August 07, 2022
Election


Election

Brooke Pearson, Whiteside County Board 2022 Primary Election Questionnaire

Whiteside County Board, District 2 candidate Brooke Pearson

Whiteside County Board District 2 candidate Brooke Pearson answered Shaw Local’s election questionnaire for the Whiteside County Board primary election.

Voting ends for the primary election on the evening of June 28.

Full Name: Brooke Pearson

What office are you seeking? County Board Member

What offices, if any, have you previously held? Current County Board Member

City: Rock Falls

Occupation: Quality Assurance Auditor

Education: 2010 Prophetstown High School Graduate

2014 Mt. Mercy University Graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in History and Political Science

Campaign Website: Facebook Page: Brooke Pearson for Whiteside County Board

One of the biggest local issues curtailing economic development and growth is available affordable housing. The 2022 Census showed Lee and Whiteside both with more than 90% occupancy of existing residences. What is the role of the county to ensure there is available housing as it works to attract new businesses to the region?

The County Board deals mostly with county issues and gets involved with municipal issues when requested. The Whiteside County Housing Authority, which is responsible for Coloma Homes, Cedarwood Apartments, and etc., report to the County Board. Currently there are several vacancies in each area. The County Board would be able to help the municipalities when and if they exceed past their city limits.

Many villages and municipalities in Lee and Whiteside have their own ambulance services, which are often strapped for cash to maintain operations. In addition, there are critical shortages of qualified EMTs and firefighters. What role should county government play in resolving these associated problems?

Currently the County Board only deals with county issues and Special Service Area #1, getting involved in villages and municipalities would only be upon requests. The County Board could be a mediator with villages and municipalities and local colleges such as Sauk Valley Community College. The County Board could also assist in the marketing of open positions for the villages and municipalities.

Is it time to encourage privatizing ambulance services, consolidate services and provide them at county level, or augment state funding with county funds to existing units?

A study would need to be done to see what is best for the county.

Northern Illinois counties are woefully behind when it comes to broadband and modern communications. What role does the county government have in equipping the region to meet the communication needs of the future?

With part of the money that the county has received from the Cares Act, a plan is underway to expand access to highspeed internet to areas of the county that are underserved.

Northern Illinois is seen as having a great deal of potential in developing/expanding green energy in the form of solar and wind. How can the county government play a role in expanding this? At the same time, growers and property owners often express the need to preserve land for crops. Is there a balance to be struck? What are possible solutions?

A balance is able to be struck. Whiteside county is a predominantly farmland, but historically most of that farmland was swamp land. While the majority of the farmland is farmable, a good portion of that farmland is not. Instead of taking up good farmable land, why not use the unfarmable land to expand the green energy in the county.

Should counties do more to expand access to county government?

I am unsure of what other counties do, but Whiteside County does keep their website up to date with when all meetings are happening. The public is allowed to attend those meetings in person or via zoom if possible. The website also keeps the minutes of meetings, so the public is able to access them.

Should video of committees and board meetings be continued/expanded?

I do think video of committees and board meetings should be continued. By continuing to video the meetings, it could allow more county residents to be more involved and informed on what is happening in the county.

Should the county website be updated?

I personally think that the website should not update, as the format of the website is easy to navigate. I do know that the information does get updated, as committee and board meeting minutes are put on the website for public access.

Should board members be required to have email connections?

I do think that board members should be required to have email connections. Especially if someone like myself who is nervous when talking on the phone, residents are able to ask their questions and still be heard.

What technology upgrades and resource allocation is required to make it happen?

The county has been working on updating the technology in the county courthouses, so more things are able to be done via Zoom. The County Board meeting room is on the list to be updated as well. When elected, board members are asked if they have an email they would like to use and if they don’t, the county helps to set one up for them.

What challenges is the region facing in terms of attracting business and tourism?

A challenge that the region faces in trying to attract businesses and tourism, is that we are Illinois. With Illinois being one of the states with the highest taxes, more businesses are looking to go a little farther to Iowa or Wisconsin for the tax breaks. With this, more and more Illinoisians are moving out of the state to Iowa or Wisconsin. With more and more people leaving the state, lots of places that rely on volunteer help with tourism are losing them. When people leave, it is hard to get them to return or even spread the word about the hidden and not so hidden gems they left behind. For example, Whiteside County alone has so many gems that not every resident knows about them. Whiteside county has the Ronald Reagan Birthplace and Museum, Rockwood State Park, Prophetstown State Park, the Dillion Home, Sinnissippi Park, Oppold Marina, Hennepin Feeder Canal, and so much more. So many of these Whiteside County gems are able to relate to other gems across the state. Why not collaborate with the other gems and increase tourism for not only Whiteside County, but for the rest of Illinois. By increasing tourism, the need for more business will grow.

What tools and services do northern Illinois communities have that can be better applied to this effort?

Tools and services that northern Illinois communities have that can better help this effort is word of mouth. With so many residents not knowing what things Whiteside County has to offer, telling friends and family is the easiest thing anyone can do. Especially with living in a technological age, most people have some kind of smart device with them. With this they can call someone, Tweet it, post it, share it, etc. to get the word out. Local newspapers and blogs could even feature a new business or tourist spot each week to spread the word.

What are your thoughts on the Illinois Freedom of Information Act?

The Illinois Freedom of Information Act is important. It allows citizens to have access to records that they may not have had otherwise. It also allows citizens to ability to know what is going on, without bias and propaganda.

Please state your plan to maintain government transparency.

To maintain government transparency, I will always do my best to ensure that every resident of Whiteside County has the ability to know what is going on within the county. This would include the ability to know when and where meetings are happening, as well as the ability to have access to the meeting minutes.

What would you push for as a member of county government to boost local businesses?

As a member of county government, I would want to push for local media, newspapers, blogs, etc. to feature area businesses. This would help to spread information about the business to those that may not have known it was there.

Should government employees and officials be allowed to sign nondisclosure agreements with private businesses?

Depending on the situation, should government employees and officials be allowed to sign non-disclosure agreements with private businesses. For example, if I worked at a company, and I left the company to work for a competing company I would have to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Currently many private businesses require you to sign nondisclosure agreements, would this mean that government employees and officials could not work?

Would you push for or against government officials and employees being allowed to sign non-disclosure agreements with private businesses?

Again, it would depend on the situation.

It appears inflation — in a way that hasn’t been experienced in a long time — is going to be an issue that could affect all local governments for the foreseeable future. What is the role of the county board as rising prices put a pinch on existing revenues?

The County Board’s role would be to conserve cost without compromising services provided.

Do you think there is a local crime problem? If so, what needs to be done about it?

I do think that there is a local crime problem. Promote the good that law enforcement does in the community. This would help there to be an increase in those that want to pursue a career in law enforcement. With all that law enforcement has faced in the last couple years, many people that once wanted to pursue a law enforcement career are changing their minds. This leaves many vacancies in local law enforcement offices. Too many vacancies cause officers to be stretched too thin and in turn could cause injuries and accidents.

What local road and bridge projects should be a priority to get done in the county?

All roads and bridges are a safety issue, priority should go to those that are most traveled first

Do you support decreasing local property taxes? If so, how would the county make up the difference?

As a taxpayer, I do support decreasing local property taxes. As a County Board Member, I think there needs to be a study done over several years, to see if the county would be able to make up the difference if property taxes were decreased.

Do you support stronger county government ethics laws? What measures do you support?

I do support stronger county government ethics laws. I support bipartisan efforts to promote ethics on a county level.

Is the Whiteside County airport underutilized, especially as it has a runway that can handle commercial traffic?

I do think that the Whiteside County airport is underutilized especially with there being a supply and demand issue for local businesses. Local businesses could utilize the airport when trying to get their supplies faster. For example, in trying to get supplies in that come from overseas, it sits at a dock until it a freight company has been lined up or it is flown to O’Hare. From there the product has to wait for another freight company to pick it up and bring it to the final destination. It could be hours, days, or weeks before the product arrives. Why not utilize the airport to bring the supplies? It would not only help Whiteside but could also help surrounding counties.

Are there other investments to be made at the airport?

Not at this time.

Is it a matter of promotion?

Not at this time.

How can the airport be an economic boon?

The airport can be an economic boon if more businesses could use it to help with the supply and demand issues that are currently being faced.

Whiteside County set aside $5 million in ARPA funds for unspecified projects. How should that money be spent and why?

The $5 million in ARPA funds should be spent helping those in the county that were affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. The money should be spent this way as that is what the American Rescue Plan Act was for. Any other way is a misappropriation of funds.