It is ironic that Don Russ, the appointed clerk for Shields Township, has such a hard time getting his facts right. He was there at the meeting where we recently reduced salaries for elected officials, yet his memory has failed when he attributes the further reduction of salaries to the START party. The charge to reduce salaries was led by Trustees Rich Goshgarian and Heather Kerr, and subsequently agreed to by myself and Trustee Bill Brown.
We all had it in mind to reduce the Assessor’s salary to be more in line with the Highway Commissioner and the Supervisor, who were being paid $30,000 each, with no benefits. The discussion included consideration of the disincentive to people without independent income sources, that afforded them some flexibility to run for office in Shields township, something that Trustee Charles January and I felt was discriminatory. Ultimately I voted with the majority to reduce the salaries of all elected officials. The final vote was 4-1, with Trustee January holding out for his convictions.
Other untruths being circulated by the “START” team include a story told by their candidate for supervisor about dial-a-ride being inefficient. When I began as Supervisor, we were spending $32,000 annually on a taxi program that only served seniors in North Chicago. We were also gifting the Lake Forest Lake Bluff Senior Center with $20,000 annually for a Senior Car allowance, as if they were buying a new car every year. So the township was spending $52,000 for transportation, only for Seniors in LF, LB and North Chicago.
Meanwhile, Seniors in Knollwood and Arden Shores North and South usually could not get a ride from the Senior Center, and people with disabilities of all ages in all parts of the township had no transportation at all. I studied the options and started our dial-a-ride, again with the support of Trustees Goshgarian, Kerr and Brown, lobbying for and obtaining a hard-fought subsidy from Pace for 75% of the unfunded balance of the cost of our dial-a-ride program. Our transportation bill for February 2017 was $690.02.
Our annual transportation spending has gone from $52,000 per year to $6,470.60 in FY 2016-17. Also the service is available to all in the township who qualify. The program has been so well-received by users that the City of Lake Forest and the City of North Chicago have executed Memoranda of Understanding with Shields to share in our program. Waukegan township has also proposed working with us.
These other government entities have agreed to be billed back for their residents’ charges, but we can share with them our Pace subsidy. We have been working with Libertyville and Fremont townships to create the Central Lake Dial-a-Ride, with the help of our Lake County paratransit coordinator, paid for with the 1/4% sales tax, which is collected by the county whether we have a transportation program or not.
Central Lake received a grant of $327,000 from the County and the RTA to expand service and evaluate the efficiencies needed. These partnerships are moving us toward our goal of seamless, borderless, affordable transportation for all who live, work and play in Lake County. 56% of all users of the Central Lake Dial-a-Ride use the system to get to work.
The START candidate for supervisor has also said she wishes to eliminate emergency assistance, since it is not mandated by the state constitution. Last year we spent $15,354.13 on emergency assistance to township residents in the form of small grants to assist with utility bills, back rent, and other expenses. These grants were made to people often facing illness, job loss, death of a child or spouse, or other hardship who would lose their housing, heat or lights if we did not step in to help.
Our office provides extreme vetting of each request, we seek help from other sources if it is available, and each recipient can only apply every 18 months for this help. We seek to assure that our help will offer sustainable relief, not just postpone the inevitable. Our total emergency and general assistance budget combined was $29,000, of which we spent $21,117.60. We helped 48 families avert homelessness, hunger, and dire health consequences by providing an average grant of $439.90 each. I think this is an excellent investment, and exactly what we should be doing for our neighbors in need.
PS the Food Pantry last year cost the township exactly $0, being funded entirely by passport fees and donations of food and money by caring township residents, family foundations and local companies. In 2016 we helped a total of 3,289 people get healthy food of their choice to supplement their grocery bills, once a month. Monthly, approximately 80 clients were from Lake Bluff, 15 from Lake Forest, and about 180 reside in that part of North Chicago that is in Shields.
I am so proud of our volunteers and grateful to our donors for providing this essential service to our community.
To continue this kind of compassionate, cost effective and creative leadership, please write in Cynthia Maloney for Shields Supervisor on or before April 4!
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