Rich Whitney for Jackson County Board
(District 4, North Carbondale, Lake Heights)
Why I am running:
At a time when our state government is in turmoil and our federal government is mostly out of touch with the needs of the people, it is very important to have responsive and responsible people in office at the local level. County government provides many vital services – ambulance, animal control, emergency management, hazardous waste collection and recycling, the criminal justice system, public health and transportation services, and more. We are the last line of defense in protecting our air, water and land. I want to help bring a fresh approach to maintaining and improving service and improving economic opportunities while protecting the people’s interest as taxpayers.
My name is Rich Whitney. I’m a civil rights attorney by trade and lifelong advocate for social progress by vocation. I’m running for County Board because we, the people of this county, need to stand up and assert our rights to protect our health and safety, protect the environment on which our health depends, maintain and improve the essential services we provide and find new and creative ways to provide economic opportunities.
The challenge we face today is that we are now prisoners of a dysfunctional state government. This has harmed us in concrete ways. Faced with the threat of fracking; faced with the threat of a concentrated feedlot factory chicken farm being placed within a mile of Cedar Lake, we have been told that this is the province of the state, and we have no say in the matter. As the state saddles us with a broken tax system that places most of the burdens for education on local property taxes, and then is unable to even pass an irresponsible budget, let alone a responsible one, county services have taken a terrible hit, and now our schools understandably turn to the county to help stave off disaster. The State imprisons us with the no-win choice of either raising property taxes, or special taxes like the school tax now on the ballot – or letting our schools and services suffer. That is unacceptable.
We need to fight back. And if elected, I intend to lead a fight-back. This will include:
● Support for a Community Bill of Rights. Although I did not support the version of a community bill of rights that was introduced to the county last Spring, I do support the principle that communities have, and should assert, a right of self-protection – and I have been working with the Southern Illinois Rights Project to craft a community bill of rights that I think states this principle more effectively.
● I support very limited, carefully crafted zoning, that will be aimed at protecting public health and safety, protecting the integrity and traditional freedoms enjoyed in our rural areas, and keeping certain industrial practices limited to areas where they do not pose a threat to our water, land and air quality, or the safety, peace and tranquility of our residents.
● Article VII, section 6 of the Illinois Constitution allows for counties to become home rule units. I think the time has come for us to ask the question, why is it that of all the counties in Illinois, only Cook County has taken advantage of this provision? We should reconsider the issue of home rule. Home rule would allow us to raise revenues by means other than property taxes. It would give us more options. It would give us at least somewhat more power to protect our environment and the public health. We need to at least have a community discussion about this.
● We need to help create economic opportunities for our people. That means playing to our strengths: Agriculture, tourism, education, arts, music and crafts. We are also in an excellent place to build solar power generation. I would like to see our county get involved in the establishment of a community bank that can help finance value-added facilities for local agriculture, e.g., cooperatively owned processing facilities, and building cooperatively or publicly owned solar generating capacity that can employ people, save energy costs and help stimulate the economy, and help rescue our environment at the same time. I would not only like to see Jackson County improve its recycling program; I would like to see it help establish an electronics re-use program, that would employ people to refurbish used computers, stereos, TVs and other electronic devices and make them available at prices affordable to persons of low-income.
Necessity is the mother of invention. Out of the necessity of living in a dysfunctional state, we can start to reinvent county government, in a way that will truly promote the common welfare. I ask for your votes, so that I may get to work on that vitally important mission.
Who is Rich Whitney:
Rich Whitney is an attorney with the Office of the State Appellate Defender, magna cum laude graduate of SIU School of Law and longtime resident of Jackson County. The husband of Paula Bradshaw and father of three, he is a longtime advocate for environmental protection, peace and social progress. He is a member and supporter of the Jackson County Stage Company, Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing our Environment (SAFE), the American Civil Liberties Union, a disc jockey and commentator at WDBX Community Radio, and now serves on the Board for the Jackson County Mass Transit District. In 2006 and 2010, he served as the Green Party candidate for Governor of Illinois, setting a modern record for vote totals for a third-party candidate.
Why you should vote for Rich:
● Many County residents are very concerned about threats to our water quality, air quality and quality of life. The threat of fracking and the permitting of a large-scale chicken feedlot operation right near Cedar Lake – where Carbondale gets its drinking water, without any public input – shows that our state government often fails to adequately protect public and environmental health. Rich will fight to empower our County government to do what needs to be done.
● Southern Illinois is an agricultural powerhouse. When farmers use sustainable practices and produce for local consumption, this is good for our environment and local economy. Rich will help ensure that our county government supports our farmers, especially farmers who make the switch to organic, non-GMO farming and produce for local and regional markets.
● Rich will look for creative ways to help finance and improve core services – especially public health, safety and transportation – while holding the line on property taxes. This includes the idea of taxing “bads” instead of “goods.” For example, plastic bags and bottles are a huge environmental problem. A small fee on throwaway plastic items would encourage consumers to switch to durable and renewable bags and bottles while providing new revenue. Rich will also search for new sources of grant money to promote public transportation and renewable energy, and will explore the idea of creating a public bank to support local business while providing a source of revenue.
● Green Party candidates do not accept corporate money – we can’t be bought! You can count on Rich to listen and respond to the needs of the people, and act on the core Green values of environmental protection, grassroots democracy, nonviolence, social justice and community-based economics, in all of his actions on the County Board.
Your ideas are encouraged! Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org