These responses were submitted by Jacob Beard, the Republican candidate for McLean County Board in District 7. See more candidate responses.
Why do you want to represent your district on the McLean County Board?
Bloomington is my home. I grew up here, went to school here, and now my wife and I are raising our family here. I care deeply about our county and want to work to preserve the things many of us love about it, while also looking to see how we can make our community a great place in the years ahead.
To me this means continuing to keep Bloomington/Normal a family-friendly community with good parks and schools. Ensuring this a place where we can walk around and feel safe. Supporting policies to maintain this as a place with access to good jobs and an affordable cost of living. Continuing to be a community that cares for needy and everyone has access to resources and care. A competent and well-run local government can help in all of those areas.
I am someone who went to school to learn about governance, I have been in a profession that has increased my policy acumen, and I am a life-long learner and researcher. So representing my district is to me a way to serve my community and a way to help drive decisions and policies at the county level of government that get us to a better future.
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?
To be clear, the McLean County Board does not have operational oversight over the Health Department. The best tangible thing we can do as a County Board is to continue to ensure the Health Department is fully funded, and try to remove any hurdles that are in their way that prevent them from being effective.
I also want to state I am fully supportive of their work to educate residents and small businesses on Covid-19 best practices. I have been on the record expressing my desire to maximize testing and ensuring there is effective contract tracing in place. When the State of Illinois considered moving the testing site out of McLean County earlier this year, I joined my colleagues in fighting to keep testing in McLean County. I also want to ensure we are diligent and doing everything possible to keep the virus from spreading to at-risk populations, especially those in nursing homes. So in those regards we are looking to the Health Department and IDPH for medically accurate guidance, and then when required ensuring policies and funding are in place to execute on those.
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?
This continues to mental and behavioral health. McLean County has been a leader, not only in the state but nationally, on behavioral health and I completely support those efforts. This includes putting new programs in place (The Behavioral Health Coordinating Council, The Mental Health Triage Center, access to telepsychiatry, the safe passages program, etc.) which help provide greater access to health care and help coordinate medical and health care services that are available to people suffering from mental health issues.
In light of Covid-19, this work is more important then ever before. We see stories both locally and nationally of the increased stress and anxiety that have accompanied social isolation, job loss, and other downstream effects of the pandemic.
I will continue to ensure we fund and prioritize these programs.
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 McLean County Board does not have operation oversight of the CJCC, so similar to the Health Department, our primary role as an elected body is to ensure programs are appropriately funded and remove roadblocks when needed.
With that said, the new jail and the addition of problem solving courts, including drug court, recover court, and veterans court, are good moves in the right direction that I have been completely supportive of. The infrastructure is now in place and I believe the next steps will be to continue integrate and utilize these resources.
I believe we should, and in many ways have been, taking a restorative justice approach to people who end up in court of the jail. These are individuals who acted poorly and committed a crime, but are not facing years or a lifetime in prison and will be back in the community. We need to do everything we can to offer counseling, education, job training etc. so that once those individuals have paid their debt they can be welcomed back and have a better foundation to build. This reduces recidivism, helps families, and increases safety in the community.
Do you think the county should continue to operate its own nursing home? Why or why not?
Yes. The Nursing Home provides a significant percentage of the local Medicaid beds in McLean County, so for individuals from the area who only have Medicaid, the McLean County Nursing Home may be the only option available. I think there is great value in having local options available for those needing care and are wanting to be near family.
With that said, we need to fix the finances of the nursing home as it cannot continue to run an operational deficit. (Note this operational deficit pulls funds from an set-aside enterprise fund and not from property tax revenue) I am hopeful as we continue to implement the Blue Ribbon Panel recommendations, it can become revenue-neutral and continue to serve McLean County.
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?
I am supportive of a transparent and accessible set of incentives, and ideally one that would be published and available online. We should focus not just on attracting new business, but on supporting the growth and expansion of existing business. This is especially true in light of the pandemic. McLean County, Bloomington, Normal, and the school districts should be on the same page and not competing against each other by luring businesses across town with incentives. The Economic Development Council should be that facilitating organization and we should avoid just looking at property tax breaks as the primary driver of attracting business. We also need to generally avoid tax incentives for restaurants, retail, or hotels. McLean County is a great place to do business and live, so granting excessive tax breaks, unique one-off deals, or setting up TIF districts that move tax revenue to developers should be avoided.
What would be your priorities if asked to consider controversial land-use questions, such as those surrounding wind turbines, solar farms, etc.?
I was supportive of both wind farms and all but one of the solar farms that were before the County Board in my first term (the solar farm I voted against failed to submit a complete application). My view is this: A property owner has a right to use their property as they see fit, with only limited restrictions. However, it becomes an issue if they start to infringe upon the property rights of their neighbors, or there is a large and specific environmental concerns. So in studying the information presented for the wind farms, my concerns were ensuring turbine placement did not detract from the ability of neighboring homeowners to fully use and enjoy their home. This is why I extensively studied questions around shadow flicker, noise pollution, and wildlife impacts. With some modifications, including expanded noise and watershed protections that I proposed and passed, I feel the wind farms use permits we passed were appropriate and I supported their passage.
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?
From its inception the Republican Party has been a party for people who believed every human life has value, that we need to protect and defend the civil rights of every American, that decisions are best made at the local level and there is too much power vested in Washington, and that our founding documents are aspirational and hold timeless truths that we should continue to fight for. It is certainly not perfect but I believe the Republican Party is the best vehicle for those who value life, liberty, justice, localism, the freedom to pursue happiness as we each see fit, and the American dream.
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