Nick Chirikos

Demographics

Democrat

66

Algonquin Township

Bachelor's Degree, Political Science, University of Denver

Distributor of Sustainable Building Products, Housewright DuraBuild

Married, Debbie

Alethea, 38

April, 35

On the Record

Why are you running for McHenry County Board, and what qualifications do you bring to the office?

I am running for office because it is time that the people of our community hold their elected officials to a higher standard of ethical and responsible behavior. Our County Board is playing backroom politics, raising both salaries of elected officials and property taxes, and certain members are being investigated. McHenry County District One needs a new representative, who has integrity, and who will serve the people of McHenry County honestly and diligently. I am such a person, having lived and worked in McHenry County for the past 36 years, I have devoted many of those years to volunteer efforts in such organizations as the McHenry County Historic Preservation Commission, which I now chair. I hold a degree in Political Science and am current on the issues of McHenry County generally and District 1 in particular. I have never held public office before, and believe that I bring a fresh perspective to the Board. I strongly support transparent government and think that citizens must have access to both discussion and decisions made by their elected representatives. I believe county government has a responsibility to protect and care for the most vulnerable of its population and facilitate the best quality of life for all. I am a concerned and compassionate person who will work hard for a sustainable environment, fiscally sound local economy and secure future for all citizens.

The County Board has resisted calls to make its chairmanship popularly elected. Now, a referendum has been placed on the November ballot that seeks to change the county to an executive form of government. What do you think about the referendum and the board’s resistance to allow voters decide whether they want to elect the board chairman at the ballot box?

I believe that the petition allowing this referendum to be placed on the ballot was misrepresented to its signers as only changing the process of electing the chairman by popular vote. The timing of its presentation is suspect as well, coming within days of the end of the filing deadline. McHenry County citizens need to understand well what they are voting for by approving this referendum, and I do not believe voters have had any chance to become educated on the full ramifications of this change. Will County experienced this in 1988 with disastrous results which took years to overcome. As to popular election of the chair, the correct referendum would have asked this question specifically, giving voters the choice regarding direct election of their Board’s chairman, as is the case in several other Illinois Counties. No such petition was ever advanced or circulated by any citizen. It is the prerogative of the County Board to elect its own chair in accordance with its other administrative and legislative functions, in order to fulfill its mission to the citizens of McHenry County. If the chairman is so important as to be elected at large, then it should be a primary issue between citizens and their district’s candidates during the campaign. In summary, I do not believe that there is resistance by the Board to allow voters the choice of popular election of the chairman.

Do you support county government using taxpayer money to lobby against state legislation that would have protected property taxpayers from tax increases in years when property values declined? Explain your answer.

I do not. Whatever rhetorical gymnastics are used to defend this, the practice of using taxpayer funds to defeat taxpayer interests is antithetical to the concept of representative government. It may well be in government’s interest to fund itself, but the primary function of government, according to McHenry County’s own Mission Statement, is to provide for the ’...continuing improvement of the health, safety and welfare of the people of McHenry County’. Councils of Governments and other organizations whose primary purpose is to maintain governmental infrastructure and financial stability, develop agendas which are often at cross purposes with the citizens who have elected their member organizations. Government is first responsible to its citizens, especially in financial matters. The idea that our representatives would allocate funds to defeat legislation meant to protect the financial well-being of its citizens is an affront to those citizens, and should not stand.

The County Board is working this year to not collect the inflationary tax levy increase allowed under state law. Will you agree to support a freeze to the county’s levy again next year? Explain.

The County Board is acting responsibly in foregoing the collection of the tax levy increase. There is a general perception by the voters that all taxing districts will request as much increase as they can get, now capped at 3 percent. Many members of the Board however, feel that this perception reflects negatively on them, and any form of tax relief is better than none, certainly more favorable than an increase if possible. My support for the levy freeze would be firm if elected. Without an increase in business growth and per capita income, any increase in the amount of taxes paid by citizens is unfair and detrimental to the financial health of the community. This is a complicated subject. The levy can be frozen and the multiplier can go up. Rate, extension, CPI or PTELL are all terms which further complicate tax calculation and render the final amount almost incomprehensible to the average person. Illinois House Bill 3793, introduced by Rep. Jack Franks in June 2011, attempted to prevent paying more taxes by freezing the extension, which would have struck at the heart of the beast. Taxing districts and the County’s taxpayer-funded lobbyists fought against this bill and largely defeated it. Getting to the reality of lower taxes is a commitment I willingly make, and will support all legitimate efforts to that end.

Given the obstacles a local couple have had with turning their vineyard into a winery, how business friendly would you say the County Board and county ordinances are? What changes would you seek if elected?

The County Board has been an obstacle to the development of the winery. Unfounded fears about underage drinking and promoting taverns in the rural areas had clouded the issue and confounded the owner’s best efforts to establish this business. I actually heard one Board member tell the Liquor Committee that ... ’ McHenry County soils are not suited to growing grapes’.  She went on to explain that the growing of grapes is the only activity which should be allowed in agricultural zoning, and that the processing of the fruit should be restricted to industrial areas. Separating these functions defeats the business model of the vineyard/winery and presents roadblocks to the process. This example shows how the County Board can be difficult in promoting business. I am certain that there are many examples of the Board doing a good job in this area. The County Board and local municipalities need to work closely to both attract new business and ensure the health and growth of existing business. The Board can do much in the way of relaxing restrictions, providing zoning variances and developing infrastructure support to assist local commerce and industry. These would be the focus of my efforts if elected.

Outside of jobs and the economy, what is the biggest challenge facing voters in your district and how would you address it?

The biggest challenge facing voters in District 1 is a direct result of the bad economy – the payment of property taxes. Every day I canvass in District 1 I hear the same fearful comments, tinged with resignation. The property tax burden has become insurmountable to many. Annual property tax payments of $6-10,000 and beyond are common in McHenry County. Like the proverbial frog placed in cold water which is slowly brought to boil, we are somehow allowing our government to grow beyond our ability to fund it solely on a property tax model. As long as citizens are capable of producing income this is not an issue. When income slows, ceases or extraordinary debt arises, the system fails. People are removed from their homes (families, communities) and replaced with others who hopefully can shoulder the burden. This is inherently cruel and unfair. The first step in addressing property tax relief is educating citizens in both the complexities of the system and the rights they have in that system. Next, public officials need to comprehend the limits of taxation and function within the means provided them by citizens. Finally, the property tax system itself requires updating. Progressive taxation, assessment based on final sale instead of unrealized annual capital gain, and safety net triggers which prevent the loss of homes in crisis situations are all topics for discussion.