Richard Williams, Kane County Board 2022 primary Election Questionnaire

Kane County Board candidate Richard Williams.

Full Name: Richard “Rick” Williams

What office are you seeking? County Board Member for District 18

What offices, if any, have you previously held? Former trustee and president of the Mill Creek Water Reclamation District. Current elected member of the Kane County Regional Board of School Trustees.

City: Blackberry Township

Occupation: Attorney

Education: Bachelors of Arts - University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, Juris Doctor - Northern Illinois University

Campaign: No

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

I am always in favor of decreasing local property taxes if it can be done in a fiscally responsible manner. Kane County residents pay too much in property taxes generally, but the County has not increased its levy in 11 years. Further, the County’s portion of the property tax bill is a small percentage of that bill. For example, Kane County’s portion of my tax bill is less than 4% of the overall bill, and the Forest Preserve District’s portion is less 1.6%. So any reduction at the county level would have a minimal impact on one’s overall real estate tax bill.

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

Improving Route 47 between I-88 and I-90 should be given high priority, as well as various intersections that need to be reworked as the traffic demand has increased.

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

We have to address crime in a firm and responsible manner. Reducing crime requires supporting local law enforcement, keeping law enforcement visible in the community, and fostering a mutually respect between land enforcement and residents. It also means addressing the root causes of crime with at-risk youth at an early age, through before and after school programs, extra-curricular activities, and community involvement.

How will you work to keep crime low in Kane County?

By supporting and funding the Sheriff’s office and local police departments financially and by use of intergovernmental agreements so that when possible, manpower, equipment, and other resources can be shared among all law enforcement agencies in the county.

Do you support Kane County’s pre- arrest diversion program?

Editor’s note: This question has been updated from a previous version to correct that the Kane County State’s Attorney’s office created the program and the Kane County Sheriff’s office participates in it.

I support pretrial diversion programs for first-time, non- violent offenders. Most crime occurs in municipalities outside of Sheriff Hain’s jurisdiction. While I believe the Sheriff’s Office generally does a good job, I do not believe this office is adequately staffed or experienced to properly administer a diversion program, nor do I believe it is appropriate for the agency responsible for enforcing the law make decisions on who the law applies to, and who it doesn’t. Diversion should be handled through court services, where there are better measures in place to make sure that repeat offenders are assessed for risk, mental health and victim impact by an agency that is isolated from the political process.

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

Yes. The key to having ethical elected government, is through transparency in the governmental process and in the administration of its statutory duties.

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

1. Streamline the approval process for permitting by limiting red tape.

2. Remove unnecessary regulations that are barriers to entry for small start-up businesses.

3. Revamp the County’s antiquated Zoning Ordinance (which I am told was drafted over 70 years ago).

4. Partner with the Small Business Development Center at Waubonsee and ECC

Why do you think the county has had some positions open for a while and a number of employees have left the county in recent times. Why do you think county employees are leaving?Compensation levels for some key employees are at or below market rates, which led to the departure of several county employees.

How can the county seek to retain employees?

County employees should be paid competitive wages. They should also be confident that they will be supported by their leadership, and that there will be opportunities to grow in their position and advance their career over time.

Do you support adding either a 0.25% or 0.50% retail tax to non-essential purchases (excluding groceries and gas)? Why or why not?

No. Kane County residents are taxed enough. Government needs to be more efficient and live within its means, not tax its way out of irresponsible spending and practice.

If there were an increase in retail tax revenue, what would you use the additional funds for?

If such a tax were to pass, it should be used for improving Kane County infrastructure (roads and bridges) and public safety.

Do you support a county gas tax hike? Why or why not?

No. Illinois residents pay among the highest gas prices in the nation. Gas prices directly affect each family’s pocket book, and lower income families feel that in a disproportionate manner. Most of the tax collected from gas taxes goes to transportation, and the Kane County Department of Transportation is well funded and already constitutes a significant portion of the County’s budget.

If there were an increase in the county gas tax revenue, how would you propose using the new money?

If such a tax were to pass, it should be used for improving Kane County infrastructure (roads and bridges) and public safety.

Do you support more warehouse and industrial development in Kane County? Why/why not?

If warehouse and industrial development occurs in a responsible manner, it is good for the community and the tax base, and can offset the high taxes that Kane County residents pay.

How can municipalities best deal with the increase in semi-truck traffic?

By improving out transportation system and long-term planning for defined truck routes.

Should county & municipal officials be required to disclose to the public the identity of a business, such as Amazon, that seeks to locate in the county?

There are legitimate business reasons why potential businesses seeking to develop in Kane County desire to keep their interest and business plans confidential during the pre-application period. However, once the applicant files for relief from the County, such as for a rezoning or special use permit, the identity of the applicant should be made public.

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

FOIA is a key tool for maintaining transparency in government. It is the responsibility of government to maintain its public records open to inspection by the public. The States Attorney needs to do a better job of enforcing FOIA requests, as some are ignored or the applicants are told the requested records are not available when they clearly are.

Please state your plan to maintain government transparency.

File an annual statement of economic interest.

Release all county emails and correspondence, County zoning applications, publication of county payables and accounts receivable.

Should government employees and officials be allowed to sign non- disclosure agreements with private businesses?

Generally, no, but I am not adverse to it on a case-by- case. In situations where it is essential for the prospective developer to remain anonymous, I would consider it if they advanced compelling and legitimate business reasons for the NDA. However, there should be no financial penalty to the County or the County employee’s signing the NDA, and their obligations under an NDA should end when the business applies for approval from the County, such as zoning, building permit, etc.

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

I would decide this on a case-by-case basis.

How can the county best support municipalities that are seeking to promote restaurants, nightlife, tourism (St. Charles, Geneva, Batavia)?

Kane County can assist all municipalities - not just St. Charles, Geneva, and Batavia - with their tourism efforts, by providing a safe, efficient, and reliable transportation network. It is also already assists making Kane County a desirable destination with amenities such as its forest preserve network, the Fox River Trail, and Northwestern Medicine Stadium (Cougars), which attract people to our county.

How long should the county support the Kane Vax Center in Batavia?

Only as long as the State of Illinois or federal government pays for its funding, and no longer.

The County Board used more of the revenue it received from the American Rescue Plan to fund mental health services than it gave to social safety net services such as homeless shelters and food pantries. How can the county make funding for nonprofits impacted by the pandemic more equitable?

Mental Health Services and homeless shelters are interrelated. Homeless shelters and food pantries received CARES Act funds, so this was a balancing of the distributions. Funding for non profits should be driven by community resources.

Do you support giving a larger chunk of the $103 million in funding the county received to social services?

Mental Health service are social services. Distribution of ARP & CARES Act funds should allocated in a fair and balanced manner, based upon the documented needs of Kane County residents.

Do you agree with the county paying the college tuition of a public employee? Please explain.

I agree that college tuition reimbursement as part of an evenly applied, transparent process would be an important tool to attract, keep and grow the existing County work force. Historically, the County’s tuition reimbursement program was funded from monies from the Elgin Riverboat. However, those funds are dwindling, and the program should be reworked in a fair and equitable manner that applies to all County employees. I do not support the reimbursement of educational expenses in the manner exemplified in the recent situation of an employee receiving tuition reimbursement through the use of the IT Director’s credit card.