information and reminders. Check out the Champaign County Voter Alliance's preliminary general election candidate guide to see who is running. We'll be updating County race information from the primary election to the general soon.
 
Groups that crossover with Racial Justice Task Force recommendations meeting this week:
Build Programs Not Jails meets Wednesday, September 19th at 7pm at the Independent Media Center. Meetings are every other Wednesday at 7pm at the IMC.
At July's City of Champaign Study Session of the City Council, the reentry housing issue was raised during public participation (a full write up of the meeting is here and video here). This is following up on the preview of that discussion at the City Council meeting here: Reentry Housing Issue. The News-Gazette had a couple articles following up on the meeting linked on the Cheat Sheet here.

County Calendar:

*** There is a County Board regular meeting this Thursday. Agenda here and addendum here (more information below). More information on how to attend a county board meeting here.


The full 2018 schedule is on the Calendar page and the County page. The regular County Board meetings are back to Thursdays until next holiday season.

If you're curious about learning more about how your county government works, it's easy enough to live stream a meeting or go in person: Attend a Meeting.

http://www.co.champaign.il.us/CAL/2018/180916.pdf

*Meeting is broadcast live on Comcast Public Access and at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/champco1776


Where is Brookens?

Brookens Administrative Center
1776 East Washington Street
Urbana, Illinois 61802-4581
Phone: 217-384-3772

After 4:30 the Washington Street side Parking Lot is Closed See Maps for the North East Parking Lot Access







Monday, September 17, 2018

Nursing Home Public Hearing


Following up on this previous Cheat Sheet Post on possibly one of the last public input opportunities on the Champaign County Nursing Home in the process of being sold. The hearing was for public input for a State level review board that has to give its additional approval for the County approved sale to continue. The News-Gazette had coverage of that hearing last week:
Proponents, opponents of nursing home sale put comments on record
If Champaign County can't sell its financially strapped nursing home soon, the home will have to be closed, a state board was warned.

Some former and current county officials and local business leaders came to a public hearing Thursday in downtown Champaign urging that a planned $11 million sale of the nursing home be allowed to proceed, while a handful of opponents continued to express doubts about selling to the only taker.

The hearing was called to collect public comments for the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board, which will have the final say about the nursing home sale next month.
Additional information, including some of the arguments made for and against the sale, at the full article here. Champaign County Health Care Consumers, which opposes the sale to this sole bidder had an informational page for folks wishing to attend the hearing here. The arguments for the sale are covered fairly well in the article, but there is additional information at our Nursing Home page for a deep dive into the issues surrounding it.

Kickapoo Rail Trail Update


A quick update on the Kickapoo Rail Trail (more on the project and collaboration at this Cheat Sheet post) from the News-Gazette last week:
Kickapoo Rail Trail paving the way through downtown St. Joseph
As fundraising and design work continue on the Kickapoo Rail Trail, a construction crew started work this week on another section of the path — a paved portion, less than a half-mile long, that will extend through downtown St. Joseph.

"It will go all the way down to Seventh Street," said village President Tami Fruhling-Voges. "It's going to be a really nice addition."

The new segment will extend the already-in-use trail (6.7 miles from Urbana to St. Joseph) through downtown St. Joseph and over to the east side of town.

Currently in the design stage is another 5.1-mile stretch, which will extend the trail to Ogden.

And fundraising continues for other sections that have yet to be designed and built.
Full article with a lot of additional information here.

STAR Program and Conservation Ratings

 The Champaign County Soil and Water Conservation District is hoping to give a boost to awareness and competition for conservation in farming by promoting and managing a rating system similar to other industries. From the News-Gazette earlier this month:
Champaign County group hopes farmers reach for the STAR
...
But if a farmer wants to show that his or her field uses sustainable farming practices, there's not a popular certification program to turn to.

The Champaign County Soil & Water Conservation District is hoping to change that with the STAR program, which stands for Saving Tomorrow's Agriculture Resources.

"Who can be against that?" said Steve Stierwalt, a farmer near Sadorus and vice chair of the county conservation district.

Now in its second year, the STAR program gives fields one to five stars based on what conservation practices are used on them, such as reduced tillage or cover crops.

In its first year, 78 farmers from 15 counties in Illinois participated in the free program...

Besides playing on farmers' competitiveness, the STAR program is hoping to become a standard certification, like LEED and Energy Star.

It has a science committee to ensure the stars given are based on good science, and it's designed to be flexible, so that practices that work best in east central Illinois aren't forced on farmers with different conservation needs.
Full article with more information here. More information from the Champaign County Soil and Water Conservation District on the STAR program here (including a brochure).

Drainage Districts


In a follow up to a previous Cheat Sheet post and Prairie Rivers Network article on a lesser known local government unit that resulted in many residents seething about a massive tree clearing project on and by their properties:
Heather Hill residents press on after bid for drainage district board falls short
...
The campaign to get Heather Hills resident Nick Josefik elected began in earnest just two weeks ago. But the root of the issue stretches back to early July, when residents of the neighborhood that borders the Salt Fork just north of St. Joseph discovered that a contractor hired by the commission cleared trees on their properties adjacent to the waterway...

Most of the residents were upset by the clearing, and none of them were notified of the work ahead of time, which drainage district officials said they're not required to do.

The drainage district has an easement along the river — 100 feet in each direction from the center of the waterway — allowing it to do regular maintenance to keep the waterway clear. That, in turn, helps keep water drained off farm fields and other land throughout the district.

Drainage districts are authorized by state law to levy an assessment on all landowners within their borders to cover the cost of maintaining and improving drainage, which in the Upper Salt Fork includes about 21 miles of waterway, stretching from Rantoul to about 3 miles south of St. Joseph, where it empties into the Salt Fork.

Typically, seats on drainage district commissions are filled by property owners who are farmers. Commissioners in some districts are appointed by their county boards, but in the Upper Salt Fork, the three commissioners are elected to three-year terms by property owners in the drainage district.
The full article with more details on the efforts here. One of the big hurdles is that even at small obscure government bodies, the rules are skewed in favor of incumbents:
Wardrop said some Heather Hills residents and property owners believe they deserve a spot on the Salt Fork Drainage District's three-person board.

It's in need of change, she argues, noting that the last edit to the official responsibilities of the district happened in 1955.

"Much has changed in the landscape since then," she said.

Tuesday's election was held from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Stanton Township Hall north of St. Joseph. Commissioners could have moved it to a more convenient time — like 6 p.m. — but chose not to, Wardrop said.

Josefik said people he talked with while going door to door indicated their jobs would keep them from being able to vote between 2 and 4 p.m. Tuesday. There was no option for absentee ballots, he added.

"That seems very detrimental to people who are being taxed," he said.

County Coroner Overview


The News-Gazette had a nice overview of the Coroner's role in determining when an autopsy is performed with an nice easy to follow guide to costs and protocols Sunday:
It's a coroner's job to decide when a death bears closer examination
...
As Champaign County's coroner, it's Northrup's responsibility to determine the cause and manner of death. In this case, given the condition of the body and little known prior medical history, he decided that performing an autopsy was the best course of action.

"I must make difficult decisions every day whether to conduct an autopsy or not," said Northrup, whose office averages about 1,900 death investigations a year, only 8 percent to 10 percent of which result in autopsies.

Since he works in a county with a Level 1 Trauma Center — Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana — deaths in neighboring counties also fall under the jurisdiction of Northrup's office.

And with $123,000 budgeted each year for autopsies, which cost between $1,050 to $2,500 each, performing one after every death isn't financially feasible.

Nor is it physically possible, given that the one pathologist in the Urbana office serves Champaign and surrounding counties.

Full article here with all sorts of additional details and information.

Yard Sign Rules

With so many County races on the ballot this year, it might be helpful to know the rules on yard signs which can vary by locality. The News-Gazette has had some helpful information for Champaign and Urbana residents (below), but for the most part you'll have to check with your local town, village, or city officials on the rules where you're at. Apartment dwellers often have even more restrictions depending on their lease and circumstances. You'll have to check with your lease and/or landlord which may restrict yard signs or even signs in windows.


Champaign and Urbana rules on political signs like yard signs vary a bit. From Tom's Mailbag today:
In Urbana it is legal to place political signs in the right of way. From the city's website: "Signs that are for short-term, timed use shall be allowed in the city's right-of-way as long as the signs are removed immediately following the event. Such signs would include garage sale signs, political campaign signs, significant University of Illinois events (i.e. IHSA tournaments) and fund-raising advertisements for non-profit agencies (i.e. UBA events, Festival of Lights)."

But property owners can remove any political campaign sign directly in front of their property on the public right-of-way.

In Champaign no one is permitted, other than "signs erected by the city or its agents," from placing any signs in the public right of way at any time, said Zoning Administrator Kevin Phillips.
Full Mailbag here. There was another political yard sign question on size answered by Champaign's Zoning Administrator in a later Tom's Mailbag:
The largest size allowed in residential areas is 24 inches x 36 inches, he said.

Champaign's only other rule is they be posted only on private property with the consent of the property owner.

"We will have a closer look around on Green Street to see what may have concerned the person who called you with the question," he said.

Urbana has no restrictions on the size of yard signs unless they could be considered a hazard.

Sealing or Expunging Records



Do you have questions or an interest in more information on sealing or expunging records? The annual Expungement and Record Sealing Summit is coming up on October 6th. For some of the basics the News-Gazette had a handy primer earlier this month:
The Law Q&A | What records can be sealed or expunged?
Expunging is where the law allows a record to be completely purged as if it never existed.

Sealing is where the law does not allow a record to be expunged, but it is not viewable or knowable by the public. It is kept in existence only within the circles of agencies the law deems vital for such agencies to know, such as law enforcement, prosecutors or certain government departments.

To seal or expunge, one must file a request with the court in the county where the criminal record is. If you have a record in more than one county, you'd have to file the request in each of those counties to get those particular records sealed or expunged. No case record can ever be sealed or expunged while that case has not yet been concluded...

Check with your local court clerk to see if there are any seal and expungement sign-up programs using attorneys who help might you for free.
Lots more details and information at the full article here. The Champaign County Clerk has an annual Expungement and Record Sealing Summit which is coming up in October. More information on that here.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Electoral Board Objections Withdrawn


The Electoral Board hearing for next week is canceled. All objections were withdrawn today by the objectors so all three candidates will remain on the ballot. Today was the deadline for filing arguments on the issues raised at the last hearing. From the County Clerk twitter:
"The three objections filed in opposition to the nominations of County Board Candidates PJ Trautman (R-6), Charles Young (D-6) and Christopher Stohr (D-10) were withdrawn by objectors this morning, & all 3 candidates will remain on the ballot for the 11/6/2018 General Election."
 More updates later: e.g. News-Gazette blurb here mostly just reiterates this information.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Electoral Board 9/12/2018


Three objections to candidate nominations were recently filed and an Electoral Board hearing occurred yesterday (News-Gazette coverage here). First a quick refresher on what an Electoral Board is at the County level. From a previous post:
So, what's going on, and what exactly is an Electoral Board? Well, when people fill out and submit an objection (in triplicate!) to the election authority that oversees a particular election, the appropriate electoral board is the one that considers it. In general: the statewide candidate objections will be heard by the State Officers Electoral Board, county candidate objections will be heard by the County Officers Electoral Board, municipal candidates will be heard by the municipal electoral board, with some rules to cover the oddball edges and special circumstances (all laid out here in legalese in the IL Compiled Statutes).

So at the County level here, that'd be the County Clerk, the County State's Attorney, and the County Circuit Clerk, with the County Clerk chair. Each can designate an assistant to sit on the board in their place. And what, you may ask, happens if the objection is to themselves as a candidate or some such conflict? The law says the County Treasurer or the County Sheriff will sit in depending on the situation/eligibility.

The decisions aren't arbitrary and appear to be guided by law and precedent and subject to judicial review. In fact, if you do a word search through the State of Illinois Candidate's Guide, you'll find numerous references to precedent from Electoral Board rulings.
The County Electoral Boards recently were at the Champaign County Courthouse (visitor rules on attire and security) and operated much like you'd expect a civil trial. Whoever filed the objection to the nomination plays a role similar to plaintiff, while the candidate defends their nomination. Lawyers appear to be the norm on both sides as the decisions rest on election law, both statute and court precedents. The three members (or substitutes) of the Electoral Board itself play the role of a panel of judges, with the County Clerk presiding, but a majority needed by the Board for decisions and rulings.

Today's hearing involved three objections to three candidates: Republican P.J. Trautman and Democrats Christ Stohr and Charles Young. Trautman's nomination was being challenged on the fact that he voted in the Democratic Primary this election cycle (which in Illinois serves as a sort of declaration of party affiliation in our primary system) and yet attempting to run as a Republican in the general election, which is typically disqualifying. The Stohr and Young objections appeared to be a question on if their nominations were timely filed.

The merits of the objections were not argued today, only preliminary motions and "arguments on the timeliness of filing of objections." Another hearing will be scheduled after arguments are filed later this week.

The preliminary motions included a request for the County Clerk Gordy Hulten to recuse himself since he had publicly endorsed and pledged to support the candidacy of P.J. Trautman. Court precedent was raised about ensuring fairness and impartiality of Electoral Board hearings and examples where a recusal was deemed appropriate. Arguments ranged from fairness to the objector and the voters of Champaign County and the possibility that decisions could be rendered null and void by a Board not properly constituted. She noted that a substitute with the County Clerk's office is readily available and more appropriate.

Trautman's lawyer, Champaign Mayor Deb Feinen in her capacity as an attorney, argued that political bias has not been held as sufficient for requiring a change of board member or venue. She pointed to a case where bias wasn't a sufficient reason even with long time opponents (a point the objector argued didn't include a direct public statement of support).

The Assistant State's Attorney Steve Zeigler (a Republican who was substituting for the State's Attorney and Democrat Julia Rietz) pointed out that the cited cases didn't point to a direct requirement for recusal in spite of the objector's protestations on the requirement that the Electoral Board be as fair and impartial as one can get. All three Republican board members voted no on the motion and Hulten remained presiding over the Electoral Board. The gallery was largely filled with Democratic and progressive visitors and appeared annoyed, but hardly shocked, with some head shaking.

The timeliness of filing objections arguments were a bit of a legalese soup to me, so I don't have a great deal of details, but I can give my impressions. These may be a bit imprecise and reflect my personal bias, so take them with a grain of salt.

There were three issues that stood out to me. The first and most critical for folks trying to follow along is that there was an issue of Trautman's arguments on this point not being given to the objector to look over and formulate a response. This is what led to the end of the hearing today with filings on that being required later this week and a date to reconvene to be determined then.

The second issue to me were the arguments themselves taking very partisan divisions. The crux of that argument is on what the appropriate deadline was for an objection to the nomination. There was an accusation of bias against the County Clerk for refusing to address the issue and make the information available about Trautman's primary party affiliation records. Hulten repeatedly tried to link the deadline question to the two Democratic candidates whose nominations were being objected to separately to argue that if one deadline is used for them in this hearing, it must be used for all. There was some confusion at times about which step of the process was being addressed on timeliness (e.g. the objection's timeliness or the timeliness of nominations) and which candidate(s) was at the focus of the arguments being made within the questions being asked by the County Clerk.

At one point the lawyer arguing for the objection to Trautman asked for a moment and the County Clerk flatly said no. The Democrats in the audience were a bit unsettled at that point with some audible grumbles and befuddlement. The arguments on this by the objector is pending, but I got the impression that the Republicans on the Board were attempting to conflate deadline rules to shoot down the objection on a technicality while the Democrats were treating the technicality as manufactured by linking their objection to the two others. A technicality that may rely on the issue of whether or not Hulten had slow-walked the process of releasing information about the candidate's conflict according to Democrats.

And finally, something that stood out to me, was Hulten's admission in the middle of all these arguments, back and forth, and a bit of testiness that the concerns/arguments on the timeliness were being raised by the Board itself as opposed to Trautman's lawyer. Feinen had noted that her arguments on this were formulated the night before when explaining why they hadn't been submitted with the other objector's attorney.

It remains to be seen what the arguments will be after all of this. I'd imagine that Republicans would find the legal technicalities persuasive and proper while Democrats would look at them as straining credulity to justify partisan shenanigans. As an independent I like to imagine how or if the sides would act if the roles were reversed, and whether or not that makes it okay. Technically, legally, or ethically. I leave that to the reader.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Court Fines Amnesty This Week


From the News-Gazette last week:
Amnesty week offers way to skip late fees on past-due court fines
Residents who have run afoul of the law in Champaign County and owe the government money because of it should take note of the chance to pay fines without fees and interest.

Circuit Clerk Katie Blakeman is offering an amnesty week from Sept. 10 through 14.

Residents who have unpaid traffic tickets or past due fines and fees in criminal cases can avoid paying the collection fees and interest for those five days only if they pay the total amount originally ordered in their cases...

Blakeman reminds that all cases must be paid in full. No partial payments or personal checks will be accepted.

Acceptable forms of payment in person include cash, cashier's check, money order or credit card with valid identification.

If paying by mail, acceptable payments are money order or cashier's check or money order.
Full details, including additional hours and benefits, at the full article here.