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Election

DuPage County Board candidates discuss consolidation, transparency at Elmhurst forum

ELMHURST – Elmhurst residents heard from various candidates running to represent them during a candidate forum hosted Sept. 16 by the League of Women Voters of Elmhurst at Elmhurst City Hall.

Below is an overview of the DuPage County Board Districts 1 and 2 portion of the forum, spotlighting select candidate responses. All candidates were asked the same set of questions.

DUPAGE COUNTY BOARD DISTRICT 1

Sam Tornatore (incumbent, Republican), Ashley Selmon (Democrat), Zahra Suratwala (Democrat) and Dino Gavanes (Republican)

On the elimination of township government:

Selmon said consolidating units of government and streamlining government services can save taxpayers money and provide other services, and she would work to expedite the process of consolidation and increase transparency to help residents understand what savings have been accomplished. She said she would want to abolish the DuPage County Recorder's Office.

Gavanes said he would want to see more investigation of whether another unit of government, such as the county or municipalities, would be better able to take on the role of what townships do.

Suratwala said she supports consolidation as long as it doesn't interfere with providing essential services to residents. Residents should have an opportunity to give input regarding any consolidation efforts, and the process should be transparent, she said.

Tornatore said he does not support the elimination of township government since the townships' duties to maintain roads, assess property and provide general assistance are best continued locally since there is more accountability to residents.

On accountability and transparency to constituents:

Suratwala said County Board meetings should be moved to evenings, and she would want to provide a detailed account of each board meeting on her website to enable residents to easily learn what happens at meetings and what decisions are made.

Tornatore said a limited number of people attending County Board meetings may indicate the board is doing its job, and holding evening meetings did not draw many people, so the county resumed meeting during the day.

Selmon said transparency in board practices and decision-making, as well as access to local officials, is currently lacking with County Board leadership, and decisions to spend taxpayers' dollars are made with little public oversight and little explanation offered during meetings. She would want to move meetings to the evenings and communicate with district residents to ask for their advice and explain her voting decisions, she said.

Gavanes said apathy and misinformation are common in politics, as seen by low voter turnout, and he would want to increase civic engagement and involvement at the middle school level by working with school superintendents to see if there are ways to expand the teaching and exposure of students to government and officials at the middle and high school levels, including classroom discussions, and he would want to hold district town hall meetings.

DUPAGE COUNTY BOARD DISTRICT 2

Elizabeth Chaplin (incumbent, Democrat), Steve Nero (Republican) and Peter DiCianni (incumbent, Republican)

On the elimination of township government:

Nero said as a village trustee for Westmont, he has helped find ways for Westmont to do more with less through partnerships and consolidation, and his priorities as a County Board member would include analyzing the budget to share resources with others, initiating consolidation with local jurisdictions, holding the line on property taxes and looking into new technologies to increase efficiency.

Chaplin said government consolidation hasn't saved taxpayers a significant amount of money, and local government is the most responsive to residents' needs.

DiCianni said shared services and intergovernmental cooperation is key to limiting waste in government while still supplying essential services, as seen with the recent unveiling of the new DU-COMM 911 center that was established in an abandoned youth home that has now been housed with Kane County through an intergovernmental agreement.

On accountability and transparency to constituents:

Nero said he would want to increase the County Board's use of social media and create a mobile-friendly website.

Chaplin said she is "very accessible" to her constituents, she keeps a blog where she shares information with the public and receives comments from the public, and she attends organizational meetings in her district.

DiCianni said he is involved in the community through various area nonprofits, and he is involved in legislative efforts on the local, state and federal levels in which he has helped "everyday people."

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Know more

Early voting in the election begins Sept. 27, and polls close at 7 p.m. Nov. 6. The Sept. 16 forum will be televised in October and November on Comcast Cable channel 6 and AT&T U-Verse channel 99. It will become available in October on YouTube. For more information, visit elmhursttv.com. For more information about the League of Women Voters of Elmhurst, visit lwvelmhurst.org.

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