Candidate profile: Cheryl Newsome

Get ready for the 2018 Election

Voters in Belleville and Southern Illinois have several important decisions to make on Nov. 6.
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Voters in Belleville and Southern Illinois have several important decisions to make on Nov. 6.

Name: Cheryl Newsome

Office seeking: St Clair County Board Member in District 13

Party: Democrat

Age: 63

City of residence: Belleville

Campaign website: cherylnewsome.com

Why are you running and why should people vote for you? I am running because I believe that change is needed at all levels of government. I believe that rather than public servants, many of those in office have become politicians who make decisions based on donor support, party lines, or their hope for reelection. I believe that we must look at all financial issues-revenues and expenditures to determine how best to “live within our means” as a county. I will work for change in procedures, transparency, and constituent involvement and awareness of issues facing the county board. I do not believe that career politicians engender flexibility and new ideas needed to meet the challenges of today. I believe “new blood” is required to maintain and improve the health of our community.

St. Clair County’s health fund is $3.3 million in debt, according to its most recent audit. The debt has increased over the last two years. What measures would you support to reduce the debt? I believe data driven decisions are imperative to good solutions. This increase in the cost of health care for county employees needs to be examined from several different angles. Are there an increased number of participants in the program, an increased cost for coverage for each person, or is it a change in the insurance provider or expanded coverage? Once the reason for the increased cost is determined, then possible adjustments to coverage or companies can be developed, or the need for additional funds or reallocation of existing funds can be explored.

What is your position on the oversight of MidAmerica Airport? Would you change anything? If so, what? The US Bureau of Transportation Statistics indicates that passenger travel in 2018 from Mid America airport is on pace to be the highest since the airport opened. Even so, increased income from the airport is needed for long term viability. Not being on the County Board at this time, I am not aware of possibilities that have been explored, researched or discussed that might lead to appropriate changes to the airport oversight and/or functioning. Actively seeking contracts to develop and expand commercial business should increase revenues. Eventually, Mid-America should be at least self-sufficient, and even better, a source of income for the county. This is most certainly an issue that needs to continue to be addressed.

St. Clair County board meetings last an average of 30 minutes, according to a review of meeting minutes from the last two years. Some committee meetings for the most part last less than 15 minutes. Is this enough time for county board members to conduct county business and earn a $19,419 salary? Why or why not? Not being a current County Board member, I am unaware of the time commitment outside of actual meeting times, so I am reluctant to comment on this salary issue. I do believe that County Board meetings could be restructured for more community input and open discussion by members to encourage an exchange of ideas that could lead to better solutions to problems facing St. Clair County. Early posting of agendas for both county board and committee meetings along with the time and place would allow interested parties to prepare, attend and participate in these meetings. I believe increased transparency and sharing of issues and information with constituents is an important part of the work of each county board member.

County revenue has been declining in recent years. How should revenues be increased or do services have to be cut? Why? Again, this decision should be data driven. Analyzing the traditional sources of revenue that have been available and determining what revenues have been lost will generate a starting point for this discussion. The loss of state reimbursements and funding due to the Illinois financial situation must be reviewed. Matching local needs with available grants should be a consideration. Reviewing current services and staffing levels should also be part of the equation. Creative thinking to increase revenues as well as a review of expenditures to prioritize services would provide the basis for decisions regarding the amount and extent of needed increases in revenue and/or cuts in services.