These responses were submitted by John McIntyre, the Republican candidate for McLean County Board in District 5. See more candidate responses.
Why do you want to represent your district on the McLean County Board?
I have lived in the same house in Normal with my wife Lorry for 46 years. We had three children who attended church and the schools in this district. I also had a business and taught high school both which were in District 5. We have a lot in common with the residents and many friends. I have watched this district expand and grow out to the east and northeast side of Normal. i was involved with the Friends of the Constitution Trail and have helped with its development,expansion, creation of additional facilities. I have worked to represent the residents of our district and see many of them regularly to answer questions and provide information about our county services. There are still some mental health projects and psychiatric services to be developed to meet an ever increasing need to serve our school children and all adolescents in our community. We want to stay in this district and help others.
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?
First of all, our Board of Health provides oversight and direction for our McLean County Health Department. Much of the funding for this department comes through grants. As Chairman of the County Board, I not only make recommendations for appointments to the Board of Health but work closely with the leaders of the department to provide thorough budgeting help to it's operations. Also, as Chairman of the Emergency Management Agencies Executive Policy Group I have been in contact daily with many departments leaders including our Regional Superintendent of Schools, States Attorney, Sheriff, County Administrator, EMA Director to execute the IEMA Emergency Disastor Plan. Our MCHD has followed the guidelines of the Governor Pritzker's Plan and helps to implement all guidelines as directed by the Illinois Department of Public Health. This has been a very difficult time for all organizations including all county governmental bodies, business corporations, Universities, hospitals and all our social service providers. Each new day has required important decisions that require communication with all of the aforementioned organizations. I will work with our Health Department to continue to adapt it's policies and services to work with all governmental offices to provide the best directions in conjunctions with our Governor's Phase-in plan. I have worked along with our local State and Federal Legislators to help our Health Department provide additional testing, mobile sites and increase funding through the CURES Grant and FEMA reimbursements. We will continue to promote collaboration among all entities to exhaust every possible avenue of services and funding to support our efforts to navigate through these times.
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?
i helped lead large group fact-finding sessions in assessing the public health needs of our County, We determined five needs that were important for our county to address. Additional jail space including behavioral health treatment services with improved accommodations for female inmates, crisis response, housing and acute counseling for our homeless, a need for additional psychiatric practitioners, youth psychiatric services and better collaboration among all of our social service providers. With these in mind we formed writing committees to develop a plan. I worked alongside my colleague Susan Schafer, administrative staff members and other key subcommittee writing team members to develop the McLean County Mental Health Action Plan. We have been successful along with our Health Department and many local service providers in implementing many parts of this plan. I will continue to work to provide the best mental health services possible in the coming years. Our Sheriff, Coroner and many others have identified and addressed our opioid, alcohol and other drug dependency issues and have worked with Chestnut Health Systems to help curtail this massive problem. The other issue that has been identified by a committee consisting of representatives from our hospitals and Health department is obesity. Much has been done through educational programs with much more to do.
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?
Our CJCC has done an outstanding job in using data provided by ISU's Stevenson Center to address the jail overcrowding problem and the County responded to the identified needs from the National Institution of Corrections Study by building and funding the new jail addition. The continuing cooperation and collaboration between our departments has been a necessary and exemplary effort. The Council will continue to work to improve our Electronic Justice Information System which has been exemplary in this state for many years, but is now in need of improving and adapting its services to help supplement and improve our Circuit Court e-filing system, sheriff's department system and other departmental system needs. Also, the CJCC will continue to monitor the needs of our special courts and provide direction. Increased state funding for probation services has helped to provide improved services. Behavioral health and related issues can also be considered and factored into any decision-making. Without the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council and the Behavioral Health Coordinating Council (which I helped to establish as part of the Mental Health Plan) our county would not be able to provide the necessary direction needed. I will predict that there will be an increased level of communication and coordination between both councils in the future.
Do you think the county should continue to operate its own nursing home? Why or why not?
Yes. There is always a question about how many services local governments should provide to enhance the qualify of life within a region. Our local municipalities provide recreational facilities, a zoo, a children's museum and other public services. Our county pitches in with in-kind support and ownership of the Museum Building and a necessary long-term care facility which is not available otherwise on an adequate scale for our lower income elderly residents. Like many other county homes in our state, our McLean County Nursing Home was experiencing a lack of revenue to meet expenditures after providing over thirty years of exemplary service. I firmly believed that with the proper attention to this issue and proper management our home could continue to provide great care and could meet operating costs. I created a County Board Health Committee to provide increased oversight for our nursing home and a Blue Ribbon Advisory Committee to examine, evaluate and provide guidance to our staff, directors and County Board. These well-versed volunteers representing related areas and experience in health care and long-term, not only wrote a consulting report second to none bt also agreed to remain as an advisory committee to see us through these more difficult times. The service that our County Nursing Home provides is definitely a necessary part of the improved quality of life for our citizens. It speaks a lot about our county that we can continue to value this service which without historic proper conservative fiscal management would become increasingly difficult.
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?
We have always approached providing economic incentives on a contractual basis with built-in benchmarks for earning tax breaks. Opponents of such are usually focused on near outcomes and outlays and not on the over-all impact on the economy and the influence it can have on our job forces, training programs, property tax assessments, retail trades and more. Sometimes, you have to invest in the future in order to build an economy that provides much more in the future.
I have been personally involved in representing our County and Economic Development Council in helping to provide incentives that have brought increased manufacturing and numbers of jobs and a better way of life. We have received and will continue to receive a reward in the form of increased levels of tax support. it has never been more important to provide tax breaks, grants and loans to our small businesses (which make up over 50% of our nation's retail economy) so that they can be assisted and survive during this pandemic and economic downturn.
What would be your priorities if asked to consider controversial land-use questions, such as those surrounding wind turbines, solar farms, etc.?
Our County Zoning Department, ZBA and County Board Land Use Committee regularly provide the necessary guidance and enforcement of our code. In such an agricultural area as this we are cognizant of any loss to our farming ground. Over the years, the agriculture business and has changed in the sources of involved income needed for farming. Wind and solar farm usage has not infringed on the overall use of tillable land and has provided extra necessary income to the landowner and tax money to our school districts. Individual contracts and agreements must be carefully drafted to insure proper protection to the landowner.
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 grew up in a small town in a Republican family with a small business who I would say was borderline blue collar with conservative principals learned due to our parent's experiences during the Depression. My father worked long hours and more to save and provide for our family and it's future. He helped many people less fortunate in our community. There were also other good Democrat families in our community who were not that much unlike us. We were proud and would always fend for ourselves regardless of the circumstances. My political philosophy and party affiliation (as is in my opinion the case with most) was due more to my family than party involvement.
I have served on two different occasions on the McLean County Board (1980-86) including two years of 27 members and 2008-present. Looking back to our old Board, except for just a handful of members, I found it hard to remember who was affiliated with what political party. I have always liked our Board for being able to set aside political differences to work on the issues and outcomes that have best benefited our citizens. Only recently, have I experienced a heightened political party division. I believe that if this continues our Board would be better if it were possible that all members could remain unaffiliated. It this is not possible, then it is important for all of our members to make a concentrated effort to vote across the isle when necessary. Also, I believe that a county board chairman should be elected county-wide as is the case in some Illinois counties.
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