Full Name: George P. Kelly
What office are you seeking? Whiteside County Board, District 2
What offices, if any, have you previously held? Whiteside County Board
City: Rock Falls, IL
Occupation: Millwright Local 2158
Education: BA Economics from University of Illinois at Chicago
Campaign Website: George P. Kelly - Whiteside County Board on Facebook
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?
I think that we need to focus on improving what we already have. There are massive labor shortages nationwide at the moment and I believe that we need to be thinking about sustainable growth that can firmly root Whiteside County residents in good paying, long term careers instead of boom and bust businesses.
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?
First, we need to promote EMT programs to local high school graduates who plan on staying local. If you get an EMT qualification, you’re already on a pretty good path to becoming a firefighter. Second, consolidation of forces is something to be considered, especially on the dispatch side of things. I think that we should also promote volunteer firefighters, it’s a pretty big ask nowadays, but it comes with the territory of living in a rural area and wanting to protect your neighbors.
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?
I would have to see more numbers but I believe that consolidation can save money and create a much more efficient system.
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?
Broadband is an important part of infrastructure in the 21st century and it has left rural communities far behind. It’s a problem that crosses socioeconomic boundaries too. There used to be basically two companies to choose from for internet service and one wasn’t reliable and the other raised their prices all the time. I want to get buried line, broadband service to every resident of the county because internet access is as important as telephone lines used to be. This is a project that needs to be done right or we will continue to be left behind in the age of technology.
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?
I think that we should put up solar and wind projects on what was originally wetland that has to be artificially drained to be farmed. If the land was actually being “preserved” it would be in its natural state. Also, there are many (local to Northwestern Illinois) businesses that provide residential solar panels. I don’t see any reason why every residence and business doesn’t have solar panels on their property. It’s a great investment to save money on your utilities bill. I do have a problem with the lack of promotion for residential windmills. I think every residence could be close to self reliance energy wise, but there is too much red tape to do it.
Should counties do more to expand access to county government?
I don’t think that any expansion is necessary in Whiteside County. I definitely think more people should get involved though.
Should video of committees and board meetings be continued/expanded?
I don’t think that would be necessary.
Should the county website be updated?
It’s pretty well maintained and has a ton of great tools in my opinion, but somewhat difficult to navigate if you don’t run a computer all the time. I haven’t heard anything negative from the public on it. I would definitely consider changing the background colors.
Should board members be required to have email connections?
Yes, unless they don’t use a computer. I’d rather call someone if it means getting a response.
What technology upgrades and resource allocation is required to make it happen?
We have the technology and resources. If the voters want someone who can use a computer and email, it would be prudent for them to vote for the correct person. P.S. I can take calls and reply to emails. The total package.
What challenges is the region facing in terms of attracting business and tourism?
The businesses that are here seem to do well. Our location is not the most efficient for large businesses to come here and make more money than they would in a larger market for sure. As far as tourism goes, I think we need to market outdoor recreation. I think that the canal could be a huge mountain bike destination. I think that if we opened up county roads to side by sides or even created a county-wide trail system with annual usage fees we could bring in loads of tourism, but that would take a lot of cooperation between the county, townships, cities, landowners, etc. Whiteside County has a ton of unlocked potential though.
What tools and services do northern Illinois communities have that can be better applied to this effort?
As far as I know, not many. I’m looking to change that.
What are your thoughts on the Illinois Freedom of Information Act?
Public record should definitely be available to the public. I believe that public agencies should be held accountable. I also believe that it should be taught in school how to file a FOIA request.
Please state your plan to maintain government transparency.
I encourage people to come to board meetings to see for themselves what we do and how things are debated, etc. Ask questions and participate instead of thinking up conspiracy theories.
What would you push for as a member of county government to boost local businesses?
Shop local! When you invest in local business, it helps a whole city thrive. I get that it costs more money and times are tough, but spending less to put money in someone’s pocket halfway across the country or world is definitely not going to help our area grow and improve.
Should government employees and officials be allowed to sign non- disclosure agreements with private businesses?
No way. NDAs are getting out of hand.
Would you push for or against government officials and employees being allowed to sign non-disclosure agreements with private businesses?
Against. That’s how actual conspiracies start.
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?
We need to explore long term, sustainable revenue streams.
Do you think there is a local crime problem? If so, what needs to be done about it?
There definitely is a crime problem. Protect your homes. Install cameras. Our judiciary system is broken. There is a disconnect somewhere that crime is the only option. Drugs are definitely part of the problem. this is a long term fix, but we need to get under privileged kids help from a young age, crack down on harmful drug dealers, and get criminals placed into careers so they don’t become recidivists and can come back into society with a bit of grace.
What local road and bridge projects should be a priority to get done in the county?
Maintaining all county highways and roads is always a priority.
Do you support decreasing local property taxes? If so, how would the county make up the difference?
No, but I would like to limit how much it can increase year-to-year.
Do you support stronger county government ethics laws? What measures do you support?
Not at the moment.
Is the Whiteside County airport underutilized, especially as it has a runway that can handle commercial traffic?
The Airport Board is currently working on more utilization of the airport. I am in favor of commercial flights if they are feasible.
Are there other investments to be made at the airport?
A larger, corporate hangar with vehicle parking, renovate terminal building, and potential future development along Illinois Route 40.
Is it a matter of promotion?
I hope so, having commercial flights into Rock Falls would be convenient for larger businesses as well as a potential draw for more business. I wouldn’t mind flying out of Rock Falls for business or pleasure.
How can the airport be an economic boon?
It is an easier way to get to and from Whiteside County. I think it can be used to maintain the businesses that we have here with many travelers. We have an airport that has been commercially dormant for some time so why not make it viable again?
Whiteside County set aside $5 million in ARPA funds for unspecified projects. How should that money be spent and why?
Nothing extravagant. I think it should be utilized on repair and legitimate improvements. Solar panels on county buildings/property would be a good investment I think to reduce utility expenditures for future taxpayers.