?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Local Candidate: On the Spot - The Life and Thoughts of Zach

Oct. 4th, 2004

06:12 pm - Local Candidate: On the Spot

Previous Entry Share Next Entry

A news-gazette survey (my answers will probably be greatly edited when they appear in the news paper):

1. Should the county create its own public health department instead of contracting with the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District? Why or why not?

The county board should take a strong and active stand against the anti-union activities of the CUPHD administration. Creating a separate department should be a last resort, but if necessary to support unionized health care workers, I will support it. I will support the use of union labor for all county services, including contracted services.

2. What specific budget movies would you recommend to avoid budget deficits?

I would seek to identify and eliminate sources of waste such as patronage jobs created solely for the enrichment of the supporters of elected officials. The prison-industrial complex is often a source of great waste and I will analyze the county jails, the county courts, and the sheriff's office to make sure our justice system is just, responsive, and efficient.

Ultimately, short term budget deficits due to a temporary economic downturn are not a major problem. In this low interest rate climate and with economic recovery on the horizon, the county should never cut vital human services in the face of a budget deficit.

3. What zoning changes should the county's comprehensive zoning review address?

I will oppose plans to encourage big box development on our most precious fertile black soil. Sprawling developments hurt our rivers, our soil, and our air through flooding, erosion, and increased smog. Sprawling developments are unsustainable as they will ultimately cost the residents of the county more than the tax revenues they may bring in.

Comments:

[User Picture]
From:tully_monster
Date:October 5th, 2004 12:44 am (UTC)
(Link)
How do you know that an economic downturn is likely to be temporary? What would you do if this one turned out to be a lot longer-lived?

(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:zarfmouse
Date:October 5th, 2004 02:27 am (UTC)
(Link)
Economic downturns have historically always been temporary. Municipalities that make responsible use of debt (there's a big difference between borrowing a little bit of money at low interest to make ends meet when times are tough and the MASSIVE unprecedented deep deficit spending (hemorrhaging money) that is happening at the federal level) have historically had no problem sustaining social services through the low times and catching up when there is some economic improvement.

If things progress to a point where hard decisions have to be made then hard decisions have to be made. The residents of the county would have to be consulted. Do we raise taxes to continue to protect our most vulnerable neighbors or do we trim services and try to make due with less at the county level?

County officials need to be constantly vigilant of the state of the budget. I'm not saying we should just throw caution to the wind, that we should bank on an economic recover in the way that Bush does (e.g. "Well since we're going to recover we might as well just pretend the recovery has already happened and spend more money and lower taxes!"), just that we should use a minor budget crisis as an excuse to cut vital services. Cutting vital services will ultimately cost the people of Champaign County more in hidden social costs that having a small deficit.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:tully_monster
Date:October 5th, 2004 02:34 am (UTC)
(Link)
Cutting vital services will ultimately cost the people of Champaign County more in hidden social costs that having a small deficit.

Can you be specific about this?
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:zarfmouse
Date:October 5th, 2004 03:08 am (UTC)
(Link)
The county provides a variety of social services including the public transportation system, the sheriff's department, public health, the nursing home, animal control, various children's services. These services all help our fellow residents in various ways. If they were to disappear from the county's offerings, the services would still have to be provided in some way. I mean people still have to get around, old people still need a place to live, dangerous animals still need to be caught, children still need to be cared for. If these services are not available from government then people will have to fend for themselves and we will witness an overall downturn in the productivity of the county as the burden for these things is placed on individuals who can not bear it rather than shared by all.

Other services that the county provides support vital functions of city governments. The county maintains records, assesses property, zones unincorporated land, collects taxes, and administers elections. Without these functions of the county, local city government would not be possible. It is important that we do a better job and not a worse job at these tasks. And generally random budget cuts aimed not at a rational goal but at simply eliminating the deficit will not allow a better job to be done.

Now I believe that there are probably some services that the county is doing a bad job of providing, some services that aren't neccessary, and some services that we would do well to provide that we aren't. I will seek to study the real impacts of various services on the community. If some service is really just some administrative illusion that helps no one then I will not hessitate to support its reform or its end.

I'm not going to pretend to be an expert on the spectrum and impact of county services. The county budget is extremely complex and the summaries of the budget are fairly opaque to the average resident. It is difficult for anyone but an insider to know what is really going on with the budget. This is one of the major reasons that I would like to serve on the county board. I would like to make the functioning of the county more transparent to residents, I would like to make the budget more understandable to residents, and I would like to ensure that programs are really serving people rather than simply administratively perpetuating themselves.

I honestly don't yet know whether we need to cut some programs, raise some taxes, borrow some money, or all of the above. I don't think those are decisions to be made lightly. I do think that promises to "cut government spending" for the sake of cutting, without thought of the consequences, are wrong. I think promises of tax cuts simply to gain voter approval are wrong. I think being obsessed with balancing the budget perfectly every single fiscal year is an impossible task.

I will protect vital social programs: programs that help those who are vulnerable to survive in this county. I will work to strengthen those programs. Those programs are often the first to be targetted in a budget crunch and I will work to see that we look elsewhere for solutions to shortfalls.


(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:tully_monster
Date:October 5th, 2004 03:20 am (UTC)
(Link)
Thanks for so patiently answering my questions.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:zarfmouse
Date:October 5th, 2004 03:32 am (UTC)
(Link)
I'm sorry my answers aren't more clear cut on this incredibly complex issue.

It's too bad that the News-Gazette chose "how will you fix the budget in a paragraph or less" as one of their questions. There's just no right answer to that question that will fit in such a short amount of space. Thanks for noticing that there's a lot more subtlty in the issue than my terse answer suggested.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:tully_monster
Date:October 5th, 2004 03:49 am (UTC)
(Link)
Well, I guess it's good to know how you would elaborate. Good luck...
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:mathuaerknedam
Date:October 5th, 2004 02:51 pm (UTC)
(Link)
> The county maintains records, assesses property, zones
> unincorporated land, collects taxes, and administers elections.
> Without these functions of the county, local city government
> would not be possible.

Am I correct in thinking that you are saying that these specified
functions are necessary to city government, and not saying that
these functions must necessarily be performed by the county?
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:zarfmouse
Date:October 5th, 2004 05:08 pm (UTC)
(Link)
That is correct. However, state law dictates that they be performed by the county. So the county can hurt these services by underfunding them or by appointing corrupt commissioners and such . But the cities would be powerless to provide the services for themselves. So at the county level it is important to protect these services and if you think they should be provided by a different entity you'd have to work with the state on that.

Ultimately, I think it makes sense for the counties to provide these services statewide because they should be "local" services but there is no other unit of local government that covers every square foot of the state. Rural folks don't nececssarily have a city or town that they live in but everyone lives in a county.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:sarpo
Date:October 5th, 2004 03:37 pm (UTC)
(Link)
2. What specific budget movies would you recommend
I know it's only a typo, but I think you should answer this question. You always seem to know of totally ecletic "budget movies". ;)
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:zarfmouse
Date:October 5th, 2004 05:10 pm (UTC)
(Link)
That's true! I'm sure the deficit problem stems from county board funding such blockbuster flops as Independence Day or Waterworld. They should save some money and focus on the art house crowd. Stranger than Paradise, El Mariachi, Clerks, Slacker, Trust. That's the kind of county I'd want to live in.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:dygel
Date:October 5th, 2004 05:40 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I've always been confused about union activities, as I come from a white-collar background and, per my education, I'm best suited to provide white-collar services in my professional life.

So, seeing as that's the case, my only real conception of unions is from the picketing standpoint, and that's never made a damn bit of sense to me. I've even asked around about the justification of picketing and never got an answer that ever satisfied my curiosity. That's getting a bit offtopic, but my point is that I don't have any real conception as to why unions are, you know, good.

Here, you've said The county board should take a strong and active stand against the anti-union activities of the CUPHD administration. This is kind of lost on me. Could you please explain what activities you mean by this and why that's something the county board should take a stand against?

I admit, I'm totally out of my element in what you're saying here. Thanks, Zach.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:zarfmouse
Date:October 5th, 2004 07:56 pm (UTC)
(Link)
This deserves a longer answer than I can give right now but rest assured that I will return to answer this later.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:nyxdae
Date:October 6th, 2004 02:25 pm (UTC)
(Link)
>>I will oppose plans to encourage big box development on our most precious fertile black soil. Sprawling developments hurt our rivers, our soil, and our air through flooding, erosion, and increased smog. Sprawling developments are unsustainable as they will ultimately cost the residents of the county more than the tax revenues they may bring in.

What exactly is "Big Box?"
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:zarfmouse
Date:October 6th, 2004 05:13 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Very large, single story, warehouse style stores with a huge parking lot. Walmart, K-Mart, Target, Meijer, etc.

I am not 100% opposed to such development but I think that land should be specifically zoned for it in a specific place that makes sense (good drainage, other commerce nearby, existing interstate interchange nearby, etc) and boundaries should be drawn to contain the development so that it doesn't sprawl. North Cunningham in Urbana where the Farm and Fleet would be a good location for some limitted additional box stores (we've already got one, might as well limit the damage by keeping them together).

What happens far more often is the box store developers pick some area where the land is really cheap (because it isn't near an interstate, because it has poor drainage, because it isn't near existing commerce) and make all kinds of specious promises to the local taxing bodies about how much revenue they are going to generate, and they end up getting services extended to the area, a new interstate interchange or ring road built, and no limits on development. Then before you know it you end up with an area like North Prospect which is sprawling out of control. The stores on the outskirts get bigger and bigger, the traffic gets worse and worse, and the stores closest to the interstate are being abandoned because they are too small and the land is too expensive to expand.

The cost to local residents includes increased police cost, increased cost due to property damage from flooding, increased cost of maintaining utilities and sewage that are extended to the area, increased fuel cost as vital goods are sold further and further from home, etc.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)