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WGLT's reporting on the November 2020 election cycle.

Candidate Questionnaire: Lea Cline

Lea Cline

These responses were submitted by Lea Cline, the Democratic candidate for McLean County Board in District 8. See more candidate responses.

Why do you want to represent your district on the McLean County Board?

I am a resident of the Miller Park area, having moved here in 2012 to start a teaching job at ISU. Over the last eight years, I have volunteered with the Miller Park Neighbors group, the West Bloomington Revitalization Project, the Bloomington Election Commission, and the City of Bloomington, where I chair the Historic Preservation Commission. Now, I am running for County Board because I believe that I have gained the experience and knowledge necessary to serve in that role effectively. As an administrative oversight body, the County Board oversees the professional staff of the County, aiding them in their work, and ensuring that all aspects of county government stand up to the necessary scrutiny of a public body. To this role, I bring a dedication to good governance through transparency, fair scrutiny, and collaboration. My training in academia has taught me how to read closely, to work constructively and creatively towards a solution, and to never give up on a problem—because, behind every problem is a person who needs your help. These days, especially, our community needs effective leaders in County government who can help see us through the twin health and economic crises wrought by Covid 19. I hope that you will give me the opportunity to serve our community in this important role.

What are your expectations for the McLean County Health Department in 2021 as they relate to the pandemic? What would you do as a County Board to help the department meet those expectations?

Although everyone has felt the strain of this global pandemic, the McLean County Health Department has been ground zero for our county’s response, taking the brunt of the work and maintaining community outreach, education, and reporting. In the coming year, I expect that the McLean County Health Department will continue to adjust contact tracing staffing, liaise with IDPH and Reditus Labs to maintain testing capacity, and make preparations locally to properly deliver a vaccine when it is finally released to the public. The McLean County Health Department has its own board to govern its work but the McLean County Board approves the Health Department’s budget and can provide emergency funding if the need arises. I will commit to keeping the channels of communication open with the Health Department and to listen to any requests that they might make in pursuit of their departmental mission.

Aside from the pandemic, what are the most pressing public health concerns in McLean County, and what would you do as a County Board member to help address them?

The ongoing effort to provide adequate mental health services in the County must be a concomitant priority with Covid mitigation and eventual vaccination efforts. We have all seen the troubling rise in depression and suicide in our nation, both before the Covid pandemic and then a sharp rise in its midst. For years, the County Board has worked with the Health Department to expand access to mental health services, for all populations but especially for our county’s youth. The Behavioral Health Coordinating Council will ensure that this collaboration continues, with additional funding coming from the sales tax associated with cannabis sales in the County. We must all work together to ensure that residents of McLean County have access to mental health care, now and in the future.

For years, the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council has addressed jail overcrowding and mental health. What additional issues would you like to see the CJCC focus on next?

The role of the McLean County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC) is to foster collaboration and communication between criminal justice agencies and community partners, and to improve the administration of justice in McLean County. The CJCC has spent many years studying how to implement and improve mental health services at the McLean County jail. I would hope that focus on implementation of these plans would be paramount in the coming years. Our mental health crisis is only worsening; the CJCC should not take their focus away from it.

Do you think the county should continue to operate its own nursing home? Why or why not?

Absolutely. I think that there is a general misperception in the community that, because the McLean County Nursing Home is not making money, it is mismanaged or underutilized. Neither are true. The issue that we face with the nursing home is that Medicaid payout rates in Illinois are some of the lowest in the nation. Because the McLean County Nursing home is a last resort for patients with little or no health coverage outside of Medicaid, the nursing home must provide good care with very little in the way of financial resources. Nevertheless, the nursing home is necessary for the members of our community who rely upon it. It is essential that we continue to provide this resource.

How would you evaluate whether to support offering economic incentives, such as tax breaks, to businesses to get them to expand or locate in McLean County?

Attracting new businesses and industry to McLean County is critical for our long-term economic prospects. We have all been witness to the energy and excitement that the successes at Rivian, for instance, have brought locally. However, rather than thinking about what we can give away to potential businesses, I would focus on what this community can do to support economic development without short-changing the schools and infrastructure projects that tax incentives typically do. This region has an extremely rich resource in its college graduates, many of whom want to call central Illinois their home if only they can find meaningful professional opportunities. This ready work force is a tremendous asset for any business that might consider McLean County as a new home.

What would be your priorities if asked to consider controversial land-use questions, such as those surrounding wind turbines, solar farms, etc.?

There are a number of factors to consider in each of these cases. In general, though, I support the right of property owners to choose what they want to do with their own land, whether that is planting corn or producing wind energy. Environmental concerns and the general impact of such decisions on neighbors and county infrastructure will always play a role in the decision making process. Ultimately, these decisions need to be made in community with the stakeholders.

The County Board is unusual among local governments in that it’s partisan, with political parties attached to members’ names. Why are you a Republican, a Democrat, or a Libertarian?

I am a Democrat because I believe that we all have inherent value. I believe that the constitution is a living document and the Bill of Rights proof of our ongoing quest for fairness and justice as a nation. I believe that workers should be able to advocate for their rights and needs. I believe that women should be paid fairly, and equally, for their labor. I believe in the power of education, whether that be vocational or academic pursuits, in the fight against poverty, disinformation, discrimination, and hate. I believe that understanding our past is an important guide to improving our future. I trust scientists. I believe in being a good neighbor. I know that no person is illegal, love is love, and that Black lives matter. I know that democracy is not a spectator sport. So, I am driven to participate in the process to uphold these ideals, to work with my neighbors on figuring out the problems that we face, and to do my part to build that “more perfect union” that our founders envisioned.

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