These responses were submitted by Rachael Lund, a Democratic 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 a tremendous amount of respect for anyone who is willing to run for office and dedicate years of service to their local community. I also believe the time has come to elect a new generation of leadership. I am running for McLean County Board, to represent the wonderful people of District 5, because there needs to be a fundamental change in the mindset of the Board before they make important decisions that will impact the community for generations to come. I am the candidate best suited to represent the long-term interests of people in District 5 and McLean County for three main reasons. First, I embrace the use of technology to communicate with constituents and make County Board operations more accessible and accountable to the public. Second, I believe that black lives matter. The voices of black and brown people in our community, not only need to be heard, but also better represented in County Government. Finally, I support bipartisan redistricting following the 2020 census which will shape the political and economic landscape of the County for the next 10 years.
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?
I would first like to acknowledge and honor the 19 lives lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic here in McLean County, as of September 18th. As our Lieutenant Governor, Juliana Stratton says, these are lives not numbers. The staff at the McLean County Health Department have been working tirelessly to manage the County’s response to the pandemic with limited resources. As we look ahead to the year 2021, I think a lot of people are hopeful that the pandemic will be over and we can focus on recovery. What happens in 2021 will depend upon what actions we take now so that we can get COVID-19 under control. My expectations for the McLean County Health Department leadership are to be thinking and planning 2 to 3 steps ahead, to be appropriately impatient about the critical resources they need, and to communicate often with other governmental bodies, businesses, and the public regarding the state of COVID-19 in McLean County. This pandemic has shown us how critical it is for our local governments to provide frequent and trustworthy communication to the concerned citizens of this community.
The role that the County Board plays with helping the Health Department meet these expectations is to provide the necessary funding and collaboration. One of the current issues being discussed between the Health Department and the County Board is on the matter of hiring contact tracers and if the Board needs to provide resources in short order so that the Health Department can hire people as soon as possible while they wait for funding to arrive from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). As of this writing, we simply do not have enough people hired and trained as contact tracers to keep up with the surge of positive cases. I attended the last Health Committee meeting that was held in person before the stay at home order went into effect back in March 2020 and, since that meeting, some of the current Board members have been asking very good questions of the Health Department leadership regarding our readiness levels and resources. For better or for worse, we are all in this together and we need to work together to keep our citizens safe and our economy running.
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?
In April and May of this year, I made hundreds of wellness calls to my future constituents as well as friends and family. The health concern that I heard about most frequently was – and remains to be – mental health. This has been an incredibly stressful year. Many people are still out of work or working reduced hours, the entire educational system is trying to figure out how to handle school and childcare while many parents are working from home. In addition, some people are still not comfortable seeing friends and family in person. Connecting with people online is great, but it’s not the same as being able to give someone a hug and have that level of human contact. I hosted a virtual town hall in May for Mental Health Awareness Month with the other County Board Representative in District 5, Elizabeth Johnston, and we talked about many of the mental health services that the County provides. I would like to encourage everyone to check out my Facebook page and watch that video which has a lot of good resources.
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?
I have been following County government very closely for a while now and this is the first time I have heard about the existence of a Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC) which I believe is further evidence of the lack of communication and transparency of McLean County government. The fact that the CJCC spent years addressing the issues of jail overcrowding and mental health services for inmates and the solution the Council came up with was to build a larger jail, makes me sad to think that that is where we are as a society. The jail expansion cost the taxpayers 29 million dollars. For 29 million dollars, I like to think that we could have done a lot more to support people with mental health issues in the community and address the core issues to prevent people from being arrested and sent to jail in the first place. The CJCC website says the Council is charged to “provide fair and just outcomes, improve public safety, reduce recidivism, and responsibly use resources for the benefit of McLean County residents.” To provide fair and just outcomes, I would like to see the CJCC support and advocate for ending the cash bail system which allows people with more money to avoid jail while awaiting trial when a person who may have committed the same crime has to sit in jail because they don’t have money. That is not a fair or just system.
Do you think the county should continue to operate its own nursing home? Why or why not?
The McLean County Nursing Home is a non-profit organization that is a valuable service provided to this community that we cannot lose. The County Nursing Home is one of very few local nursing homes that accepts Medicaid insurance. If this facility were to close, the Medicaid residents will likely have to relocate to a facility out of town – far away from their loved ones who want to visit. It is no secret that the McLean County Nursing Home has been losing money and that is a problem that is being addressed. Things are looking up since some of the recommendations from the blue-ribbon panel are being implemented, a new Nursing Home Administrator was hired, and the most recent Finance Committee meeting reported that revenue exceeded expenses by $21,000 in the month of July 2020. I would also like to see the Legislative Sub-Committee on the County Board advocate for raising the Medicaid rates so that the amount of funding that the nursing home receives more accurately reflects the cost of caring for residents. I have had multiple family members who have lived in nursing homes and so I know what people are looking for as they search for the best facility for their loved ones. I want to make sure that the McLean County Nursing Home is seen as a safe, respectable, and cost-effective option for people in our community.
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?
The goal of economic incentives is to support new and growing businesses which in turn benefits our local economy. One thing I will advocate for in these types of negotiations that the County is involved in is the establishment of Project Labor Agreements which requires companies who receive economic incentives, such as tax breaks, to hire local laborers to perform the required work. We should advocate the hiring of local laborers every opportunity we are given because these folks live here in McLean County, they pay taxes here, they buy homes here, and their kids go to school here. When companies hire local workers, they are supporting our local economy.
What would be your priorities if asked to consider controversial land-use questions, such as those surrounding wind turbines, solar farms, etc.?
Wind and solar farms should not be controversial. They are tremendous economic drivers by creating good union jobs for the people who install the equipment, they generate energy for our local communities to use, and they are better for the environment by reducing our dependence on oil-based energy sources. Land owners have the right to decide if they want to participate in such a program and, with a proper decommissioning plan, the land can be returned to producing crops with no harm or contamination. As a County Board Member, my priorities will be to consider each proposal with the goal of creating a more sustainable and independent energy source that benefits our local economy.
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 with family members of different political persuasions and no political persuasion, for that matter, which has challenged me to see things from different perspectives and reaffirm why I believe what I believe. I am a Democrat because of people like my Grandpa Lund who passed away a few years ago, his nickname was Hog. My grandpa was a union plumber who worked hard to provide for his family which included seven children. To this day, my Grandma Lund (a politico in her own right), still has insurance coverage because of that union job. I am a proud Democrat because this party fights for the rights of everyday Americans to earn a living wage, to have access to quality and affordable healthcare, and for social justice and equality.
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