Pritzker Bail Reform Wrong for Ogle County

Governor J.B. Pritzker has laid out his legislative goals in 2020. One of his goals is eliminating cash bail for all misdemeanors and many felonies. This is the wrong move for Illinois and specifically Ogle County.

I’m not advocating for individuals without criminal records to be held in jail for non-violent offenses while awaiting trial. However, those individuals who continue to break the law and/or commit violent and serious offenses represent a clear and present danger to our community and should have a cash bail (or no bail) set while awaiting trial.

Incarceration does not have to be viewed as strictly punitive. Inmates within the jail have access to addiction counseling and other programs that they would not have access to if they were released. If the legislation brought forward by Governor Pritzker and his allies is to just to throw the individual back onto the streets after being released without the tools to change their life than this becomes even more dangerous. 

Of course, the financial component needs to be taken into consideration as well. Currently when someone posts bond, the money is collected and sent to the fines and fees fund. The fines and fees line item is largely transferred to the general fund and much of it is used to support law enforcement and the court system as well to fund attempts to make victims whole through restitution and programs that will aid in reducing recidivism. Ogle County is already facing a major challenge with the proposed closure of the Byron Nuclear Station. 

One of my core beliefs is that we should allow local authorities to maintain as much power as we can. Tying the hands of our Judges and State’s Attorneys — people that we hold direct elections for — to release all individual with nothing more than a signature is the opposite of that.  As Vice Chairman of the State’s Attorney, Probation, and Focus House committee, I believe it is prudent that we keep this battle in the forefront. Victims of crimes should not live in fear because the offenders are being set free almost immediately after being arrested.

Why the Census Matters to Ogle County

I am sure you have seen a lot about the 2020 census but let this be a final reminder on how important it is! 

The key purpose is to assure that we get our voice heard in Springfield and Washington D.C. The census numbers are used for redistricting of political representative districts that will be implemented in 2022 and stay in place until 2032.

The census also has a direct effect on funding for the next decade. Population and statistics derived from the 2020 census determine the annual allocation of over $800 billion in federal dollars invested across states, counties, and municipalities. 

From March 12-20 you will receive an invitation to respond to the 2020 census online. April 8-16 a reminder letter will be sent out and a paper questionnaire. If no response has been received from April 20-27 a final notice will be sent before a census worker follows up in person. 

The average time it takes to complete the census questionnaire is only 10 minutes! 

Support Illinois Legislative Bills helping Volunteer Firefighters

Over 70% of Fire Departments in Illinois are staffed by volunteers. This means when the call for service comes in, they drop what they’re doing and head to the fire station to get the appropriate equipment before going to the emergency. As a son of a former volunteer firefighter and a volunteer firefighter myself, I know firsthand the sacrifices that are made every day.

As your Ogle County Board Member, I do not just serve as a volunteer firefighter, I represent three volunteer fire departments. I believe it is my duty to recognize and advocate for bills that would help the citizens that I have the honor to represent on the board. Currently, there are two bills in Springfield that would be a significant help to the volunteer fire service her and throughout the state.

The first is HB771, filed on January 26 by State Representative Terri Bryant (R-Mt. Vernon). HB771 passed unanimously through the State House on February 23 by a 98-0 margin. This bill allows regularly enrolled volunteer firefighters to purchase four vehicle tires every three years through his or her fire department’s or the municipality’s joint purchasing contract relating to the purchase of vehicle tires. The volunteer firefighter would still cover the cost of the tires and the taxes, only the tires would be at a reduced rate. This bill not only assures the safety of the firefighter in responding to emergency calls but could act as small recruitment component as the number of volunteer firefighters has decreased significantly over the last three decades. This bill is currently in the State Senate where it is being sponsored by State Senator Paul Schimpf (R-Murphsboro)

The second is HB3206, filed on February 9 by State Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer (R-Jacksonville). HB3206 is currently still in the State House and assigned to the Fire and Emergency Services Committee. No action has been taken on it since February 22. This bill would allow Fire Departments that have an ambulance serving a population of 10,000 or fewer to staff the ambulance with only one EMT-Basic and one First Responder instead of the current two EMT-Basic requirement. The fire department would have to apply for the alternate rural staffing authorization through the Department of Public Health, but once the authorization was approved it would not expire. This is a key bill for rural fire departments. Currently, if only one EMT-Basic and one First Responder respond to a call they are forced to call for a mutual aid ambulance from a neighboring town or a private ambulance service. Thus, the patient care is delayed and the other town is stripped of an ambulance. With this bill allowing fire departments to reduce staffing from the two EMT-Basic requirement to just one, patient care will still not be compromised because all along one of the two EMTs had to drive the ambulance and only one EMT is with the patient in the back of the ambulance. This bill is long overdue and would provide a significant benefit to several Ogle County Fire Protection Districts.

Over the last couple of weeks I have sent letters to several of our State Representatives and State Senators encouraging them to pass these bills. Many of our elected leaders are supportive of both HB771 and HB3206. I ask that you contact your local State Legislator and tell them to get on board with both of these bills.



The Ogle County Courthouse turns 125 years old today

On this day, 125 years ago, the Ogle County Courthouse was dedicated. It was August 20th, 1891 it became the third courthouse in Ogle Counties history and remained as the main judicial building until August 20, 2005. In 2005, the new Judicial Center opened across the street. The 125 year old Courthouse, is now home to the offices of the Ogle County Clerk/Recorder, Supervisor of Assessments, Treasurer, and also serves as the meeting place for the Ogle County Board. When completed in 1891 the Courthouse costed the county a little over $100,000. It served as the main judicial center for 114 years.

Construction started on the first courthouse on January 3, 1837 and burned on March 21, 1841 before total occupancies occurred. The second courthouse opened in 1848 and stayed opened until it was demolished to make room for the current courthouse.

I am honored to serve in a building with so much history.


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Impact on Ogle County with another year of no state budget

As the State of Illinois moves closer to a second year without a state budget (fiscal year starting July 1st) it is time to think about what the impact this will have on Ogle County.

For all counties throughout the state, the lack of a state budget has limited the financial support available to provide services to the community.

The Ogle County Health Department already is owed nearly $40,000 from state for services that it provided during this fiscal year. If the state allows federal pass through grants for the next fiscal year, the health department will receive 1/3 of the grant money that it receives each year. The remaining 2/3 will be deteremined through the State of Illinois budget appropriation process. With no state budget, nothing is guaranteed and hard decisions will have to be made.

The lack of a state budget will have an immediate impact on the Ogle County Highway Department. At the end of the day on June 30th, IDOT will shut down two projects in Ogle County that are utilizing federal funds. This includes the Macklin Rd bridge in Marion Township that is currently under construction. It also includes the resurfacing of Montague Rd that was scheduled to begin in the middle of July. The contractor for both of these projects, Martin & Company, an Ogle County based company, will also feel the affects of the state not having a budget

The Illinois Department of Transportation will also cease the distribution of Motor Fuel Tax (MFT) funds if no budget is agreed upon in Springfield. As it stands, the last MFT funds will be received in the middle of July. The MFT funds are used to pay for several obligations including payroll, seal coat contract, striping contract, and salt.

The Ogle County 911 ETSB will be impacted as well, especially since the state is already four months behind in paying out ETSB funds. For the current fiscal year, ending at the end of June, Ogle County is predicted to receive over $33,000 less in revenue than what was anticipated. To make matters worse, also at the end of June, the 911 surcharge appropriation will no longer be in affect. This means that even when a budget is passed in Springfield, it is unknown if the 911 ETSB will receive any back pay for the services it provides. This comes at a crucial time for the 911 service statewide, as many are in the process of upgrading to the “Next-Gen 911” system.

The best thing for Ogle County and for all of Illinois is for a compromised budget to be passed in Illinois with real reforms. The State of Illinois is 8.2 Billon Dollars in debt, without reforms it will only get worse.


Time for Real Leadership

I’m angry and you should be too. Illinois has gone 248 days since it last had a budget. However, Speaker Madigan has only had the State House in session 9 days this year. Yesterday, the Speaker adjourned the house until April 4th. Illinois has real problems and it’s time for some real leadership. Illinois’ most vulnerable citizens are being hurt the most.


No tax hike in county budget

Written By: Ogle County Life Newspaper Staff

OREGON Ogle County is looking at using some reserve funds and losing positions through attrition to get the budget in balance without raising taxes.
Board chairman Kim Gouker said the board will vote on the final roughly $30 million 2016 budget at its November meeting.
The proposed budget was presented to the board and public last week.
Gouker said the county does not want to raise taxes, so it is looking at different ways to save money as it gets less from other sources.
“The funding from the state is dropping, and other revenues are dropping,” he said.
So the county is dipping into its reserves as well as looking at positions over the next few years as people retire.
“We’re looking at some long-term layoffs,” Gouker said. “Only through attrition though.”
The largest part of the budget is the $14 million general fund, which pays for the day-to-day operations of the county and its departments.
The proposed 2016 budget is about $200,000 more than the 2015 budget, he said.


I’m in

I am happy to announce that I am running for Re-Election for Ogle County Board. We accomplished so much since first taking office in 2012. I look forward to serving you for another term as your County Board Member


Dick Petrizzo Resigns

As I am sure many of you have heard, Dick Petrizzo has resigned from the Ogle County Board effective Tuesday, January 13th. This position will be posted as vacant after the County Board meeting next Tuesday the 20th and potential applicants will be able to obtain applications starting Wednesday January 21st. I want to assure everyone in District One that you continue to be well represented at the County Board. Nic Bolin and I will continue to work every day to represent you to best of our abilities.
Lastly, I want to take a moment to thank Mr. Petrizzo for his service on the board and being such a supporter of mine over the last year.