Kane County Board District 16 candidate Ted Penesis answered Shaw Local’s election questionnaire for the Kane County Board primary election.
Voting ends for the primary election on the evening of June 28.
Full Name: Ted Penesis
What office are you seeking? Kane County Board, District 16
City: South Elgin
Occupation: Director of Community Outreach, Illinois Department of Natural Resources
Education: B.S. Communications Studies, Northern Illinois University
Campaign Website: www.facebook.com/ted.penesis
Do you support decreasing local property taxes? If so, how would the county make up the difference?
Government at every level has a special responsibility to taxpayers to be fiscally responsible and accountable. We are spending other people’s hardearned money, so if elected, I would consider my role as being a ‘taxpayer advocate.”
I vow to ensure all tax dollars are spent wisely. I would want to collaborate with my fellow board members, staff experts and area stakeholders to be sure I have a comprehensive perspective of needs, priorities and available resources.
What local road and bridge projects should be a priority to get done in the county?
There are many areas in need of road/bridge improvements. My answer will focus on priorities in and near my county board district (which covers much of South Elgin and a portion of SW Elgin). The following some of the issues that I would discuss with the County and municipal transportation professionals and Illinois Department of Transportation while reviewing current long-term plans.
1) The intersection of LaFox St (Rt. 31) and State St. (in downtown South Elgin): There are major backups during the morning and evening rush hours, due to eastwest traffic on Spring St. forced to “jog” one block south to State St. where vehicles can then cross over the Fox River bridge. A reconfiguration of this intersection, along traffic signal modernization, could improve the traffic flow.
2) The Elgin interchange at State St. (Rt. 31) and Route 20: This bridge is nearing the end of its useful life. Once it is identified for replacement, a “Single Point Urban Interchange” configuration (similar to the Route 20/McLean Blvd. interchange) should be considered to eliminate the long traffic delays.
3) Hopps Rd (Spring St) and Randall Rd: This is one of the county’s most dangerous intersections, due to the many blind spots at this irregular crossing (I have personally seen several accidents here). New traffic lights have been installed, but more work is needed to re-align the roadways.
Do you think there is a local crime problem? If so, what needs to be done about it?
The perception that crime is increasing does not match the reality in most of the county, where the overall crime rate has dropped 16 percent over the past three years.
That being the case, the increase in retail theft, carjackings, and home burglaries are some of the concerns expressed by county residents and businesses. These types of crimes have been increasing in other suburban areas; so, it is critical for local law enforcement to stay ahead of the curve by focusing on these specific crimes.
How will you work to keep crime low in Kane County?
Continued and increased coordination between law enforcement agencies at the state/county/local level will assist in this endeavor, as trends can be identified in areas where crime in increasing and on how best to implement patrols.
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 wholeheartedly endorse and commend Sheriff Ron Hain, as well as State’s Attorney Jamie Mosser, for implementing this groundbreaking program. The arrest and conviction of an offender often sets up this individual for a life of crime. This program is the definition of an “ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” which can lighten the load on the taxpayer’s pocketbook as well.
These programs help reduce recidivation. The Sheriff’s diversion program also addresses another related symptom of society’s ills: Drug abuse. Through this unique program, individuals can access drug treatment and prevention programs, which ultimately can keep this individual off the taxpayers’ dime for a lifetime.
Do you support stronger county government ethics laws? What measures do you support?
Voters entrust government to spend their money honestly and wisely. Numerous laws and ordinances have been enacted to address this, but a few “bad apples” simply find new ways to act out.
This being the case, the county board should reevaluate the current ethics ordinance to see if it should be strengthened.
What would you push for as a member of county government to boost local businesses?
I would encourage more inter-governmental cooperation with Kane County municipalities, other government entities and area stakeholders in promoting the county to prospective businesses and increase sales at current businesses.
Kane County is rich with a variety of unique locations that draws visitors, not the least of which is the Fox River. The county should develop countywide economic development initiatives and address policy issues critical to the needs of the county as a region.
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?
Kane County is competing against communities and neighboring counties who pay more for the same work. A salary/benefit analysis should be conducted to ensure we are competitive with other government entities in the Chicago Area. Special attention should also be made to increase county employee morale.
How can the county seek to retain employees?
As I stated previously a salary/benefit analysis should be conducted to ensure we are competitive with other entities. We also should conduct a comprehensive attraction and retention survey.
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. At this time, many working families are already struggling financially. Future options should be studied when the economy improves.
If there were an increase in retail tax revenue, what would you use the additional funds for?
This is a hypothetical question that I am not comfortable answering as there are too many future unknowns.
Do you support a county gas tax hike? Why or why not?
With fuel costs skyrocketing over the past year (and not likely to recede to previous levels any time soon) I do not foresee supporting a gas tax hike at this time. Many of our residents live paycheck-to-paycheck. With inflation hitting other sectors of the economy as well – including essential items such as groceries – working families today are struggling to pay their bills.
If there were an increase in the county gas tax revenue, how would you propose using the new money?
I do not foresee a county gas tax increase passing at this time.
Do you support more warehouse and industrial development in Kane County? Why/why not?
Yes, I do support these types of developments as they provide jobs for our residents and lessen the burden on taxpayers. However, a thorough review must be conducted to ensure our residents’ quality of life is not adversely affected by the increased truck traffic and its accompanying air pollution.
How can municipalities best deal with the increase in semi-truck traffic?
Careful consideration should be placed on the costs of truck traffic traveling through our communities. Below are some issues worthy of discussion and review:
1) Consideration should be given to enacting impact fees on businesses generating a high volume of semitrucks (since roadway pavement will need to be replaced on a shorter schedule).
2) Restrict truck traffic in predominantly residential areas.
3) Limits might be placed on the hours businesses are open to semi-truck drop-offs.
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?
This is a complicated issue. Confidentiality agreements are required at the state level for relocating businesses to receive tax incentives when deciding to potentially move to Illinois. Because of this, a business may decide not to move to Kane County if a relocation move is released to the public.
What are your thoughts on the Illinois Freedom of Information Act?
Transparency is a cornerstone of our democracy. Except in limited cases (for example, when government entities are discussing personnel issues), information should be made available to the public upon request.
Please state your plan to maintain government transparency.
I believe sunlight is the best disinfectant. Our current laws can and should be continually strengthened to ensure transparency.
Should government employees and officials be allowed to sign nondisclosure agreements with private businesses?
As I am not a current county board member, I need more information on the issue that needs to be addressed.
Would you push for or against government officials and employees being allowed to sign non-disclosure agreements with private businesses?
As I stated in the previous question, I would need more information to properly address this issue.
How can the county best support municipalities that are seeking to promote restaurants, nightlife, tourism (St. Charles, Geneva, Batavia)?
I favor developing a county-wide tourism taskforce to study how the county, its municipalities, and local businesses can work together in promoting our county’s natural and business assets. By combining forces, we can be more effective in our promotional efforts and just as importantly, save tax dollars by removing duplicative efforts.
How long should the county support the Kane Vax Center in Batavia?
Given the availability of free vaccines at places like Walgreens, CVS, VNA, Greater Family Health, etc, it is time to reevaluate continued funding of the Vax Center in Batavia.
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?
The pandemic shredded an already torn safety net throughout the United States, and Kane County was no different. Mental health was greatly impacted by the pandemic, so the County was correct in directing funding toward these services.
That said, I have worked with homeless shelters and food pantries and agree they have no less of a need.
Do you support giving a larger chunk of the $103 million in funding the county received to social services?
I would want to convene with other stakeholders and assess our county’s needs before deciding how these funds should be spent.
Do you agree with the county paying the college tuition of a public employee? Please explain.
I generally support the opportunity to further the education of county employees. However, being a public entity, strong safeguards must be put into place. To prevent abuse of this employee benefit, the county should review its current policy to ensure it serves both the employees and taxpayers alike.