If DuPage County is going to collect tax revenue from the sale of recreational marijuana, the revenue should be earmarked for public health and public safety programs. The County currently has a need for additional public health spending. I've advocated for the County to expand its spending on mental health initiatives (and, at my suggestion, the County Board added that to its list of legislative priorities in 2019). In addition, the County should expand its participation in the HOPE Taskforce (which is charged with combating opioid abuse). Legalization of recreational marijuana is likely to increase the need for public health services (and, thus, the need for additional funding). Thus, that should be where we allocate any tax revenue.
Consolidation makes sense when it generates benefits in the form of reduced taxes, increased transparency, or both. That is one reason why eliminating "paper districts" like the Glen Ellyn Mosquito Abatement District (something I successfully spearheaded in 2018-2019) makes sense. It is not clear to me that consolidating the Recorder's office into the Clerk's office will accomplish either of those goals. I haven't heard complaints that the Recorder's office is mismanaged or operates in a non-transparent manner. We commissioned a study to determine whether the merger would create cost savings. That study showed it would not generate appreciable savings. We need to ensure our decisions are based on data, not suppositions. In light of that study, I am opposed to this particular consolidation and would prefer to focus on other opportunities that may yield more savings for taxpayers.
I'd like to see four things. First, last year, DuPage County taxpayers paid about $170,000 to fund health benefits for members of the DuPage County Board. That's outrageous. Serving on the County Board is a part-time position. Our voters don't get health benefits for part-time work. Neither should we. Even worse, many Board members promise they won't take benefits when they run for office, but then take them when elected. We need to lead by example on this and stop this practice. Second, I'd like to see DuPage County achieve cost savings (for itself and other units of government) by working cooperatively on procurement (e.g. utilize online reverse auctions, expand local cooperative purchasing). Third, DuPage County should work with legislators to change state law and give non-home rule counties (like DuPage) greater flexibility to consider cost when soliciting professional services. Fourth, DuPage County must allocate for a disparity study to form the basis of a DBE program.
When I attended the budget presentation at the County Board, they discussed how there simply were not enough funds to allocate for new voting equipment. Election integrity is the cornerstone of our Democracy and the machines currently in use are outdated, malfunctioning and unreliable. I would suggest that the DuPage County Board use the 3% tax they’ve implemented on recreational cannabis in municipalities to and use those funds to prioritize our election integrity by purchasing new voting machines to replace the outdated and malfunctioning ones currently in use. We vote for every single office on the ballot on these machines-- from County Board to President of the United States -- we must ensure their integrity is intact. With the tax revenue earned from the sale of recreational marijuana, we can take away the flimsy excuse that funding isn't available for proper electronic voting machines.
A vote was already taken in November of 2019 that decided the path forward: a feasibility study will be conducted on the financial implications of merging the two offices. Eliminating the job of Recorder will save money initially. The question is how much the physical merger will actually cost tax-payers long term, and what other impacts, if any, it would have on the complex real estate recording process that is so vital to buyers, sellers and contractors.
This feasibility study will help determine the impact-- financial and otherwise-- a merger will have on our county. Based upon this data, which I would share with my constituents, voters can then make an informed decision. If the data shows that a merger is in the best interests of DuPage County, then I will support it. Consolidation should always be a very data-driven and conscientious decision: this is a good governing issue, not a partisan one.
I propose a much more transparent way of doing business in DuPage in order to ensure services are maintained for residents. Currently, vendors seeking to do business in DuPage County are often awarded contracts based on previous campaign contributions to Board members, resulting in a toxic pay-to-play atmosphere.
Instead, I propose that the County Board implement strict vendor disclosure requirements and impose restrictions on campaign donations, which would help the county avoid conflicts of interest and pay-to-play schemes. Companies who want to do business in DuPage County would be required to complete disclosure forms detailing campaign contributions to all Board Members and county-wide elected officials. Completed disclosure statements should be made available at meetings and posted on the county's website for all to see.
This simply has to be the new, truly transparent way of doing business in DuPage County from now on. The old type of pay-to-play corruption must stop.