Sparks fly at the Farm Bureau
comments: 0 addendums: 0
Jerry Smith was moderating the DeKalb County Candidate's Night forum like a seasoned professional. Smith, who volunteered as moderator, is the executive director of the DeKalb County Community Foundation. His knowledge of local issues and his background in community service served the audience in the packed auditorium at the DeKalb County Farm bureau.
Just past the midway point in the lively debate between DeKalb County State's Attorney incumbent Ron Matekaitis and his challenger, Clay Campbell; a member of the audience, Frank Paciga of rural Kingston, approached the stage and interrupted while Matekaitis was giving his closing remarks. Paciga complained that his questions were not asked. He again interrupted when the debate concluded to demand that his questions be asked. Clay Campbell walked over and put his arm around Paciga and led him off the stage. Paciga mumbled, "They're biased."
Who said local politics can't be entertaining?
I googled Frank Paciga and I think one of his questions might have had something to do with his tax appeal (see related link). The forum allowed 30 minutes for each debate and most of the questions were gathered by the Candidates Night Committee consisting of Greg Milburn (DeKalb County Farm Bureau), Rose Treml (Sycamore Chamber), Ken Andersen (DeKalb County Building and Development Association), Kim Kubiak (DeKalb Chamber of Commerce), Grace Mott (eWorldLinx, Inc.), and Roger Hopkins (DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation). A few questions from the audience did make it to the podium.
Clay Campbell appears to be going for broke by going after Matekaitis' throat. He wasted no time on attacking the incumbent from his opening remarks throughout the debate. His strategy appeared to be aimed at putting his opponent on the defensive as he continually reminded the audience that he believed Matekaitis was doing little more than prosecuting traffic violations and that taxpayers were paying $135,000 a year for those services. Campbell believes the States Attorney should be the lead prosecutor on all major felony cases. He appeared to be annoyed with questions pertaining to civil law responsibilities of the office. He also appears to be passionate about his positions, even to the point of being abrasive.
Matekaitis countered Campbell's assault with assertions that the challenger did not understand the full responsibilities of the office and would often adroitly use Campbell's allegations as examples of his opponent's lack of understanding. Matekaitis believes the office of State's Attorney is better served by an effective administrator who will put his best human resources to work for the task that is required. The incumbent appeared to be confident in his record and annoyed by what he thought was distasteful campaign tactics by his opponent.
If an in-your-face defiant prosecutor is what is needed most for the office of State's Attorney then Campbell is the choice. But if an effective administrator is needed most Matekaitis appeared far more qualified than his challenger.
Emotions were not as high in the 70th District Illinois House debate between Bob Pritchard-R and his challenger Bob Brown-D. Both are respected lifelong residents of DeKalb County with strong ties to agriculture and education. Both were knowledgeable on the issues and in several areas there were stark, but polite, differences.
Governor Blagojevich and the Illinois Tollway Authority are pushing a doubling of current toll fees for pay-as-you-go users of the toll system and much smaller increases in the prepaid I-Pass system fees. Brown supports the effort citing studies he has seen that indicate a single semi-truck has the same wear and tear impact on roads than 9,000 cars. Pritchard expressed opposition to the hikes based on his concerns that this, and the steady stream in increasing (and the creation of )government fees on commerce, were not only hampering Illinois' efforts to attract new businesses, but were chasing Illinois businesses away.
Brown was clear in his support for Illinois House Bill 750, an education finance reform bill that calls for annual foundation level increases to be tied to the Employment Cost Index (ECI) and funded by increases in state income taxes, adding new sales taxes on items and services not taxed under the current system and the creation of income tax on retirement benefits in those households earning more than $75,000 per year. Typically the ECI rises at a much higher rate than does the Consumer Price Index.
Proponents of the bill (HB750) say that it will reduce school property tax in wealthier communities by 20% and in poorer communities by 25%. Critics say that it will increase the state income tax 67% and does not prevent the school districts from seeking referendum tax increases immediately after the bill passes, should it pass.
Pritchard expressed willingness to look at any education finance reform tool and stated his commitment to shift the burden for K-12 funding from property taxes as well as continuing efforts to improve funding for higher education.
Both candidates expressed opposition to any effort by the state to legislate statewide impact fees on new homes. Brown insisted that local governmental units regulate impact fees. Pritchard agreed but warned that impact fees were not the solution to education funding reform and that the fees increase property taxes on new and existing homes.
Candidates for the DeKalb County Board met with the public in an hour-long open house prior to the debates. More than 200 residents were in attendance. The debates were broadcast live thanks to WLBK 1360-AM.
It was good to see so many candidates and to hear their views. It was even better to see so many residents interested in local politics. Jerry Smith and the Candidates Night Committee did an outstanding job in providing the public with an informative and entertaining evening.
For pictures of the Candidate's Night, click here.