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McLean County District 9 candidates talk mental health, District 10 candidates discuss growth

Pantagraph - 11/3/2022

Nov. 2—BLOOMINGTON — Candidates in McLean County's ninth district, which covers southern Bloomington, are putting a focus on mental health services as part of their campaigns.

But in the 10th district, candidates are focused on low taxes, secure funding for law enforcement and economic growth.

Incumbent GOP board member Susan Schafer said she is running for re-election in the ninth district and committed to transforming the behavioral health system to benefit both clients and providers.

She also hopes to ensure the county nursing home remains a safe option for the elderly and to maintain the fiscal strength and stability of county departments and services.

Democratic candidate Brandy Elizabeth Elmore also prioritizes behavioral mental health services as well as public safety.

"McLean County has recognized the need for improved mental health services in our community, as evident by the development of our current Mental Health Action Plan and creation of the Behavioral Health Coordinating Council and Mental Health Advisory Board," Elmore said. "Over the next term, I think it will be important to prioritize collaboration and coordination between community service providers, including an emphasis on social service agency interception, better reentry support services, and diversion programs."

She added that mental health services currently operate under a reactive model, where mental health needs are addressed through the criminal justice system first. Elmore said her hope would be to take a proactive approach by addressing obstacles preventing access to care.

The other two candidates running in the ninth district, Republican Annette Fellows and Democrat Natalie Roseman-Mendoza, could not be reached for comment.

In the 10th district, which covers the eastern side of Bloomington-Normal, GOP incumbent Chuck Erickson said there was a time not too long ago in McLean County when political opponents could grab a beer or have dinner.

Although that may not be the case in today's political climate, Erickson said he has managed to work with county Democrats to secure local business grants, end the practice of euthanizing animals via gas chambers and provide greater protections for land owners regarding the placement of wind farms.

However, one of the most significant topics of dissention between the two parties is public safety as it relates to funding the sheriff's department, according to Erickson. Instead of talks to defund law enforcement, Erickson said the county should be looking at ways to increase the number of deputies.

"While I fully support working together when we can, I also support taking a stand when I must," Erickson said. "I don't think (voters) want to abolish the police, nor do I, especially in this era of the SAFE-T Act passed out of Springfield, which is of concern to Democrat and Republican state's attorneys all around the state."

GOP candidate Ross Webb said the rising cost of gasoline and other consumer staples as a result of inflation is the biggest issue facing residents. And although the county board cannot affect national economic trends, it can ensure that taxes are in line so constituents can keep money in their own pockets.

"With all our success, we need to ensure that we always continue to remember the taxpayer, the oft too forgotten interest group," Webb said. "I will always be an advocate for the McLean taxpayer."

The lone Democratic candidate in the 10th district, Corey Beirne, said with the expansion of Ferrero and Rivian in the community, McLean County has an opportunity to sustain and build upon this growth. But it will require a balanced approach that attracts business, maintains infrastructure and supports professionals.

He added there are many other opportunities to improve McLean County, such as improved transportation.

"By expanding public transportation (and) bicycle lanes, it will not only improve access available to everyone, but it will bring more dollars into our economy," Beirne said.

Early voting is available at the McLean County Government Center, 115 E. Washington St., for voters who live outside of Bloomington. Early voting hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday through Nov. 4.

Bloomington voters can cast their ballots at the Bloomington Election Commission office, 121 N. Main St., from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.


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