Candidate profile: Chris Durbin

NAME: Chris Durbin

AGE: 51

IMMEDIATE FAMILY: Wife Jody; daughter Jordan, eight brothers and four sisters


OFFICE SOUGHT: Representative of District # 3 for Madison County Board



Why are you running for this office?

I believe that Madison County is a great place to live. We have great schools and even better communities. I am particularly proud of the people in the north-eastern 1/3 of our county. I am biased since I was born and raised here, yet even people that move into this area are impressed with the hard working rural lifestyle. The many public services offered by our communities ensure that we enjoy a high standard of living. I have been blessed with the ability to learn and communicate effectively. This is evident by the hundreds of students that I have had the honor of learning with, and watching them move on to great careers, lives and livelihoods. With the District 3 seat available, I feel that dedicating time to the people of Madison County is the right thing for me to do. I am not just running for an office, I am looking forward to being of greater service to our communities.

What would be your top priority if elected or re-elected?

As a representative of the people, my priorities will reflect the needs of our district. I teach my engineering students that the first step in solving a problem is to define the problem. Determining if a problem is valid and justifiable is part of that process. For example, just saying that “Taxes are too high” is not a valid or justifiable problem statement. Too high for whom? Who is making the claim? Why would some people say they are too high and other people feel that the services they are provided are worth the expense? A little research shows us that there are seven DIFFERENT tax rate codes for Saline Township alone. Leef Township has another five tax rate codes. You can live in Highland and your neighbor across the road may have a different tax rate code. Without doing extensive research, I have found a tax rate code of 5.8 and another of 8.7 here in Madison County. So to validate the problem, we have to ask, does the person paying 5.8 feel his tax rate is unjust based on the services he has in his area, Probably a volunteer fire department, no library, and limited access to public parks and services, or does the person living in a city with libraries, museums, concrete streets, sidewalks and bike paths, feel that paying for these services should not cost him the 8.7 tax rate? Professional real estate agents can explain this to you much better than I can. They make their living off helping people solve this dilemma. Where do you want to live based on what services are important to you and based on how much you are willing to pay for those services? Each person in our county will prioritize their problems differently. My concern will be with how the people of district three prioritize their problems. For me to claim that my concerns should be the concerns of everyone in my district is silly. My goal, will be to learn about these concerns and use the resources of the county to find the best way to resolve issues and improve the way of life for people that choose to live here.

What other changes or improvements would you seek in this office?

All change is not progress and all progress does not require change. Improving the methods in which different functions (within government) can be accomplished will require study and evaluation. Yes... back to learning about things before telling everyone they deserve this or that! I am not seeking to change or improve the duties of a county board representative. What I am planning to do, is the job that people have elected me to do, with the full energy and skill that I possess. Communicating, listening, and learning with and to my neighbors is my initial plan. As we uncover the opportunities and resources that are available for us in District 3, we can utilize them to improve the things we feel are important to improve.

Madison County is considering a 5-cent cut to its property tax rate. Are you in favor? Why or why not?

Interestingly, the question is what I think of the proposal and whether or not I personally am for or against it. The question supposes that the district representative’s view on something is more important than the view of the people he or she represents. Since the issue will be on the ballot, the people of the county get to have their views on the issue counted and recorded. I hope that all the people of Madison County take the time to try and understand exactly what is being proposed. That is no small feat since each party, uses different examples and even different numbers to try and make their point. As an independent candidate and a political novice, I have no more inside knowledge of any of this other than what I can find online or read in the newspapers. But since the paper asked for my opinion… here is my take on it. Please forgive the round numbers and generalizations. I help my students realize that understanding the “concept” of a situation can be more valuable than crunching numbers that don’t mean much to anyone but a math teacher. (Which by the way… I asked to help me figure out some of this.) First of all we have to agree that a “tax cut” is even a legitimate solution to a valid problem. With the varied tax rates in the county, the “problem” may or may not be yours. But let’s agree that a tax break sounds good! Of course in every political cycle, some professional politician is going claim that they alone can cut taxes. They have been told, and history shows that saying “I will cut taxes,” will get you votes. The Belleville News-Democrat reported in May that “Promoters say it would save owners of a home valued at $100,000 about $17 annually.” A more conservative (or liberal) estimate, evidently taking into account Homestead exemptions and other factors, estimate the cost savings to Joe Taxpayer at $9 per year. As promised, let’s keep the math easy and figure out the basic concept. Let’s say the proposal saves $15 for the owner of a $100,000 home. In two minutes using Zillow, I was able to find a house for sale in my district # 3 for $35,000. I was also able to find one in district number 3 for $653,000. These houses are approximately 15 minutes away from each other. Let’s round off to an even $50,000 (Joe Homeowner) and $650,000 (Jim Homeowner) for the value of our two houses. As we noted earlier, a $15 dollar tax break means Joe just saved $7.50. Jim, the owner of the $650,000 house, saved 13 times $15 or… $195. Whether you use 9 dollars or 17 dollars, the folks with a house 13 times more valuable than yours, is going to get a tax break 13 times larger than yours. Being more like Joe taxpayer than Jim, my tax savings will be closer to $25 bucks. The people that I have talked to that could save more than one hundred bucks per year, if this proposal passes, have told me personally, they would rather pay $100 and be secure in the knowledge that their chosen place to live was well protected and safe. Most of them would welcome an additional law enforcement officer, either in the county or on their city police force. They would even like to have them live in their neighborhood. (If the cop could afford it on a cop’s salary.) So if we need to ask questions, let’s start with the basic one. Who has the problem? Joe, that stands to save $17 per year, or Jim who says he is happy to pay for the services he wants and needs to protect his considerable investment. I am sure that most of us fall somewhere in between, but the concept remains the same. Are you comfortable with the property you own, in the location you have chosen, with the services available to you? When you break down what you are paying taxes for and the services you use, are you OK with that? Please don’t let other people do the math for you or tell you that you should be unhappy because they are. They don’t live in your neighborhood. As a representative for the people of the district, my concern is to collect information on how individuals answer the questions I just posed. Not ask them a yes or no question such as “Do you want lower taxes?” When kids ask me poorly thought out questions, I answer them with a question… “Lower than what?”

Why should the voters elect you?

The last question sounds like a beauty pageant question. Since you asked, here are a few honest reasons why I will be a great representative for our district. I care about kids and the future that we are bringing them up in. I can help them in the classroom and I can help their parents and grandparents in the board room. I can learn their needs and help people learn to help themselves. We can keep Madison County a great place to raise a family and earn a living. And we can do it by doing the next right thing.