Election 2024 Questionnaire: Brian Dose, La Salle County Board Chairman

Election 2024
La Salle County Board member Brian Dose, D-Ottawa, speaks Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, before voting on a resolution to declare La Salle County as a non-sanctuary county regarding migrants.

Brian Dose, a candidate for La Salle County Board Chairman in the March primary election, answered these questions from the Shaw Local News Network.

Full Name: Brian Dose

What office are you seeking? LaSalle County Board Chairman

What public offices, if any, have you previously held? I have been elected four times to the County Board representing District 21.

City: Ottawa

Occupation: Firefighter

Campaign website: www.briandose.com

In light of the increasing influx of migrants to Illinois, how do you propose the county should address the challenges?

We could engage the immigration services that are already operating in our county. At no point in any discussion we had on immigration at the county did we actually ask if there are agencies already working with immigration in our county, what they were seeing and what we could do to provide humanitarian assistance. So, first and foremost we communicate with those who are already on the front line of what is going on in our County. While we don’t currently have the resources in our rural areas to handle large influxes of immigrants, we do have the capacity to care and plan. We didn’t start with a very solid plan, but I now feel confident that we have a plan in place that is geared toward providing immediate humanitarian assistance and helping asylum seekers reach their destination. Almost all of the residents I have met are for legal immigration, they just want to see a compromise at the federal level to address illegal immigration.

What are the top issues facing your county and what would you like to do to address those issues?

The number one issue facing our county is economics. I have talked to numerous people and families throughout LaSalle County and alot of our families feel left behind. Childhood poverty has almost doubled in LaSalle County from 2000 to 2022. Over 40% of our LaSalle County children are considered living in low income households. Many of our families are also struggling trying to find affordable childcare. We have a committee that oversees cats and dogs but not a committee focused on economic development. I would push to establish an economic development committee/working group that ties local non-for-profit economic groups such as area chamber of commerces, labor, workforce development agencies, and governmental agencies with the County. We need to laser focus our committees and County policies on what we can do to help families. A broader economic base will lessen the tax burden on working families. What happens at one end of the County effects the taxes of everyone else.

Should counties do more to expand access to county government?

Yes, the LaSalle County Board should have meetings at night. I am one of the few Board members over the last 11+ years that is married with young kids trying to balance life, work, and the County Board. And during COVID, it was incredibly hard. People with families at home and who work real jobs find it difficult to attend meetings in the middle of a work day. Moving some of the meetings to night would expand access to the public and allow better participation with County government. Streamlining our County committee structure would help as well. Some of our committees could be combined or eliminated. We must change the expectation of what it is to serve on the County Board. We need to change the mindset from how many per diems and mileage a board member gets per month, to what that board member actually does for you.

I was and still am a long time proponent of our meetings on youtube and adopting new technology for the County Board. In fact it only took a decade, but board members finally got their board paperwork emailed to them versus hand outs at the County Board meeting. As I have done in the past, I will consistently push for open access to our meetings.

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

We have one of the most popular parks in America within our County. We need to treat Starved Rock and the neighboring state parks as one unit and market them as such. We also must continue to develop and promote our County parks so that they can be used for camping, hiking, and recreation. With ARPA monies, we are working to significantly improve our park facilities. We also must push for more walking/riding paths between our parks and our communities so that we are more interconnected to the State, County, and municipal parks in the County. Not every tourist can afford the hotel room, and some prefer not to stay in hotels. We have to tie our tourism programs with economic development, not treat them as separate entities. Adding tourism dollars to our local businesses creates wealth for our local residents.

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

I would make economic development my first priority. And part of that economic development is creating a County-wide broadband plan which would help rural school children, farmers, and small businesses in our communities. Further, outside of ARPA monies, I am not aware of LaSalle County actively seeking economic grants for our communities or local businesses. We have a grant match fund that has never been used. That must change, we must be proactive in our approaches to grants. We should have an economic development committee where we would look at what we could do to immediately assist small businesses. This committee will need a budget and dedicated County Board members who will put in the work. Our focus should be on what helps working families.

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

I am not aware of this happening locally. I cannot imagine a situation as Board Chairman in which I would agree to a non-disclosure agreement unless it was for a significant economic development that would later come to light. I would only sign such an agreement, if I was advised by the State’s attorney’s office that it was legal and necessary to do so. There are times in which government must be discreet, especially with negotiations, to avoid litigation or unnecessary risk, but I cannot see where I would sign such an agreement.

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

Our County is so large that local means different things to different areas of the County. What I have done on the County Board is vote repeatedly to increase public safety funding and hire more deputies. For example, I supported the Sheriff’s department hiring a deputy and creating an animal control unit. Many animal calls are actually a domestic dispute of some sort and the deputies are trained to sort those problems out. Further, animal control provides for another deputy that can respond. After Uvalde, I met with a bipartisan group and we wrote an approved ARPA plan to fully fund two new deputies for rural schools for a span of three years.

The school resource officer program is in place to help our children, our schools, and ultimately provide more deputies for emergencies. I am an advocate for law enforcement through votes, experience, and board actions.

What I believe is the number one safety problem for our residents is whether there is an officer close to their home to respond in case of an emergency. I would like to see more intergovernmental agreements with schools, small towns, and townships to provide increased police protection in rural areas. I have worked as a firefighter next to our deputies and they could use increased staffing because I have personally sat at scenes waiting for a deputy that is coming from another end of the County. I have seen the response frustration firsthand.

Another safety concern for the citizens I have met is the substance abuse problem in our communities. This is not only a public safety problem but also a community health problem. We can address this by coordinating resources more efficiently. Many of our local break-ins and thefts are tied to looking for money to feed a substance abuse problem. We need to address the root cause and not just the symptoms we see.

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

We have a multi year plan for road and bridge projects in LaSalle County. And we have very dedicated employees who take care of our roads and bridges. However, we need to do more in regards to roadway safety. We need to make funding decisions that lead to less accidents and injuries. We must prioritize adding wider shoulders to our County roads and add additional lighting and notice of high speed County road intersections. Having wider roads will help stranded vehicles, farmers, and distracted drivers. Having additional signage and notice, when allowable, will aid distracted drivers and save lives. Further, we need to widen the roads to allow for biking and running. It is time we use government resources to help with roadway safety and tourism.

Do you support the Illinois gun ban? Why or why not?

The County is a subunit of state government. We are not allowed to pick and choose what state rules we can follow. There was a gray period where the law was held up in court and we passed a non-binding resolution opposing the measure. That time is over, and as County Board Chairman, I will follow all applicable laws. As a County Board, we have very little say into the operational policies of the State’s Attorney’s office or Sheriff who actually enforce gun bills. As for the gun bill, I would have voted much like Representative Yednock did because I don’t believe at the time that the majority of LaSalle County residents approved.

What is your opinion of the role of tax incentives in economic development and business growth? Should tax incentives be offered to corporations to entice them to plant roots in local communities? Why or why not?

LaSalle County has the second most amount of tax increment financing districts (TIF) of any of the counties, so I am very familiar with them. I vote for TIF districts because we have very few other economic tools to aid in business growth and development. We need to start building a strong incentive package to local businesses to expand, and look to capture companies looking to put down roots in our area. I am for tax incentives if we obtain real prevailing wage jobs and growth in our tax base. I am not for tax incentives so we can put up another dollar store or gas station. Besides direct incentives, one of the best things we can do is offer indirect incentives such as great schools, parks with community access, and affordable housing. We can offer tax incentives to get companies to come to the area, but to keep businesses, we must offer indirect incentives as well. A long term goal would be standardizing TIFs throughout the County because not every TIF agreement is the same. And if we want fair property taxes, we should have more uniformity in TIF agreements and practices.

How would you classify the state of public health in your county? Do you believe access to affordable healthcare is an issue? Why or why not? If you believe it’s an issue, what ideas do you have to remedy it?

In the last 10 years, Ottawa and Mendota are the only cities in the County to not suffer from a hospital closure. The latest hospital closings could be blamed on alot of things, but from a higher vantage point, rural hospitals throughout America are closing. The hospitals are being squeezed out by insurance carriers who continuously find a way to pay physicians and hospitals less for more and at some point, the dam breaks.

Healthcare access is at a critical point in our communities. From farmers to nurses and everyone in between, affordable and accessible healthcare is a real concern for our citizens. As County Board Chairman, I don’t want to give our residents false hope that this could be turned around by a board resolution. The solution for real accessible affordable healthcare access will be at the state and federal levels. As a County, we can only chip away with local programs that aid our network of health care providers.

Increasing County funding for mental illness and empowering our health boards to explore new programs are one example of what we could do. By being proactive, the County can reduce the strain on hospitals that deal with mental illness. The County can also help by coordinating health care resources more efficiently with the various substance abuse programs that are provided by governmental and non-for-profits. I would like to appoint someone to oversee the various programs and make recommendations. I believe it is time to realize that substance abuse affects many of our families and is not going away any time soon.

One of the things I am most proud of is that I was able to write and work with the local fire departments so that every square inch of LaSalle County is covered by fire departments with CPR machines. We were only the second county in Illinois that I am aware of to do so. Besides CPR machines, I am personally aware of the lack of healthcare workers and prehospital providers, particularly paramedics. We did pass ARPA funding for scholarships to train healthcare workers in LaSalle County. The benefits will be long term for our County. Both programs are examples of what we can do to help with healthcare.

Finally, I have supported the nursing home over and over again. I have also held the nursing home’s feet to the fire to hold the home accountable to the taxpayers. I am very pleased with how the leadership of the nursing home has actively worked to spend tax dollars wisely. Through diligent work, the nursing home is financially in the black for the first time in a long time. The nursing home is the ultimate safety net to our elderly in the case of private nursing home closures.