1.) What is the importance of the Champaign County Board to residents in your district?
While sometimes forgotten, the county board is the arbiter of how the county's money is spent and has oversight of all countywide offices, facilities, and roads. If you care about where your tax dollars go and what projects, programs, and services are funded, the county board is the body you should be paying close attention to. Also important is the character of the people on the board and whether or not they reflect the values we expect our representatives to have. With the upcoming decisions to be made concerning the consolidation of the downtown jail into the satellite facility, the Democratic caucus needs to be able to have tough but honest and productive conversations both within the body itself and with the community at large.
2.) Why are you qualified to be on the Champaign County Board?
Sixteen years ago, I came to CU to work at the Illinois State Archaeological Survey. I started as an archaeological technician and am now a research archaeobotanist. My experience with social and scientific research means I am used to digging into dense questions which have complex answers. I am unafraid of doing the homework and learning new facts or skills, then acting accordingly. I have been a progressive Democrat my entire life and have not only supported candidates with my vote, but I have also volunteered for multiple local, state, and national campaigns, including those of my predecessor on the board, Dr. Tanisha King-Taylor. I spend a lot of time talking with the people of District 10 and I believe they want the dynamic and community-focused representation that Dr. King-Taylor exemplified to continue into the next board and beyond.
3.) If elected, what is something you want to accomplish on the County Board, and how long will it take?
The biggest question facing our county board is how to address the twin problems of the crumbling downtown jail and potential expansion of the satellite jail. There is no question the downtown jail needs to be closed and the satellite jail, as it is now, isn’t going to meet the county’s needs at this time or into the future. The study which suggests 47 million dollars for a jail is absurd and the finalized plan will have to look much different. But what a huge opportunity the board has to collaborate with the affected county agencies, experts at the University of Illinois, activists, and constituents to come up with an equally fiscally and socially responsible plan for public safety. We need a plan which isn’t only focused on building and maintaining facilities, but on the needs of the people by developing community-based programs which address issues like mental health, recidivism, and poverty. I firmly believe that, by doing our due diligence fiscally, morally, and socially now, we could save the county money down the road. The process is already in motion and will have to be completed and put to the voters by next year at the latest. We can't afford to get it wrong.
4.) Is there anything else you would like to say to an undecided voter?
The 2018 Blue Wave didn’t happen in a vacuum and I do not take a single vote for granted. Democrats at the local level need to craft solid, accessible policies through collaborative decision-making and then communicate them to the public in a clear and concise manner. The people of Champaign County have placed a lot of trust in their elected officials to transcend the national chaos and show them what effective government looks like. I am the person ready to stand up and fight for what I believe is right for District 10. I have the drive to knock doors and engage with my neighbors because that is what they are owed from their public servants. I will stand with the rest of the Democratic caucus on the board when it comes time to vote because a publicly unified front is an effective one. Most of all, I want everyone to look back on this era of local government and say it was when a more just and equitable future in Champaign County became a reality. Let's get to work!