Update: County Board Chair Candidates Take the Gloves Off

Kevin Burns and Chris Lauzen trade punches on the GOP side. Bill Sarto and Sue Klinkhamer battle for the Democratic nomination on issues of style and substance.

There wasn't a lot of blood but there were a few verbal punches and a little high-sticking in the opening face off of Kane County Board chairman candidates Friday afternoon (Jan. 13) during a lunchtime forum sponsored by all three Tri-Cities chambers of commerce.

Credit Democratic candidate Bill Sarto for the hockey analogy. He said he was at the Blackhawks game last night, and apparently, the images from the Hawks' 5-2 win were as fresh in his mind as the ice behind a Zamboni.

"Mayor Burns has taken the gloves off already," Sarto said, after listening to the opening statements.

The candidates involved in the free-for-all were two pairs who will be competing in the March 20 primary: Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns versus state Sen. Chris Lauzen on the GOP side; former Carpentersville Mayor Sarto versus former St. Charles Mayor Sue Klinkhamer on the Democratic side.

Burns set out in his opening statement to separate himself as the candidate with leadership experience, people skills and an open mind.

"My opponent believes in freezing things," Burns said. "I surround myself with ideas, no matter who espouses them."

In his opening statement and several times after that, Lauzen counterpunched with his three-point theme: (1) freeze the property-tax levy, (2) treat people respectfully and (3) offer honest, competent administration through innovation.

"I renew those pledges to you this afternoon," he said.

Lauzen said he wasn't going to mix it up with the mayor, but he did land a few blows in his closing statements, which seemed to be aimed at connecting Burns with the administration of present County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay.

"This race in the Republican primary will boil down to a competition between grassroots reformers who intend to significantly improve county government versus establishment insiders protecting their status quo," Lauzen said.

He made veiled references to Kane County appointments and dealings with department heads under the McConnaughay administration.

"There is way too cozy a correlation between pay and play in the decision-making role," he said. "I will refuse to give salary spikes to politically-favored directors who then retire on $110,000 pensions only to be called back to work on contract for the county—especially when rank-and-file workers have seen their salaries frozen over the past three years."

"I won't squander hundreds of thousands of our tax dollars in legal fees to settle disputes and correct management errors among elected officials."

Burns' closing made subtle jabs at Lauzen's right-side lean in the Republican Party and his people skills.

"If you want a partner, vote for Kevin Burns," he said. "If you want a partisan, vote for my opponent."

He also addressed Lauzen's closing arguments.

"I want to remind the senator that he is running against me and not the current County Board chairman," Burns said.

"It's fashionable to criticize those who hold the office for the organization you want to lead, because in some respects, it becomes red meat. The reality is, the county is in pretty dog-gone good shape. 

"The issue is: Who is best (candidate) to preserve that good shape—someone who's done the work or someone who has never done the work? I didn't go to an Ivy League school, but I did go to a school with ivy. And I'll tell you what, I'm prepared to lead."

On the Democratic side, Klinkhamer talked about her good working relationship with the St. Charles City Council when she was mayor, while Sarto said his experience with a divisive board in Carpentersville made him the best-qualified candidate to run the Kane County Board.

"I've always prided myself with bringing people together," Klinkhamer said.

"I don't shy away from political battles," Sarto said. "I welcome them. You find ways to make it work."

Klinkhamer made a strong sales pitch for hiring a Kane County administrator. She said the 24 members of the County Board get part-time wages but full medical, dental and retirement benefits.

"That's a pretty penny of taxpayer dollars," she said. "It needs to change."

Sarto, meanwhile, sent probably the strongest fiscally conservative message of the afternoon.

"Today, we've heard about freezing taxes, we've heard about raising taxes," he said. "I'm here to tell you, we need to lower taxes. That will encourage new businesses to come in. I don't want to talk about raising taxes, because I don't think it's necessary."


Editor's note: This article was edited following a letter from Chris Lauzen saying that his closing statements were generic and not aimed at individuals alluded to in the original story. "My point was not to criticize any one individual, but to illustrate an existing practice and show how I would do things differently," he said.  

Greg Nelson January 14, 2012 at 04:30 PM
The old ways are just that OLD. Chris does have a plan and will be the right person in the position of Chair Person. The Tax levy needs to be looked at and while yes it needs to be frozen today, the tomorrow will be adjusted as needed either up or down. As for computers I'm running for 8th District and will be working closely with staff on solutions and partnering with other Counties to see if we can share solutions and lower the cost to our residents. Finding solutions always is number one and to provide a way to increase the business foot print to spread the taxes base is what everyone needs. The loss of businesses and the strain on everyone is always in our minds. The how's is what needs to be looked at. We can undo the past mistakes of the current and former officials if we work together and I can tell you this I won't put up with the old ways ever! Chris and I both feel strongly that the GOOD OLD BOY ways of the past must go and now! Strong people with Strong solutions are what is needed today and for our tomorrows!
Howard Anderson January 14, 2012 at 11:52 PM
Hello Greg, thank you for a response from a candidate. What would your plans be to help facilitate changes that might need to be made? What other changes do you feel that have to be done?
Greg Nelson January 15, 2012 at 04:58 PM
I would start by getting our fair share of the County Cash spent here, South End. If you look at the past 12+ years 90% of projects have been north of Aurora and a small very small share in Montgomery. Other issues are replacing the old systems used in our Judicial area to better exchange data with our County bodies and other Counties. We should also look at partners in this, everyone is having problems with old systems that don't work and cause backlogs costing everyone additional cash just to get a person in front of a judge. I also feel strongly that working together with local Governmental bodies is and should always be on top of the list. Local businesses talk more to local bodies than at the County level and we tend to miss out on the needed help in securing these valued businesses. Times are tough and every dollar spent properly is money saved. I know how to say NO on issues and while only one NO may not swing spending I'm sure not going down without a fight!
Pat Stiles January 15, 2012 at 06:11 PM
One thing that everyone either doesn't see or understand is that many years ago working in the public sector was a blue collar job and a stepping stone to the higher paying private sector. Mr Lauzen hit it on the head with this statement "There is way too cozy a correlation between pay and play in the decision-making role," he said. "I will refuse to give salary spikes to politically-favored directors who then retire on $110,000 pensions only to be called back to work on contract for the county—especially when rank-and-file workers have seen their salaries frozen over the past three years." You see this Recession/ Depression that we are in finally woke many taxpayers up, and started looking to see what some public workers make and the pensions they recieve. If the average taxpayer makes 30-50K a year and has to fund the public employees wages of 100K, plus 80-100K year pensions. This is were the term your "upside down" comes in. To much going out and not enough coming in. As for the pension issue in the state you can use the same senario, Taxpayers pay taxes, and muncipalities have to pay 100k year plus the cost of benifits to employees= not enough to fund the pensions. The cookie jar is empty. The lack of funding comes from the wages and benifits first. Pensions are based on wages, and when 85-100+ is the normal wage for many public workers. So the guy who get a pension for 110,000 then gets hired back as contract labor, should of been contracted out to begin with.
Greg Nelson January 15, 2012 at 06:26 PM
What makes this happen is when a person in power (not a elected official) thinks that they need to spend extra to bring in talent and cost tax payers more is the issue. It makes them look better because I have the best, but frankly the best doesn't equal hard work or results. It's a loop costing more every year because we allow it or have that mind set. Remember "Intelligent doesn’t make you smart!" it just makes you look like you are worth more. Today we need smart, hard workers spending our money on results and only when needed. Just because it's in the budget doesn't mean you spend it, it means you spend it only if you must! Great case for this is the work on Orchard Road - it was 20M and it came in at 9M cost, wow maybe we should hold everyone to that test. You see it is all flipped and it is time to stop it cold....PERIOD!


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