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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 casesFull article here with overviews of the forums with County Sheriff, County Clerk, and County Auditor candidates.
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.
We have some rough notes from the Sheriff and Clerk candidates below for anyone interested. Special thanks to Ann for these!
General Candidate ForumFor the Auditor candidates, please check out the forum video when available (probably Monday) from the CGTV link here. UPDATE: Auditor notes from Ann:
Here's the schedule:
7:30-8:00 Champaign County Sheriff: Allen Jones, R; Dustin Heuerman, D
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Diane Michaels, R
George Danos, D
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.
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:
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.
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.
County Board races TBA.
[Originally posted on 9/15/2018 at 6:07am]