Candidates speak their minds at SIC forum
By Brian DeNeal
Local, state and federal candidates at the WEBQ and Southeastern Illinois College-sponsored Candidates Forum Thursday centered on themes of good jobs and wise expenditure of taxpayer money.
Many write-in candidates for various state positions introduced themselves to the crowd in their five minutes, presenting problems with the status quo. The candidates are presented in the order in which they spoke.
The first of these write-in candidates was Chico Perez, running as a Libertarian in the governor"s race. Perez, of Peru, describes himself as a "far right independent conservative."
He described himself as pro life, pro second amendment and acknowledged his win seems unlikely, but he has faith.
"I"m serious about this. I knew as a write-in candidate it was a long shot, but I believe in miracles," Perez said.
He sees the spirit of compromise leading to the state"s downfall. With a Spanish background, but half Swedish, he visited Sweden and was alarmed. He believes they have lost their Christianity and have given away their rights to arm themselves and he hopes the same doesn"t occur in Illinois.
"I believe we need to protect our home," Perez said.
Perez sells real estate and handles property tax appeals.
"I don"t believe we should put more taxes on properties," he said.
Saline County Democratic Party Chairman Willie McClusky spoke on behalf of Governor Pat Quinn centering on Quinn being a friend of unions.
McClusky said Quinn"s opponent, Bruce Rauner, supports the right-to-work legislation, which sounds like a positive thing.
"What right-to-work really means is right-to-work for a lot less money. Right-to-work without pension benefits. Right-to-work without health care," McClusky said.
He said Saline County municipalities annually pass a prevailing wage ordinance that means any work crews from out of state must be paid the same as what local unions are paid.
"In a right-to-work state they come in from out of state and we pay whatever we want to pay them with no benefits," McClusky said.
"Quinn is not a right-to-work candidate, but his opponent certainly is."
Independent write-in candidate for Illinois Comptroller Timothy Goodcase of Downers Grove said his priority is to lower income taxes.
He said legislators raised taxes by 67 percent to pay down the backlog of state bills. The income tax rate went from 3 percent to 5 percent and corporate tax from 4.8 percent to 7 percent and his opponent Judy Baar Topinka has endorsed a gradual lowering of income tax.
"Illinois still owes billions of dollars on its backlog of bills," Goodcase said.
He says Illinois is not recovering from the great recession as other states have with 6.7 percent unemployment.
"Illinois remains the furthest of any from recovering than any other state," he said.
Goodcase said as senior systems analyst for Discover Financial Services processing and paying bills he intends to do the same for Illinois.
U.S. House of Representatives, 15th District
Eric Thorsland of Mahomet, Democrat challenger to U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, described himself as a builder of particle accelerators for University of Illinois, a researcher, a motorcycle enthusiast and a part-time farmer.
He described Shimkus as an 18-year career politician who broke his own term limit promise.
Thorsland said he would fight for labor, for higher minimum wage and equal pay for women.
"I stand for and will go to Washington to fight for equal wages for women," he said.
On the minimum wage issue, Thorsland said a raise from $7.50 an hour to $10 an hour will help not only those wage earners, but local economies.
"They go to Casey"s and go to IGA. They keep the money local," Thorsland said.
He said he wants to stop pension stealing and wage theft and will fight for labor.
He pointed out the Metropolis Honeywell labor dispute where "148 families are locked out of work" due their refusing the company"s contract. Thorsland said Honeywell contributed $9,999 to Shimkus campaign, just a dollar shy of what was permissible under the Federal Election Campaign Act.
"I don"t take PAC money," Thorsland said, and encouraged all to vote.
"We all get one vote — no matter how rich or how poor — we get one vote," Thorsland said.
Steve Tomaszewski, press secretary for U.S. Rep. Shimkus, touted Shimkus" experience in military and as a teacher prior to running for political office.
He was first elected as Collinsville Township trustee, the Madison County treasurer before being elected to congress.
Shimkus has had a variety of bills signed into law such as Next Gen 911, laws pertaining to children safety issues such as automobile child safety seat laws, renewable fuels laws and a VA reform bill.
Tomaszewski said Shimkus has endorsements from the National Rifle Association, Small Business Association and United Mine Workers of America.
Illinois House of Representatives, 118th District
Tabitha Tripp is a Green Party write-in candidate for the 118th District, the position currently held by Brandon Phelps.
She said among her priorities are civil liberties and environmental protection.
One of her concerns is welfare of children. She described a situation of a school not receiving enough transportation funding and having to cram children into a bus. She heard kids on a school bus were having to sit on the floor and that story prompted her to try to make a difference.
"If we"re not putting kids first, where are we putting them? On the floor of a bus? That"s not right," she said.
She is opposed to the idea of "sacrifice zones," areas where quality of life may be disregarded in favor of extraction industries.
"I believe people should come first. People should always come first before profit," she said.
Tripp supports farmers being able to grow hemp and supports renewable, clean energy.
"Let"s be done with boom bust cycles of extraction," she said.
Illinois Attorney General
Ben Koyl is a Libertarian Party write-in candidate for Illinois Attorney General who said his motivation to seek election was the country"s involvement in fighting wars on foreign soil.
Koyl describes himself as a non-interventionist. He said he was optimistic when Obama was elected as president, but wars continue.
He said the Libertarian Party principle can be explained in two sentences.
"Don"t hit other people and don"t take other people"s property without permission," Koyl said.
The 34-year-old Downers Grove attorney said he opposes arrests for marijuana possession and other "victimless crime."
Since 2009 he has been handling many bankruptcy cases of middle class clients and is concerned about bank lending practices.
Libertarian Party write-in candidate for U.S. Senate Sharon Hanson she decided to run for public office after a time in critical condition in a hospital, but healed against all odds.
She said during her time, she wanted to die.
"But God didn"t let me, so there must have been something God wanted me to do," Hanson said.
She worries about the state of the country and is not willing to sit back and watch.
"If something doesn"t change it"s going to be a communist country taking our rights away," Hanson said.
Hanson said she does not believe U.S. Senator Dick Durbin is representing Illinois and that with his campaign war chest it in nearly impossible for anyone to challenge him. She said she has written many letters to Durbin"s office and never heard back, so decided to challenge him.
She said her biggest single contribution was $400 and her total in contributions is under $2,000.
Hanson opposes the Department of Education"s Common Core Curriculum initiative
"We need to return eduction to teachers and parents. Teachers should be taught to teach and that"s what schools should be doing and not taking orders from people in Washington who don"t teach," Hanson said.
Saline County Clerk
Bruce Tolley is a Saline County Board member challenging Kim Buchanan for the office of Saline County Clerk.
"I was born in Mount Vernon, but I have lived here since my mother was severely injured and my father was killed when I was 18 months old. Let me tell you why I tell you that. My grandparents played a major role in my upbringing. They in me the work ethic of a general of Americans who did everything they could to survive the Great Depression," Tolley said.
As a land title agent Tolley has spent a lot of time in the Saline County Courthouse. He said that experience has given him much insight into the workings of offices there.
Tolley is in his third term on Saline County Board. He has served on the Elections, Law and Judicial, Audit, Insurance, Emergency Management and Budget. Tolley chaired the budget committee from his first year on the board until he resigned from that position to run for clerk.
"During my time as chairman we succeeded in abating a large portion of corporate taxes four times," Tolley said.
Tolley says he has had the chance to take the pulse of the courthouse environment and believes a change is in order.
"At times it seems to me that the cooperation and trust that is required to handle matters efficiently is eroded. I believe I have the skills to renew the working environment that needs to exist in order for us to get back on track. I do not feel this will happen with the status quo. To that end I have been endorsed by Laborer"s Local Union 773 to represent the courthouse employees," Tolley said.
Sitting County Clerk Kim Buchanan introduced her Rudement roots, time in 4-H performing plays on the stage where the forum was taking place, her first job caring for a horse, to working at McDonald"s at 15, to 25 years in the health care field.
"I"m a care giver, I"m a people person, I don"t claim to be a politician, but I felt there was a need in the community to care and to help care for our county," Buchanan said.
Buchanan said she put her 4-H training in parliamentary procedure to use in two terms serving on Harrisburg Board of Education.
"Since I"ve been in office I have kept my department"s part of the budget and spending to a minimum. I"ve encouraged cross-training within the department and implemented direct deposit from the county to employees with no cost to the taxpayer," Buchanan said.
Buchanan addressed the controversy of late property tax bills to homeowners and to taxing bodies. Her opponent has implied through media advertising Buchanan"s office is in part responsible for the delay.
"As part of the tax cycle I"m extremely proud to say that the tax information was only in my office for seven working days and everything else in regards to the tax cycle was already implemented and into the computer and I cannot process the information in my office until other offices and other folks do their part of the process," Buchanan said.
"I"m proud of the accomplishments in the office and the transparency that I"ve provided. I have the motivation to always and continue to act with kindness, the utmost integrity and for those of you who don"t know what integrity is it means doing the right thing when others are not watching."
Saline County Sheriff
Keith Brown said in his tenure since 2006 when he retired as a Master Sergeant from Illinois State Police he is proud to have renewed the department"s involvement in the Southern Illinois Drug Task Force. That cooperation has resulted in 188 indictments against 79 individuals.
The Nixle Public Notification system that alerts by e-mail and text messages about hazardous weather, road closures, Amber Alerts and other events now has 4,000 users.
Brown said each year his department has stayed within the budget set for it by the county board. Twice his office has returned more than $100,000 from its budget back to the general fund.
He praised E-911 Director Lt. Tracy Felty for his leadership in the dispatch center during the Leap Day Tornado. Expansion of the service is happening through Next Generation 911.
Brown wants to create an elderly service office to protect them from identity theft and other fraud. He wants to expand the use of the inmate public service. He has a plan to use inmates to clean rural cemeteries.
Training of staff is continuing. One deputy has been trained to become a traffic crash reconstructionist.
"I"ve told my staff many times I want our county to feel like Mayberry, but be supported by the highest level of skill and technology available," Brown said.
Brown"s opponent, Mike Gribble, was not present.
Saline County Board
Jay Williams, running as a Democrat, was first elected to the county board in 1988 and in 1990 to the county treasure"s office. He was elected for three terms and then worked in and continues to work for Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
He was elected again to the Saline County Board in 2004. In 2010 to 2012 he served as county board chairman.
He served on the budget committee through all his time on the county board.
"I believe I have the experience to serve you well as a county board member. I have served on a majority of the committees, so I am well-aware of how county government works. I will continue to vote my conscience as I always have," Williams said.
Jeff Murrie, running as a Republican, was first elected to Saline County Board in 2012 to a two-year unexpired term.
"I have visited the residents of Saline County and have listened to their concerned about jobs, about sales tax, about real estate taxes, about the county budget and the spending. And I believe in and support businesses that are long lasting, that are fair to their employees and give the employees a good job and a fair job," Murrie said.
Murrie is concerned income from sales tax is down, indicating people may be boycotting Saline County.
"Our sales tax is actually lower than neighboring counties, so that"s one of my concerns there," Murrie said.
"Another concern is our real estate taxes. It seems that they keep coming out later and later each year than they have in the previous years. I"ve heard a lot of excuses and a lot of accusations, but we need to really know about the facts."
Bruce Tolley spoke on behalf of Democrat Greg Seagraves who he said was working to help coach the Eldorado High School football team to the playoffs Friday.
Seagraves has been an educator for many years, teaching in Eldorado for 30 years and is currently teaching at the Learning Alternative Branch school in Harrisburg.
"Greg is a funny guy. He will make you laugh. He"s vibrant and he brings life to everything he does. I think he would be a tremendous asset to the county board," Tolley said.
Allan Porter, Republican candidate, is new to the political seen.
Due to a concern in his Rocky Branch community, Porter attended a county board meeting to make his concerns heard.
"I had the opportunity one night to speak on behalf of the circumstance I was in. When I did afterward (Board Chairman) Carey Harbison came to me and he said, "Allan, you did a good job." I said, "Well, I"m ashamed of myself." He said, "How come?" I said "I"ve lived in this county and farmed for 58 years and this is the first time I"ve been to a county board meeting," Porter said.
He was struck by hearing a treasurer"s report indicating the county was "in the hole." He believes most county residents — as he was — are ignorant of what is happening in the county, but are skeptical of politicians.
Porter believes his years of experience as a farmer and preacher could benefit the board, and said is liable to always speak his mind whether his idea is popular or not.
Katie Clayton, a Democrat candidate, says she represents a younger generation anxious about its future in Saline County.
"Every budget cycle we recognize Saline County is in a financial mess and each budget cycle we put a Band-aid on a bleeding artery. More must be done on a daily basis between the county board and office holders to live within our means," Clayton said.
She promotes an aggressive attitude toward attracting and keeping business, working with state politicians and business leaders.
Clayton would like a renewed tourism push and see cooperation between the county, local school boards and SIC to get the best education available.
"Our young people are moving away to start careers and start families. They aren"t coming back. I represent the future of Saline County and I would like to look at future solutions to keep our young population interested in coming back home and helping build Saline County back up as well," Clayton said.
She encouraged young people to vote and challenged all board members to attend meetings. Clayton said she would attend every meeting and will waive her salary.
Republican candidate Rod Wallace has been asking questions about taxes to numerous taxing bodies over the past couple years and is not optimistic many are taking the issue seriously.
Since 1984 Wallace and wife, Amy, operated their own business, first in Galatia in 1984 and in 1993 moved it to the Saline County Industrial Park.
Wallace said excessively high property taxes spurred him to seek a position on the Saline County Board.
"The property taxes have become so expensive for property owners many have made the decision to leave our area for this very reason. As an end result the population is in steep decline and the disrepair of homes in our county have grown to the point of being an embarrassment in Southern Illinois," Wallace said.
Wallace said as a candidate he wants to cut expenses through efficiency studies. He also wants to look at new ways to improve revenue generation. Wallace said he will refuse to be paid as a county board member.
Willie McClusky spoke on behalf of Democrat candidate Roger Angelly. Owner of Angelly Trucking and Excavating, Angelly had to make an emergency trip to Carmi to get a broken down truck Friday night, McClusky said.
Angelly has served on Harrisburg Board of Education, Harrisburg Township Board, Harrisburg Police Pension Board, has volunteered at Illinois Youth Center, in Harrisburg schools as a Big Brother and coach.
"He"s been a working man, he has been a public servant and he is a very prosperous business owner who has the knowledge to do the things we need on the Saline County Board," McClusky said.
Democrat candidate Mike McKinnies has served 31 years as Eldorado Fire Chief and has previously served 11 years on the county board.
He was elected to two four year terms and a two year term and was appointed to fill the remainder of Gary Siebert"s term.
He served as vice-chairman under Kermit Coffee and Don Leibenguth. He served on budget and finance committee for nine years and as chairman for seven years.
He has also served Road and Bridge, Negotiations, EMA and Animal Control committees.
Democrat Candidate Kelly Hefner was appointed to a two year term on the board and believes running the county can be like running a business.
"I run a government-owned business," Hefner said, as he is Harrisburg Water and Sewer Superintendent.
He said he took over the department that had been in the red for five years and it took two years to reach the black. Water loss was 25 percent and it is now down to 8 percent.
"We need to stop asking ourselves, "How much do we need? How much are we going to have to levy the people to continue to run our government?"" Hefner said.
He said the county needs to learn how it can be more efficient with what it levees.
Hefner said in contract negotiations a problem of accumulated days on the books that in the future would save hundreds of thousands of dollars and that gives him hope that more efficiency could be in store.