2012 Primary Election Profile: Michael Becker
Republican Michael Becker is running for a Kendall County Board District 2 seat.
Click here to see Becker's candidate blog on Patch.
Address: 111 Northampton Dr., Oswego, IL 60543
Campaign Contact Information: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Voice & text: (630)564-3005, Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mikebeckercountyboard
Family: Wife, Donna (married 36 years); Sons Ronald, 28 and Andrew, 25.
Education: Rutgers University, BA (Political Science), 1968; Fairleigh Dickinson University, MBA (Finance & Economics), 1975
Previous Elected/appointed positions:
- Oswego District 308 Board of Education
- Board member and Treasurer of the Boulder Hill Civic Association
- Board member and Treasurer of Parents and Community for Excellence
- Current member of the Administration Commission at St. Anne’s Church
What can you do to foster economic development in Kendall County? What level of cooperation do you think is necessary with municipalities to accomplish this?
Each time we make a decision to tax, spend or regulate, we need to ask ourselves if doing so will make Kendall County a better place to locate a business. When the answer is positive, we can proceed. When it isn’t, we need to go back to the drawing board. Second, cooperation between the county and local taxing districts is important to avoid decisions that will work at cross-purposes to one another. We must also build stronger relationships with our State and Federal legislators to promote policies favorable to economic growth.
Would you support a 0.75% increase in the RTA sales tax to locate a Metra stop in Kendall County?
This would not be a good move at the present time. Adding 75 basis points to the sales tax rate will give Oswego one of the highest sales tax rates in Illinois and a higher rate than Aurora! Adding to the tax burden will put additional pressure on Kendall County families who are struggling to put food on the table and meet their rent or mortgage payments. Our county has the highest foreclosure rate of any county in Illinois. Nationwide, one-third of homeowners are under water. The figure is probably higher here. Higher taxes will push more Kendall County families over the edge. That will further depress real estate values.
The experience with higher sales tax rates is that retailers, who can exert leverage, threaten to refuse to locate in or to move existing operations out of high-tax communities, unless they are given special treatment. This places small retailers, who don’t have that clout, at an additional competitive disadvantage.
It’s worth remembering that the RTA was formed to bail out a financially failing and moribund Chicago Transit Authority. We were promised reform, including greater accountability and transparency. Little of this has materialized. Corruption is as much of a problem as ever. The CTA is as badly managed as ever. The level of seriousness about management reform was demonstrated few years ago when Mayor Daley installed as head of the CTA a city hall functionary with no experience in managing public transit systems. I thought that appointment was a thumb in the eye to riders and taxpayers, alike.
We are often told that we need to have rail systems like they have in Europe. People who buy into this idea overlook some important differences between our society and Europe’s. First, Western Europe has more than four times our population density! Second, Europeans live with a level of regimentation and government control over their daily lives that we would find unacceptable. Our ancestors came here to escape it. Third, we Americans like to be able to go where we want to go when we want to go there. Several years ago the RTA commissioned a survey to learn out why there was so much resistance to their taxes. The responses showed that people objected to paying higher taxes to subsidize a transit system that didn’t meet their needs.
If we decide to expand the public transit system, we need to do so in way that responds to current needs and that has sufficient flexibility to adjust to meet changes in future needs.
What lessons did you draw from the dog bite incident and its aftermath? Do you think the changes the county has made at Animal Control are adequate?
I think we need to take steps to properly identify the animals in the custody of Animal Control. We need to provide a reasonable length of time for their owners to claim them, before we euthanize one. I believe the changes are adequate, but I think the County Board needs to monitor their implementation and make revisions, if needed.
Do you think the redistricting process was fair for people living in the county’s larger municipalities?
I do not like to use the word “fair”. Fairness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. What I see as fair may not be what someone else thinks is fair. That said, I have been an advocate of electing the ten county board members from single-member districts since the 1980s. When the Redistricting Committee opened the process to public participation last year, I presented a detail plan to accomplish that. It would have provided an equitable distribution of rural and urban representation on the Board.
It has been argued that electing the board from single-member districts would cause members to fight for their own districts and disregard the rest of the county. This is not how the world works. A member would quickly figure out that he cannot get anything done without the support of at least five of his colleagues. To get that support he would need to listen to and address their issues and concerns. The board member, who failed or refused to do that would be isolated and ineffective and soon be replaced by the voters in his district.
When the current system of electing the County Board came into existence in 1972, 62% of the county’s people lived in rural areas. As of the 2010 Census, only about 21% of the people live in rural areas. For most of the last forty years, the Board has had a rural majority, even though the county has been majority-urban since 2000. This year we have an opportunity to increase urban representation, particularly in District 2. It will be up to the voters to exercise that opportunity on March 20th.
Aside from the issues discussed above, what other issue or problem do you think the county should address, and what action would you take if elected/re-elected?
- We have a clear choice in District 2 between candidates with records of taxing and spending and those of us who support fiscal restraint. Spending restraint is vital going forward, given the deteriorating condition of Federal and State finances. We can anticipate grant funding will become more and more limited and we should not plan on it in the future. We can expect our borrowing costs to rise as less money is available from overseas and the Federal government crowds other borrowers out of the domestic capital markets. More money paid out in interest leaves less for services. I like what Governor Daniels has done in Indiana by separating spending priorities into must-dos and like-to-dos. All levels of government should do this.
- We need to get the county out of the horse farm and banquet hall businesses. At present, we are operating businesses in competition with private operators, who are being taxed to support their competition! If someone were injured while riding a county-owned horse on a county-owned and operated horse farm, the taxpayers would be exposed to serious liability. The resulting judgment or settlement would drive the county’s liability insurance premiums higher, making it more difficult to fund other county services. It would also wipe out any projected profits for a long time to come. In the end, this is a luxury activity that must be self-supporting if it is to continue. Seniors on fixed incomes and working people, who are struggling to make ends meet, should not be asked to dig deeper into their pockets to support it
- We need to achieve greater transparency in county government. I propose putting all county expenditures online in real time. This will enable all taxpayers to see what the county is spending as its being spent. Subjecting all expenditures to timely scrutiny will deter wasteful spending. Cook and DuPage Counties have implemented online-in-real-time with very favorable results.
- The new County Board needs to conduct a forensic audit of all county operations. This will enable the Board to learn how money is being spent and how services are being delivered. With that information, the board will be able to implement procedures that will enable the county to deliver services in the most cost-effective way.
- I would be the first economist to sit on the County Board. This would enable me to contribute to the implementation of county spending priorities, taxation and other policies based upon sound economic principles.
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