Next week, on March 17th, Champaign County and the rest of the State of Illinois will have their primary election. Though the Presidential election is obviously important to focus on, it’s equally pressing to consider our options at the local level. If you’re not one that pays attention to politics in general, you probably have a tendency to overlook these races until there are a bunch of names on a ballot, some of which you might recognize from yard signs. I was once this person. We don’t want you to be that person, so we’ll spend the next couple of weeks highlighting a few of the races that you should be paying attention to. Smile Politely does not do endorsements, so it’s up to you to sort out who you feel should represent you in these county level offices.
Giraldo Rosales is a Democrat running against Emily Rodriguez for County Board District 8.
Smile Politely: For readers who have no concept of what the County Board is responsible for, can you give me a quick rundown, in your words? What do voters need to know?
Giraldo Rosales: The County Board is responsible for setting county policy and allocating funds that support the services and resources for the citizens of the county. In addition to its fiduciary responsibilities, the Board must also ensure compliance — that allocations comply with state statutes. The County Board's 22 members collectively allocate funding for services mandated by State Statute under Dillon's Rule, and keeping the budget balanced while doing so. Under (55 ILCS 5/6-1001) the County Board has the authority, and ultimate responsibility, for monies appropriated for each elected official which funds their office’s operations, ensuring they can carry out the services they are designated to provide for the citizens of our county. Pursuant to (55 ILCS 5/4-2003 and 55 ILCS 5/3-6008), the County Board determines the number of assistant state’s attorneys, the number of sheriff deputies, and court security officers. This ensures citizens of our county are safe and have the ability to be represented fairly in the court of law, regardless of income. In that regard, (55 ILCS 5/5-1006 and 5-1007) the County Board also has the fiduciary responsibility to maintain and provide the finances for a suitable courthouse, jail and other necessary county buildings — including appropriate offices and furnishings: Collectively the County Board must address any and all issues affecting those facilities to ensure the safety and well being of the citizens of our County, and those who staff them.
SP: Why did you decide to run for re-election?
Rosales: I am running for re-election to District 8 because we are at a unique time in our history. We see our county’s needs changing but the leadership is often saturated with stagnate, preconceived knowledge and opinions of what will move our county forward in a holistic, ethical, and balanced way — while maintaining our fiduciary responsibilities in accordance with Illinois State Statutes. As a naturalized immigrant and native Spanish-speaking resident of Champaign County, my continued presence on the County Board reinforces our county’s mission to maintain a diverse voice with experience that adds balance, ensuring our commitment to preserve and execute our decisions using the moral compass of our sanctuary values. The County Board must be diverse, not only in word, but in membership in order to earn the confidence of all of the citizens of our county — people whose concerns deserve to be represented by someone from their own community who is already effectively doing so. While Chair of the County Board, I enacted certain decision-making authority beyond the single vote each member has in the hope of making change. It is not always popular to fight for change, especially when our political process chooses to build on political cronyism instead of political astuteness and what is best for all citizens of Champaign County by using our Democratic platform’s compass to get us there. My goal is to serve our county and represent our shared interests to meet the needs and expectations we all can live and thrive by. I have already begun the process by looking beyond the boundaries of the cities and embracing the importance of our rural citizens as well. Identifying and leveraging opportunities that will align Champaign County’s agenda with the larger state and national goals of ensuring "green" is not just a catch-phrase...but a lifestyle.
We have options, options for complying with the sustainability goals of the state statutes without increasing property or consumer taxes. We can do this by increasing our stake in solar and wind farms and other renewables. Our county has already begun to benefit from revenue generated from alternative sources, which proves there are creative ways to resolve our current deficit. Revenue generated from renewables can be purposed for the programs and services that most meet our county’s needs. Revenue that can be controlled by the County Board to determine additional services and programs that not only fill the current gaps— but the voids where most needed. Having established the path for a balanced budget and a greener future, I will stay the course that best meets the needs of our county through greater investment in green energy and our citizens that we serve.
SP: What do you feel are the top issues facing the County Board right now?
Rosales: The top issues the board currently faces are:
- Retention of county employees. This means: Reducing the attrition rate of county workers by making salaries competitive with other counties similar in size and demographics, making sure county employees’ salaries meet living wage standards by increasing the pay rate, and creating incentives beyond pay that helps employees mitigate the high cost of medical insurance.
- Balancing the budget. As a Not-for-Profit government agency we must exercise the allowances permitted to us under that classification.
- Finding sustainable ways to reduce property taxes and other service fees. We do not need to punish homeowners by increasing taxes to pay for programs and services mandated by state statutes when we have the means to raise revenue through use of green energy and other creative drives.
- Finding the means to provide current and foreseeable services for our county’s citizens at cost.
- Recognizing the need for infrastructure improvements and creating a building maintenance fund by reviewing money distributions currently in place and cutting unnecessary expenditures where possible
- Updating computer systems, hardware and software that keeps pace with the current homeland security and compliance in accordance with our National Standards.
SP: The current primary races have been contentious, to say the least, and there’s a history of tension and infighting within the board. If you receive the nomination, and are elected to the board, what steps will you take to mitigate the current tensions while working to advance your vision?
Rosales: I’m not sure I would characterize the primary races as contentious. There are disagreements to be sure. But it’s worth noting that those who have not been long in public office, if at all, operate without sufficient knowledge and protocols of the Illinois State Statutes or the Illinois Constitution that limit what can or cannot be promised or provided by the County Board or its individual members. As a result, allegations are made that are not based on facts, and without the proper training of ethics laws, some candidates intentionally or unintentionally victimize and or become victims of this lack of training. Once elected into the office of the County Board, all members should be required to take diversity training. The University of Illinois has established this process and for the most part, it has reduced the number of cases of intolerance for those that come from outside of a particular cultural background when integrated into a larger population. During my tenure on the County Board an intolerance of diverse opinions has intensified to the point of shutting down conversations instead of embracing a variety of perspectives by using the guise of “following the political agenda” that often does not embrace or is reflective of the entire party’s goals/platform. I have found when people are randomly thrown together (by way of elections), coming from all walks of life and experiences, there is a likelihood the line of communications can be challenging and ultimately shut down. Therefore, I would recommend current board members, as well as all new board members, are sent through a mandatory diversity training, learning cultural and socio-economic differences that are often misplaced and lost in translation when important matters need to find a higher ground to work from and make decisions by.
Photo provided by Giraldo Rosales.