Election 2012: Kane County Board Chairman
Two Republicans and two Democrats will face their respective party opponent in the primary election on Tuesday, March 20. The winner of each primary will run against each other in the general election this fall.
Bill Sarto said that his tenure as the Carpentersville Village President from 2005 to 2009 taught him many lessons that can be directly applied to the role of Kane County Chairman.
“I’m a candidate for the County Board Chairmanship because I believe that my background as a former Village President (Mayor) gives me the experience necessary to perform this job very well,” he said.
He said that prior to becoming village president, Carpentersville was facing significant financial challenges.
“We were able to solve those problems by stabilizing the staff and by implementing tried and true financial principals,” he said.
He said the village brought in new businesses while establishing a long-term plan to resurface streets and sidewalks, as well as adding streetlights. In addition, the village created an Engineering Department, Economic Development Coordinator and a Village Planner, while adding police officers, firefighters and public works employees—all without raising taxes on property owners.
Further adding to the challenge he faced upon taking over as village president were internal conflicts among the Village Board.
“I came into office with a Village Board that was not supportive of me. In fact, they were in many cases hostile,” he recalled. “Even though we did not agree politically, we were able to work together because I provided leadership that they could not disagree with.”
He would apply the lessons learned from his success in Carpentersville to the county to focus on lowering taxes in the county. He said cutting county costs without reducing services could be accomplished by looking at what says are “too many high-priced contracts currently on the county books.
“We have way too many empty buildings in Kane County and vacant parcels of land that are available but are sitting empty,” Sarto said. “This costs all of us too much money for these vacancies to remain on the books as unproductive waste of tax dollars.”
Sarto said that now is the time for Kane County to get directly involved in economic development.
“County government can no longer sit on the sidelines while leaving this very important function up to the local municipalities,” he said. “The cities, towns and villages need our help. The county’s impact fees are killing new development.”
Another way to help Kane County’s economy is to to work to match employer with employees. He said the county should partner with educational institutions to focus on building a highly trained workforce while also supporting job fairs and other ways to reduce unemployment within the county.
“We also need to help find jobs for those who are currently out of work,” Sarto said. “Nothing helps a sagging economy more than a person with a job.”
Sue Klinkhammer did not respond to repeated attempts to obtain information for this article.
Kevin R. Burns
Kevin Burns believes that his 11 years of serving as Geneva’s mayor gives him the background necessary to take over as Kane County Board Chairman.
“The next Kane County Board Chairman must be a partner with the 30 cities/villages that make Kane County unique,” Burns said. “Moreover, the Chairman must be able to collaborate, cooperate and build consensus with a variety of interests by bringing people together, identifying common challenges and creating common solutions. I have done this, and more, during my tenure as Mayor of Geneva and throughout my professional career with non-profit organizations both large and small.”
He pointed to his mayoral record, consisting of 11 consecutive balanced budgets, streamlined government operations and increased economic development.
“As Mayor of Geneva since 2001, I have succeeded in all areas important to sound management and good governance,” he said.
He said he would put that experience to immediate use to focus on three areas that would, if accomplished, further spur economic development in the county. Burns said his first priority would be to redevelop the Settler’s Hill Landfill to create a Kane County destination that would benefit all residents and business owners. He would work with the County Board to immediately create an 18-month moratorium on the Kane County Road Impact Fee Ordinance, which he said would spur economic development and job creation.
He would also work to use existing resources to re-establish the position of Kane County Economic Development Director. He would structure that position to work with municipal economic development personnel to attract development opportunities throughout the county.
“All three goals can be achieved by working with all parties currently involved in the economic development initiatives that make our communities, and our county, strong and viable,” Burns said. “The Kane County Board understands and, for the most part, has practiced ‘partnership governance.’ However, more can and should be done.”
Understanding that this strategic agenda will require the input of many individuals from throughout the county, Burns said he would institute various ways for everyone to collaborate. He said he would create a quarterly meeting he calls a “Chairman Economic Development Forum” consisting of mayors, village presidents and municipal economic developments teams to gather and meet with the county economic development team to develop broader strategies and ways to work better together. Twice a year, he would hold what he calls a “Chairman’s CEO Roundtable” with Kane County business, civic and nonprofit leaders to also discuss various strategies, as well as ways to ensure “social sustainability for the more than 500,000 people that currently call Kane County home and the hundreds-of-thousands that will move to Kane County in the next 20 years.”
As both a CPA and an Illinois State Senator since 1992, Chris Lauzen said that not only does he have the right combination of private- and public-sector experience to help Kane County navigate this economically difficult time, but he also has the right service-minded philosophy.
“Generally, people don’t care what you know, until they know that you care,” he said.
Lauzen said he made his decision to end his tenure as the Illinois State Senator representing the 25th District in order to run for the Kane County Board Chairman position because he sees solutions to the county’s problems and wants to continue to help.
“(I have) the desire and opportunity to help solve the county problems of escalating property taxes … increasing perception of pay-to-play politics in my home county, and deteriorating morale of taxpayers and county employees as they see the politically-connected ‘few benefit while the grassroots ‘many’ of us stagnate,” Lauzen said. “There is a critical mass of people who want and will work for reform.”
He said he would work to immediately freeze the county property tax levy.
“It makes no sense that our property values are going down, but our property taxes continue to go up,” Lauzen said. “We are being taxed out of our homes, while the Kane County portion of our tax has gone up 50 percent in the past seven years.”
He would also work to end what he calls the “Kane County Culture of Cronyism,” and would focus on implementing “honest, competent administration of county business through information and austerity.”
He would do this by focusing on communication and collaboration, which would help rebuild trust over time. This sense of collaboration would be in the form of partnerships with private industry and educational institutions with ongoing roundtable discussions and employer forums. He would also coordinate infrastructure planning among federal, state and local agencies, as well as developers.
The information that would come from these collaboration forums, as well as feed into them, would also be available at what he calls a “Kane County Cooperative Clearinghouse” website. He said this format would exchange innovative ideas, equipment and services, specifically in the areas of access to capital.
This collaborative effort would also lead to an overall streamlining of the permit process, which would help business development because there would be a predictable, prompt standard of response.
Further, having all municipalities involved in these efforts would “minimize tensions of regional ‘bidding wars,” Lauzen said.
Lauzen said he would sum up his approach to the role of Kane County Board Chairman as follows: “By intensely listening, providing accurate information, treating all people respectfully, gathering consensus around taxpayers’ priorities of limiting the growth of government, restoring trust in pubic institutions, and increasing per capita prosperity in Kane County.”