The Public Square

Steve Beckett, Barbara Wysocki,  Bob Kirchner and Lisa Bell, Democratic primary candidates for two s

Steve Beckett, Barbara Wysocki, Bob Kirchner and Lisa Bell, Democratic primary candidates for two seats on the Champaign County Board

I'm Steve Beckett. I am a Champaign County Board member from Urbana. District 9 covers central, south and eastern Urbana, and east central and south central Champaign County. It is both a rural and an urban district.

I was born and raised in Champaign County and have lived here all my life. I went to Urbana elementary schools, Urbana Jr. And Urbana High School and graduated from the University of Illinois for both my Bachelor's Degree in History and my Law Degree.

My wife Barbara and I have been married for 36 years. We have two sons, Chad, a lawyer in Urbana, and Don, a high school history teacher at St. Joseph-Ogden. We have two grandchildren.

I have practiced law in the county for 32 years and am "of counsel" to the law firm I founded, Beckett & Webber in Urbana. I have taught at the University of Illinois College of Law since 1987 and am now the full time Director of Trial Advocacy at the law school.

I have been active in the community with my church, St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Urbana, with the Champaign County YMCA, with Boy Scouts of America, with Little League Baseball and a number of other community organizations over the years. I am also a founder and member of the Citizens Committee to Restore the Clock and Bell Tower at the Champaign County Courthouse. Our group has raised almost $650,000 to restore the old courthouse tower and clock and bell.

I have been on the County Board since 2000. I have been the Chairman of the Facilities Committee since that time. In that capacity, I have provided oversight to major Champaign County construction projects, including the completion and occupation of the new Champaign County Courthouse, dedicated in May, 2002, the METCAD facility, the Children's Advocacy Center, several past and current Brookens Administrative Center remodeling projects and the new Champaign County Nursing Home.

I played a leading role in the campaign to adopt two referenda for the Nursing Home project that were adopted by the voters in 2002 and have provided leadership on the Nursing Home construction project since that time. I was greatly concerned about the lack of diversity in the construction program for the Courthouse project and provided leadership and insight in all phases of the Nursing Home Construction project. Our efforts have resulted in increased participation of female and minority business enterprises on that project and other county construction projects. At the new Nursing Home alone, the county has provide over $4 million of work for FBE and MBE's, in a project that will end up with a budget of over $21 million dollars. We have been able to reach out to the community and bring in qualified contractors to do work for the county. Goals for this area of diversity in construction have been achievable by bi-partisan team efforts, with good consultation from officials at the University of Illinois who have provided good suggestions that the County has modified for our own puposes.

I hope to continue these efforts as we continue with our aggressive program to have replaced virtually all county facilities -- because in the next two years we will have occupied the new nursing home and will have constructed a new Highway-Fleet Maintenance facility to replace the antiquated and out-dated county highway facilities. I will continue to work with the county board to achieve diversity in the future projects as well. We will also be renovating the old Champaign County Nursing home for our use as a county facility and hopefully as a center for other social service agencies. I want to put to work my experience in county projects to continue to offer good facilities to provide excellent social services for the residents of our county..

I have also been on the Policy committee. I have introduced and had adopted several "good government" initiatives and policies that recognize individual rights. Most recently I sponsored the resolution to provide employment health and life benefits to Domestic Partners of county employees. I am proud of that legislation and proud that it received bi-partisan support in being adopted. I created the "consent agenda" for the county that has streamlined the handling of the approval of non-controversial items for the conduct of county business. I sponsored legislation that required the recording of all county board closed meetings, a measure that preceded the same State law requirement by almost two years. I have also legislated in areas of animal control and alcohol licensing regulation and have an open door to all who perceive change is needed.

I am board parliamentarian, which is often a very thankless job. In the middle of debate, I often have to remind board members that they are "out of order" which often leads members to accuse me of picking on them, or even "yelling at them: when in fact, I am simply, yet firmly, trying to get members to follow the rules, honor our labor contracts or act in compliance with Open Meetings law. This is an important role for the conduct of county meetings, I get contacted frequently by board members about parliamentary issues and am always glad to provide advice about how to proceed in accordance with board rules and Illinois law.

I have been a state-wide speaker on county board and local government issues. In 2005 alone, I made three presentations to members of the United Counties Council of Illinois regarding liability and legal issues facing county board members. This group consists of members of county boards all across the State of Illinois. I also spoke to the Municipal Clerks Association of Illinois about issues unique to local government. I have been proud to represent Champaign County in these policy events.

If re-elected I hope to continue to focus on the issues that are important to our Champaign County Community. I think it is important that we recognize that "sense of community" as we consider intergovernmental agreements, and systems and projects, that advance the transportation, social services and public safety needs of all citizens of Champaign County, young and old, men and women all walks of life and for the best interest of our rural residents as well as our urban centers.

I am proud to be running with Barbara Wysocki who has done an excellent job as Champaign County Board Chair. She has made a commitment to be faithfully attendant to the duties of her office and has been recognized to provide steady guidance to all areas of the county, addressing issues of importance for the present residents as well as a vision for the future of the county.

I would appreciate your support in the primary election and urge you to vote and voice your opinion, even if it is against me, because I believe that local government is of special importance to you as citizens and that you deserve to be heard and represented by board members that you trust.

Thank you.


I'm Barbara Wysocki and I am a candidate for re-election to the Champaign County in District 9. I am a life-long member of the Democratic Party and the current--if somewhat controversial--Chairwoman of the Champaign County Board. A little more than a year ago, I and my colleague Steve Beckett-two Democrats -- accepted the votes of all the County Board Republicans and just three lonely Democrats to become the Chair and Vice Chair of the County Board.

Our election under those circumstances upset some people in my party. Consequently this spring I am opposed in the Primary Election by two other Democrats who intend to defeat me and set things right in the Party again.

Why, you may ask, did I put myself in a position to be unpopular and distrusted?

I blame the League of Women Voters!

My ideas about political and local government have been molded by my 30-year affiliation with the League of Women Voters. This unique organization works on principles that apply directly to my office and to the functions of the County Board -- where I've served for 7 years. League members come together and act to:

* discern the important issues of the day * study the important issues * reach a consensus and then * decide on a course of action

Notably absent from this process is political gaming and partisanship, even though the League attracts individuals from nearly every part of the political spectrum. The strong 80 year influence of the League is inspiredprimarily by the four simple disciplines: study, reflection, consensus, building, and action.

Since first being elected in 1998 to the Champaign County Board, I have often put these League disciplines into action because they do create sound, open, honest government. I have also learned that on the local level, there's no excuse for government being anything but sound, open, and honest. Why? Because local government is close to each of us and we citizens can directly oversee it, watch it, and influence its decisions. The League's greatest service to the community is sending its member observers to every meeting of selected local governmental committees and boards to watch them work.

Now do you see where I'm coming from?

I know from experience there are times when the non-partisan approach and the partisan party approach bump heads, and the coming Primary Election in District 9 is one of those times. Voters who pick up a Democratic ballot have a choice between candidates representing these two venerable and often conflicted traditions.

I prefer the open, non-partisan approach that is responsive to all people, that manages public business by following reasonable, approved procedures and policies, and that encourages elected officials to study, reflect, and act cooperatively on the principle that welfare of the whole community is primary and the interests of party secondary.

The open non-partisan approach works! I have spent nearly eight years as a Board Member -- this last year as Chairwoman -- working with members of both parties and with the public to strengthen the role of county government and implement sound government principles. We've had more Board study sessions in the last year than in the previous four. The most recent led to a decision to change the jury system so that cases could move to the courts more quickly and thereby decrease the number of people in jail waiting trials.

Last year, months of cooperative effort by Board Democrat and Republicans created the genuinely bipartisan FY2006 budget which the Board adopted by an unprecedented near-unanimous vote--only one member dissenting.

Last year the county board twice acted to implement ideas initiated by the public. In one case the Board renegotiated a contract that reduced the jail phone costs borne by inmates and their families. In another the Board extended spousal benefits to domestic partners of County employees.

The future of Champaign County holds many serious and exciting challenges, some of which have had their birth in the Blue Ribbon Panel Report and others coming forward from big.small.all -- the ultimate public input experience that so far has involved over 800 citizens.

The county is well-poised and prepared to apply those same good government principles if we all can maintain a reasonable, good tempered balance between party contests and community consensus building. I hope on March 21st you will give me the opportunity to be a part of that future.


My name is Bob Kirchner and I am a Democratic candidate for county board district 9 in Urbana. I am a graduate of the University of Illinois College of Law and I have practiced law in Champaign county for over 20 years. I served District 9 on the county board from 2001 to 2004 - first by appointment to fill a vacancy in 2001, and then by election in 2002 to serve a two-year term. During that time, as part of a united Democratic majority, we were able to pass laws to provide a living wage to all county employees, to prohibit employment discrimination, to establish a county enterprise zone to attract new businesses and jobs, and to pass a balanced budget each year. I served on the board of the county health department and voted to fully support their programs. As chair of the county nursing home subcommittee, I supported the referendum funding nursing home construction and worked for its successful passage.

My running mate, Lisa Bell, and I are gratified to have endorsements from the overwhelming majority of local Democratic leaders, who believe that we will better represent Democratic values on the county board. The District 9 Democratic incumbents, Barbara Wysocki and Steve Beckett, were elected county board chair and vice chair by board Republicans, without the endorsement of board Democrats, and their agenda reflects that.

In November 2004, LaShunda Hambrick and I brought forward a contract for a racial disparity study, because we believed the county was not making an adequate effort to hire minority firms on county construction projects. While board Democrats approved the contract for the study, the incumbents voted with board Republicans to block the study. Without a competent disparity study, the county is legally prohibited from taking affirmative race-conscious steps to increase minority participation, and the facts show that the county still has a poor record. Of the $20 million construction contracts for the county nursing home, just $324,000 was awarded to minority contractors. That is only 1.6 per cent of the total, and it demonstrates the need for a professional, independent review by a recognized authority to provide legally effective remedies for fairness in hiring minority contractors.

We need to restore intergovernmental cooperation on road funding for the heavily-used "fringe" roads closest to the cities, like Curtis Road. The incumbents voted with Republicans to cap spending and cut off funding for any new joint road projects. This could hamper development and future tax base growth in Urbana. The county must be a responsible partner in using motor fuel tax dollars from city residents to fairly fund these key roads.

We need to resume the record of fiscal responsibility that existed during the 3 years I served on the Board. The budgets we passed were balanced. Our opponents have instead passed a budget that reflects a $10 million deficit.

This election is about the future, and in the March twenty first Democratic primary, voters will have a clear choice. Lisa Bell & I - Bob Kirchner, will better serve Urbana constituents of District 9 and on those issues where there are differences in philosophy between Republicans and Democrats our views have, and will, reflect the philosophy of Democratic voters. We invite you to find out more about this campaign at our website, www dot countyboard9, that's the numeral 9, dot com. Thank you for your support.


Hello, my name is Lisa Bell. Bob Kirchner and I are running together as candidates for Champaign County Board in Urbana's District 9. There are two contested seats. The election is March 21st and we would appreciate your vote.

I have been a resident of district nine for the past nine years and have raised my two children here. I have had the opportunity through PTSA, Booster clubs and as a community volunteer at a variety of social service agencies to become very involved in the local community. My children are my passion. Watching them grow both academically and personally has been an incredible experience. I attribute some of their success to being a good parent and a positive role model, and frankly, as a lot of parents do, to a little bit of luck... but mostly I look to the schools that educated them and the community that has helped to nurture them.

I have raised my children as I was raised...with a strong sense of community, knowing the value of serving your community, giving back to those around you and making the community a better place for having you in it. Volunteering alongside my children during the holidays with the Salvation Army or working with them as they do fundraising and arrange for the annual Thanksgiving dinner at Urbana High School has shown me first hand all the good our young people contribute to this county and aspire to achieve.

I am truly one of those lucky people who gets to do what they love. I am the Executive Director of the Central Illinois Dental Education and Services. We are not for profit community based, community sustained organization that provides free dental care to more than 3,500 low income children in outlying Champaign County each year. I worked very hard along with many in the community to create this state and nationally recognized and awarded program. We are all very proud of our many accomplishments. Through my day-to-day activities I have had the chance to gain the perspectives of county residents from nearly every town and township in the county. This has been an incredible inspiration to me and a motivator for seeking a voice on the county board. At the Central Illinois Dental Education and Services we know that the basis of our success depended upon creating a workable community collaborative effort. Every day I see the power and value that working together toward a common goal can bring to a community. That power involves working side by side with people who are like minded and often not on the same page. Allowing ALL voices to be heard and never shutting out or dismissing those who may think or feel differently is crucial to creating healthy, stable, and productive communities.

It has been such fun for me spending the past months going door-to-door in the district speaking with and meeting many new people. This has truly been a highlight of my campaign and truly a privilege. So many of you have expressed frustration and concern over how the current democratic representation from district nine is performing. I share that sentiment and will do my best to make sure we have open governance... allowing and making a priority community input into all of the decision making processes. After all, you the taxpayers of the county have placed representatives on the county board with the expectation that they would be good and responsible stewards of your tax dollars and you should absolutely have a voice and know that voice counts. I am for ..accountability....demanding answers, and requiring that we as board members conduct the publics business in the public thereby respecting the public's - your - thoughts and views.

I am concerned about the current approach the county board chair and vice chair are taking with regards to the potential expenditure of up to 30 million dollars for jail expansion, or the ever increasing financial over runs at the county nursing home. But most importantly, I want to bring a sense of unity to governing the county where I can use my experience of cooperative collaboration to help bring about positive and effect change for the residents of district nine as well as the entire county.

Thank you for the opportunity to share a bit about myself with all of you. Please feel free to visit our website www.countyboard9 (the number 9).com that's, to see the issues we are working on and the people who support our vision and candidacy. Many of them are your friends and neighbors. . I'm Lisa Bell and Bob Kirchner and I look forward to serving all of you and would appreciate your vote of confidence on March 21st.