Kathleen Bergan Schmidt

Demographics

Democrat

70

Crystal Lake

Bachelor's Degree, History, Quincy University

Master's Degree, History, University of Illinois - Urbana

Married, Lawrence Schmidt

Christopher

On the Record

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

My concern about the future availability of water in McHenry County led to my decision to run for county board and thus to continue my family’s tradition of participating in civic life by holding elected office. The quantity and quality of a sustainable water supply for our region continues to be a primary concern of mine. Therefore, I find my participation in the Silver Creek/Sleepy Hollow Watershed Coalition to be one of my most satisfying activities. From my academic training in history, I have acquired strong skills for researching and analyzing a subject. And many subjects have to be researched and analyzed by county board members in order to make an informed decision. Such skills are needed for our present and yet-unknown future issues. My other community involvement keeps me in touch with environmental concerns, local history, and available health resources for those in need in our county.

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 am strongly opposed to the county executive referendum. Adopting this changes not just how the chief official of the county is elected but the very structure of county government itself. A county executive is given too much power, especially through their veto and their right to hire and fire staff. That is why I call this a trojan horse referendum and expect that switching to a county executive is just issuing an open invitation to “big money” interests to come in & control matters in the county. There are good arguments both for and against voter election of the county board chairman but where was public comment at board meetings or the legislative committee? I recall hearing none. Board members reflect which side they agree with, Rep. Franks’ attempted change was overwhelming rejected in Springfield and he hasn’t met with the board on the matter. There is comment now. With such feedback, the newly elected board will have until January 22, 2013, to put a referendum on the ballot for April. I would support putting such a referendum on the ballot, but how I personally would vote will be determined by the debate that should precede the election.

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.

This is actually two questions – one is the means of using paid lobbyists, the other is the issue lobbied. I do believe that lobbyists can provide useful service to the county but monitoring is necessary. Also, this is one item where the “needs” vs. “wants” test should be applied in these times of declining revenue and increasing demands on county services. One possible alternative -- more formal, direct contact between state legislators representing the county and members of the Legislative Committee could be developed in order to have a stronger county presence in Springfield. While the purpose of the legislation cited is certainly something to support, the devil is in the details of such bills. This particular bill would make any advance planning extremely difficult if not impossible. It did not end the mandated services the county is to provide to its residents. What is needed is an overhaul of the heavy reliance on property tax as a revenue source for all levels of government. This is one of the important matters the General Assembly should be addressing.

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.

No, I will not agree to support a freeze to the county’s tax levy for next year. What the obligations of the county will be next year are unknown. What the state of the economy will be next year is unknown. Just as the devil is in the details for proposed state legislation, the devil is in the details for any projected budget and its accompanying tax levy. Even one year in advance, it is not reasonable to be supporting such a future freeze for what is now unknown.

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?

With the passage of the winery ordinance and the changes proposed for the UDO, permitting this new winery land usage will find a business-friendly atmosphere in the county. The time to get through the paper work and other requirements for zoning has hindered business development and those obstacles should be remedied. The first draft of the UDO (Unified Development Ordinance) proposes changes that will remove such obstacles. The UDO probably will not be finally approved until after the November election. If elected, I will work to see that the best UDO possible is adopted. I would consider a UDO that incorporates best management practices found in the 2030 Land Use Plan and the Water Resources Action Plan to best serve McHenry County. The board will then need to follow up on how that UDO is working in practice and make any necessary changes in a timely fashion.

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

A big challenge facing District 3 is improving its connectivity via road infrastructure and alternative means of transportation. There are a number of major road construction projects coming up. One example is the reconfiguration of the River Road/Dowell Road intersection. Oftentimes residents are surprised when an improvement comes. Notice of public hearings re an impending improvement could be advertised at the site for 2 weeks before by means of a temporary sign giving time and place of a hearing. This would be a cost effective way of reaching the otherwise unknown drivers affected by the proposed change. There are some excellent bike and walking trails in the district for both recreational and commute to work/school use. But there needs to be more connection between what exists and any additional trials that are developed. Continued co-operative efforts in developing such resources among the county, municipal, state, and federal governments should be supported. Non-profit organizations and the business community should be included in such efforts also.