The idea of a nonpartisan commission to handle elections in McLean County divided candidates Tuesday at a forum hosted by GLT and the League of Women Voters of McLean County.
Each of the Democrats said they'd like to see an operation similar to the Bloomington Election Commission countywide.
McLean County Board District 7 incumbent Ryan Scritchlow opposed the idea. The Republican said elected officials should run elections.
“I have seen firsthand what the impact of appointed individuals is, whether (it is) my appointment to the County Board or serving on the (Bloomington) Planning Commission, they are not necessarily accountable to the voters,” Scritchlow said.
His Democratic challenger, Sharon Chung, disagreed. She said the Bloomington Election Commission is not only nonpartisan; its website is more user friendly.
“If you got to the BEC website, all of their data is very easy to navigate. You can actually filter things by whatever way you would want to look at it, instead of a static PDF that’s on the county clerk’s website,” Chung said.
District 7 includes east/near-east Bloomington.
Bloomington voters will decide in November whether to abolish its nonpartisan commission. That is a move pushed by the Republican and Libertarian parties.
Each of the Democratic candidates at Tuesday's forum said they'd like to see the County Board's meeting time changed from mornings to evenings.
District 5 Democratic challenger Elizabeth Johnston said the County Board is the only level of local government that meets during the day. She said that excludes much of the public from participating.
“I think the future of McLean County really needs to be based on the voters and what they want, and in order to know what they want they need to be able to participate,” Johnston said.
Incumbent David Selzer, Johnston's opponent, noted the county video streams its meetings online. He considers that a lower-cost alternative.
“Who wants to pay for the staff to come in in the evenings?” Selzer asked. “If people want to, that’s fine, open the checkbook, but I think it’s worked extremely well for a lot of years.”
Selzer said he'd be open to streaming committee meetings as well.
District 5 includes north and northeast Normal.
Candidates for McLean County Board District 4 differed on the use of economic incentives to lure businesses to the area. District 4 includes west and northwest Normal.
Incumbent Republican Mark Johnson said tax abatements are sometimes justified.
"They will pay more in taxes over the long haul. We have to have the ability to grow ourselves economically in the county," said Johnson.
Johnson said governments should tie incentives to performance metrics. But Democratic challenger Logan Smith was more skeptical of incentives. He said McLean County has a highly educated and desirable workforce, a high quality of life, and a low unemployment rate that should be attractive to businesses without incentives.
“We need to be on a level playing field with these companies that wish to come there with their hand out,” Smith said. “We need to make sure that they realize that we’ve got things to offer other than cash.”
The forum was held at the Illinois State University Center for the Visual Arts. GLT has scheduled other upcoming forums for Illinois’ 105th House District on Oct. 10, Illinois’ 88th House District on Oct. 17, and the 13th Congressional District on Oct. 29. See the full schedule at WGLT.org/Forums.
Watch video from Tuesday's Candidates Forum:
The election is Nov. 6.
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