These responses were submitted by Democrat Sharon Chung, who faces Republican McLean County Board member Ryan Scritchlow. The questionnaire was prepared by GLT in partnership with the League of Women Voters of McLean County. See more candidate responses.
Explain any experience you have working or serving with McLean County government.
None. I am a first time candidate, excited and ready to serve.
Last fall, the county had to close a $1.5 million budget gap — a deficit that led to an early retirement program and other cuts. What would you prioritize in future budgets if revenues remain tight?
The county has a duty to fulfill the mandates as set by the State of Illinois, and the county has been able to operate to the best of their abilities with lean budgets. Despite this, I would like to ensure that we maintain the highest quality of services to the residents of the county. The Health Department, which advocates for public health and wellness, and the Highway Department, which maintains the roads and bridges, are places where cuts would be detrimental and would negatively affect the greatest number of people.
What would be your approach to evaluating economic incentives to help bring (or expand) businesses in McLean County?
Programs such as BN Advantage and organizations such as the Economic Development Council and the Chamber of Commerce have done a good job in identifying and advertising our strengths in McLean County. Their efforts have brought in some new companies in recent years. While I believe that overall, this is good for our county and the economy, there should be better standards and practices in place before offering a broad incentive package. For instance, I think there should be claw-back provisions and hiring benchmarks in place for all incentive agreements, especially ones that include a tax abatement. I believe there should also be a commitment to hiring local workers and union labor, where possible. I believe that we, as a county, should know our value and our worth, and should think carefully before any decisions are made that may compromise that.
Do you think McLean County should establish a countywide election commission? Why or why not?
Yes, I believe we should have an independent, professionally-run, countywide election commission. The League of Women Voters of McLean County has stated their support for a countywide election commission in the past. I also support the idea of an appointed commissioner or commissioners rather than an elected official to oversee all election duties and functions. I do not agree with the question on the November ballot of dissolving the BEC, and will be voting no. The question on the ballot does nothing to create a single countywide election commission.
For me personally, the differences between the BEC and the County Clerk's Office has been markedly disparate. The Bloomington Election Commission website, documents, and data have all been user-friendly, especially as I have navigated their site in my campaign. I would hate to not have that ability if the BEC were dissolved.
Do you support changing County Board meeting times — from the morning to afternoons or evenings?
I believe that meeting times need to be changed from the mornings to the evenings. The later time will make the meetings more accessible to the general public. In speaking to the residents of District 7 on the campaign trail, everyone is shocked to learn of the inconvenient morning meeting time. And in speaking to them, they also express interest in possibly attending more meetings if they met in the evenings. I truly believe that when people feel like they can be involved, and that they have a stake in the matter, that is when meaningful collaboration can happen. After all, a County Board member's duties are to represent their constituents' interests and concerns, and if the constituents want a later meeting time, then it would behoove the County Board to change it.
How do you think McLean County government can help to provide more affordable housing in the area?
I am pleased that this issue has gotten more coverage and notice lately, as it is an ongoing issue in our area. The Town of Normal and the City of Bloomington have started to examine this issue and have been working on finding solutions. I believe that collaboration between the bodies of government is one way we can help the residents of the county as whole. The facts are that 1 in 5 residents in the county live in poverty. While there are some options for affordable housing, the options for safe, quality, affordable housing are very few. The City of Bloomington has also decided to hold so-called "slumlords" accountable, for leaving their properties in disrepair. And while the issue of affordable housing is more applicable to the Twin Cities as opposed to the rest of the county, I think that the McLean County government can and should assist, either in the way of referrals to social service providers, and working with the regional planning commission and the other municipal governments to come up with an acceptable solution.
How would you describe the relationship between the County Board, the Board of Health and the Behavioral Health Coordinating Council? What role the County Board play in guiding health policy, governance?
The Behavioral Health Coordinating Council was created to examine mental health in our county, and was integral in developing the county mental health action plan in 2015. The council is made up of people who have a variety of experience and knowledge. The Board of Health is also made up of people with wide-ranging abilities and interests, and governs the McLean County Health Department. These two groups play a very important role in advising the county of the needs of its residents. There is a very close partnership between the County Board and the Board of Health and the BHCC. The Health Committee of the County Board deals with oversight and any fiduciary issues. In the past, the relationship between the Board of Health and the County Board has been rocky, but I have been impressed with the work they have achieved together with the new Health Department director and her advocacy. Communication between the different bodies is very important, but above all, the residents of the county of which they serve should be a priority.
What would be your approach to evaluating land-use requests involving renewable energy like wind and solar?
I have been very favorable about the renewable energy projects that have been built in our county. We are at the crossroads of something very exciting and innovative here in McLean County with our very visible commitment to renewable energy. Each wind and solar farm project brings good union jobs to the county, and these projects also are not looking for tax breaks or incentives. The money that goes back into our economy is a benefit as well, and farmers are able to make money off their land, especially since crop prices are down. The Zoning Board of Appeals examines each project, hears testimony, and then submits their decision to the County Board. I trust their process and their due diligence, and will likely vote for projects that are unanimously approved by the ZBA.