PEORIA, IL -- In one of the first candidate forums for Peoria County offices in the 2018 election season there was good news: all the candidates were sane, civil, experienced and qualified. There were no demagogues, or attack dogs.
The event on Sept. 22 featured two candidates each for County Board District 10, County Auditor and Sheriff. A large audience of at least 50 people seemed very engaged, as the event followed League of Women Voters guidelines for brief statements then answers to written questions from the audience.
The sheriff's race took top billing, and features two Brians, Republican Brian Asbell and Democrat Brian Fengel. Asbell is the appointed sheriff, and Fengel is long time police chief of Bartonville who serves on many state boards and commissions.
Both agreed on most issues -- from police chases (mostly too risky) to internet crime (serious issue). Both want to help small time criminals become productive citizens with jobs. On immigrants, both will follow Illinois state law on ICE detentions, and only turn over arrested serious criminals to ICE or respond to warrants. Both want to serve the public before serving themselves, they said.
Asbell said there are three basic causes of crime which can be attacked to prevent crime: substance abuse, mental health issues, and socio-economic conditions such as no employment. "You invest in people, that's leadership," he said.
Fengel said "the key to law enforcement is training," and promised to work with all law enforcement leaders in the county to develop training and ways to cooperate. Officers should be allowed to train and become experts in the areas that they have a passion for, he said, such as cyber crime.
Asbell said he is working with hospitals and social service agencies to help inmates and in training officers."The jail is a mental health institution," he said.
Here is a recording of their discussion.
The race for auditor also features two experienced candidates, Democrat Jessica Thomas and Republican Alan Paredes. Thomas has an MBA and has worked as an internal auditor. Paredes has a Ph.D. in statistics and experience in various positions using his skills. Both pledged to work full time in the auditors office if elected.
The auditor's race features a weird twist: Thomas campaigned to stop the Peoria County Board from getting rid of the office. The voters by a narrow margin turned back that effort. But the board has taken most of the employees from that office and the treasurer's office to create a finance department.
Both candidates vowed to revive the auditors office as an independent oversight on county finances, responsible to the public and not the board. Paredes said he would appeal to the State's Attorney to get the funding returned to the office, and even sue the county if necessary.
Thomas said the office now has a $173,756 budget for the auditor and one employee, and funding to the office needs to be restored. She' will recruit volunteers and interns if necessary to perform the duties of the auditor.
Thomas pledged full transparency with financial reports posted on the website and social media sites. Paredes said he will hold town hall meetings and publish reports.
The winner likely will be in for a battle to get the office duties funded and restored.
Here is a recording of this discussion.
Two candidates for the Peoria County Board District 10 also seemed capable of serving. Both are first time candidates. Democrat Rob Reneau and Republican Matt Shane also agreed on most topics.
Reneau seemed to know more about most county subjects such as Heddington Oaks issues. The county cannot sell or lease the nursing home because of bonds used to finance it, he said, but can work with others to better control its finances.
Here is a recording of this discussion.
The Democratic party wants to maintain control of the county board and its government, so this race could make a difference in that concern.
-- Elaine Hopkins