Danforth faces challenge from Timm for District 17 Lake County Board seat

By Gavin Good


Republican incumbent Michael Danforth of Fox River Grove is facing Democrat Alicia Timm of Lake Zurich for the District 17 Lake County Board seat in Tuesday’s general election.

After redistricting in 2021, District 17 includes Barrington, North Barrington, Lake Barrington, Tower Lakes, part of Lake Zurich and Fox River Grove, while stretching north to include parts of Island Lake, Lakemoor and Volo.

Danforth works as an attorney and is a managing partner at Danforth Law Group in Barrington. He was appointed to the seat in 2017 to finish former state Rep. Nick Sauer’s term, then won a three-person Republican primary and defeated Democrat Maria Peterson to win a full board term in 2018.

He got his start in politics in his early 20s when he won election to the DeKalb County Board in 1984. Danforth has clashed with members of the Democrat-controlled Lake County Board over the installment of a four-cent-per-gallon gas tax, its advocacy in favor of banning assault weapons at the state and federal levels and over new burning restrictions, saying that “people pick up on hypocrisy.”

“Government’s a giant self-licking ice cream cone,” Danforth said, “it gets to add a scoop to itself anytime it wants other people’s money. If you’re good with that, that’s fine, but that money comes from the taxpayers and they expect some accountability for those funds.

“Core functions are really what government, especially at the local level, needs to be doing,” he continued. “The delivery of good court services, and sheriff’s deputy police, and those types of things are the core things, the roads, those are things that the county is supposed to be working on.”

Timm worked for Trader Joe’s for 16 years and is now a volunteer environmental advocate in southwestern Lake County, where she is a board member of the Ancient Oaks Foundation, an Ela Township conservation group, and chairs a program for Citizens for Conservation of Barrington that helps residents identify invasive species and plant native plants, shrubs or trees in their place.

She said the chance to represent the district on the Lake County Board is, “an amazing opportunity to kind of shepherd the development of this part of the county,” and that she wants to “make sure all different types of voters feel heard.”

“It’s’ been a real privilege to talk to people, honestly,” she said. “In my part of the county, a lot of them are enjoying their freedom. It’s just this open space that they have, and 42% of the district is unincorporated land. So I think that the County Board has more influence over a lot of your properties, that’s been very interesting, and people have told me that they would vote for me just because I showed up at their door.”

When it comes to the four-cent-per-gallon gas tax and ensuring that county infrastructure projects can move along, Danforth says the tax must go, while Timm wants to keep it in place. Danforth was one of seven votes — including the board’s six Republicans — against the tax last year.

He said the revenue brought in from the gas tax isn’t going to dramatically alter Lake County’s ability to dig out of a roughly $1.5 billion infrastructure project backlog, but it could drive residents away from the county and more significantly impacts residents on lower incomes.

“There’s got to be alternative ways to do it,” Danforth said. “It hurts Joe Lunch Bucket, who’s out there on the roads every day having to drive from Waukegan to Chicago, or Waukegan to wherever he works, driving an old gas-guzzling car that he can barely afford to put gasoline in. Now you want to raise his taxes, so you feel the pinch when you’ve got to fill up the car.”

He said that as a border county, residents will hop over to Wisconsin and take their dollars with them.

“They’re also shopping at the Home Depot, and the Jewel, and the grocery stores up in Wisconsin because they’re getting their cheap gas and they can cheaper food up there,” he said. “Again, who are we hurting at the end of the day?”

Danforth suggested, as have other Republicans running in Lake County, that Democrats on the board will move to increase the gas tax to eight cents per gallon if they retain control. Like her fellow Democrat and Lake County Board Chair Sandy Hart, Timm pushed back against that suggestion and said that the gas tax also helps Lake County obtain federal matching funds for projects.

“We are woefully behind,” Timm said. “That (infrastructure) improves the conditions for successful businesses and people traversing their county. I think there’s some unclear information out there about the gas tax.”

She added, “We need proper and safe infrastructure for our residents and our future residents,” and wants to ensure the county balances its priorities of improving transportation safety and lessening congestion with environmental sustainability and a focus on flood mitigation.

“ (The board has) a plan to work on roundabouts and different improvements on the roads up there to handle the increased traffic,” Timm said. “My concern is that the developments will not take into consideration the stormwater issues as perhaps seriously as they should, and I would like to bring my knowledge of native plants, these plants with deep root systems to add green infrastructure to the storm drains and culverts.”

Danforth is pleased with the job Lake County is doing on managing the increased impacts of stormwater as it has changed and has seen increased rainfall.

“We’re putting millions of dollars into that, getting funding to do that and those are all good things,” Danforth said. “You don’t call Lake County ‘Lake County’ for no reason. We have to mitigate stormwater runoff and everything else.”

Timm would support the current burning restrictions, which allow for residents in unincorporated areas to burn yard materials from November through March, but said incorporated residents could use help disposing of their leaves and suggested a service that some municipalities use where a truck sucks up people’s leaves.’

“I think every possible thing to improve our air quality and our water quality,” she said. “However, I would look at possibly tweaking (the ban).

“I would say that we need to be looking at people’s concerns with the burn ban on a case-by-case basis,” she added. “I’m absolutely in favor of ecological burns. That’s a very important part of the partial burn ban, making sure those people can burn their buckthorn all year-round to do the restoration work that they’re doing to restore habitats.”

Danforth voiced concern about the business climate in Lake County, and said “it seems that we’re doing a pretty good job of chasing (businesses) away.”

He emphasized the County Board’s role in determining whether or not the runway at Campbell Airport in Waukegan is expanded or not, and said the current board is “way overboard” with members that are “environmentally conscious” and might prioritize that over what businesses need.

“If we don’t look to do something with that, then they’ll take their business to Wisconsin,” Danforth said. “That’s coming. If AbbVie doesn’t have an airport, they’ll move. Thousands of jobs. Is that what we want? I think you can balance a lot of the interests.”

Sticking points

Timm is taking issue with Danforth’s role in facilitating sales of firearms and ammunition for clients, and criticized him for not including his business, Strategic Defense Imports Inc., on his statement of economic interests filed with the Lake County Clerk’s Office.

She said she would have voted in favor of adding the assault weapons ban to Lake County’s legislative advocacy program, adding that voters in the district are concerned about gun violence and that Danforth’s vote against it dishonors people impacted by gun violence.

“That (advocacy) is the least we can do for victims of gun violence,” Timm said. “I think that everyone should have voted in favor of that. I’m concerned because when my opponent voted no, in that same day, that same meeting, he also said that he has represented gun manufacturers for 25 years.”

“I support the Second Amendment,” she added, “but I just think we need to know the economic interests of our government officials.”

Danforth said Timm and political opponents have, “tried to paint me with broad brush strokes,” and that every international transaction needs “a fully vetted, licensed importer” to ensure all laws are followed and that the proper licenses have been obtained.

“I personally maintain, as part of my law practice, a Federal Firearms importation license,” Danforth said. “I’ve had it for 22, 23 years, so I can help people that want to bring ammunition into their wholesaling outfit, their gun store or whatever. I don’t sell to gun stores, but I work for clients that say, ‘I need to get ammunition from India,’ or Pakistan, or wherever it may be coming from, legally and lawfully through the ATF.”

Danforth criticized Timm for having “admitted she’s basically a stay-at-home mom, and she doesn’t have anything better to do than go knock on doors, I guess.”

“And that’s fine, you got to get your name out there, but I don’t know what she brings,” he said.

He said he has “negotiated lots of contracts” and overseas deals, and that Timm “doesn’t have the experience” necessary to succeed on the County Board.

“She may have a liberal arts degree in college or something, but what skill set?” he asked. “What life experience do you have to be working in this? Have you negotiated contracts? Do you know anything about the law? Do you know how the real world operates? I think she’s just a progressive liberal. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

Timm said people in the district lack familiarity with Danforth despite five years of his representation.

“They’ve never heard of him and then the ones that have heard about him have said, ‘Well, I didn’t get an email back,’” she said.

She added that she is nearly fluent in Spanish and hopes to represent the district’s Spanish-speaking communities. As of now, the County Board has no fluent Spanish speakers, though District 16 Democrat Esiah Campos could become the first.

“I also have been reaching out to the Hispanic population in our district, which is 12% of our district,” Timm said. “That’s been really important to me. I had my website translated. I’m brushing up my Spanish skills.”

Danforth said he is grounded by firm beliefs, but he can be persuaded on many issues and wants to continue to impact his community with another term.

“If we’re closed off to new ideas, we’re not helping; we’re part of the problem,” Danforth said. “That’s what we got Washington, that’s what we got in Springfield and to some degree, we have it on the County Board. But the County Board, I think, is redeemable. Our politics is local and that’s why it’s so important is that people get engaged and get involved.”

Lake County Board Candidates cite smart development, limited government as key issues, see article here.

The Daily Herald interviews Alicia Timm, see article here.

Statewide, local candidates converge on Lake Zurich for meet-and-greet with voters: ‘We want to make sure people are informed’ – Chicago Tribune

See the article at the Tribune here.

Political mainstays and newcomers in local and some statewide races flocked to Lake Zurich to meet with voters in an informal, up-close-and-personal setting on Wednesday night.

With election season kicking into full swing, the Lake Zurich Area Chamber of Commerce hosted the candidate event with the hope that it would draw bipartisan interest and allow community members a prime opportunity to directly engage with candidates they might otherwise not meet.

The event drew about two dozen candidates, including the two seeking to fill the Illinois Supreme Court vacancy left in the 2nd Judicial Circuit by Robert Thomas’ retirement — former Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran and Lake County Judge Elizabeth Rochford.

“Every time I have an opportunity to talk to somebody about the work of the courts, I’m thrilled,” Rochford said. “Judicial races are at the end of the ballot. Sometimes people, they come to the polls, they’re surprised to find judges at the end and oftentimes they’re unprepared with the information about the candidates.”

Curran highlighted the stakes of the state Supreme Court election, noting Democrats’ control of the state legislature and governor’s mansion. He said voters “wish there was some balance” and want candidates to prove they can talk to people across the political spectrum.

“I think that’s what people want, they want to see that you’re willing to talk to anybody,” Curran said.

Whoever wins could help tilt the court’s balance, which is currently 4-3 in favor of Democrats, toward their party.

The gubernatorial General Election is Nov. 8.

Incumbent state Sen. Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods, who represents the 26th District, said events like the one Wednesday night present candidates with a chance to dispel images of politicians that voters have before meeting them.

“I think the big thing is trying to understand if people have some sort of preconceived notion,” McConchie said. “Sometimes, especially during the heat of the campaign season, mailers will come in your mailbox saying all sorts of things that I never knew I believed, did or said.”

He is fielding a challenge from Democrat Maria Peterson, of Barrington, a retired lawyer who has previously served on the Lake County Zoning Board of Appeals and ran for the county board in 2018.

Nabeela Syed, a 23-year-old Democrat from Inverness challenging 51st District state Representative Chris Bos, of Lake Zurich, said voters in the district have concerns that overlap despite a variety of political preferences.

“At the end of the day, a lot of the concerns I’m hearing are similar,” Syed said. “People are worried about economic mobility in our district. They’re worried about sending their kids to school. They’re worried about gun violence.”

Syed could become the first Muslim and South Asian woman to join the Illinois General Assembly.

Claire Slattery, the executive director for the Lake Zurich Area Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber wanted to boost political engagement and give voters facetime with candidates. During a time when some chambers of commerce are shying away from the political fray, Slattery said the Lake Zurich chamber felt it was important to bring people to the same scene.

“We’re really a convener,” Slattery said. “We help bring the community together around a lot of different things, but in this particular case, it’s around the elections. We want to make sure people are informed and they know who, when they check that box at the November polls, that they know who they are checking.”

Marah Altenberg, a Lake County Board incumbent, said many other chambers of commerce “are not presenting this opportunity.”

She is staring down a challenge from Republican candidate Joe Janicki in District 19 — which includes Lake Zurich, Barrington, Deer Park, Kildeer and portions of Long Grove — after losing much of the northern part of her old district and gaining land to the east and west after new county maps were approved in 2021.

Lake County Treasurer Holly Kim, a Democrat, said the smaller setting of Wednesday’s event can help candidates reach people they might not directly engage with at a candidate forum or debate that has dozens or hundreds in attendance.

“I, as a voter, would have loved something like this,” Kim said.

Paula McGuire, the Republican challenging Kim, pointed out the same benefit and said it has been a pleasure meeting so many different people since her campaign launched, even those who don’t see eye-to-eye with her on the issues.

“I welcome rejection, I really do. I welcome an exchange of ideas,” McGuire said.

Michael Danforth, a Republican on the Lake County Board running to keep his seat in District 17, offered a survey for voters to answer at his booth, and said he wants to hear about what they need and are concerned with.

“That’s the problem with politicians, it’s that so often we’re doing the talking,” Danforth said. “Really, we need to be doing the listening.”

Danforth and his opponent, Democrat Alicia Timm, arrived at the event straight off another one where they met with local agricultural business leaders.

Timm said voters “could be more open-minded” at events like Wednesday night’s because they “know the other side will be here” and they can hear from opposing candidates back-to-back.

The event even drew an RSVP from Republican gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey’s campaign, though he was not there himself.

Kathy Salvi, a candidate from Mundelein running against Democrat Tammy Duckworth for U.S. Senate, and Judge Chris Kennedy, who is facing Kane County Judge Susan Clancy Boles to fill Judge Michael Burke’s Appellate Court seat in the 2nd Judicial Circuit, were also present.

Kim Lynch, a Republican running for the Lake County Board against Democrat Sara Knizhnik in District 18, said events like Wednesday are crucial to her campaign, which got a late start after current County Board Republican Catherine Sbarra was booted from the ballot.

“Those things are so important to getting the word out to people in the community, and just talking to people,” Lynch said.

Toward the end of the night, Sen. McConchie made his way over to Democratic booths — including his opponent Maria Peterson — and started up quick, but friendly conversations.

After leaving Peterson’s booth, he stopped over to introduce himself to Knizhnik. The two likely don’t agree on much, but Knizhnik said Wednesday was reminiscent of times gone by in American politics.

“I’m just old enough to remember when my parents would proudly talk about how they vote for the person, not the party,” Knizhnik said, “and that’s what guides me.”

Barrington High School alum leads garden planting project as part of Eagle Scout project

By Karie Angell Luc

Pioneer Press

Jun 28, 2022 at 12:11 pm

Volunteers planted June 10, 2022 in the Phoebe Snetsinger Garden in Hawthorn Woods at Community Park. (Karie Angell Luc / Pioneer Press)

A new perennial pollinator garden has been installed at Community Park in Hawthorn Woods.

The garden was planted June 10. Kyle Wanca, 18, who graduated from Barrington High School this school year, made the garden his Eagle Scout project with Barrington Boy Scout Troop 10.

The garden, with 1,000 new plantings, is called the Phoebe Snetsinger Garden. Phoebe Snetsinger was the daughter of advertising entrepreneur Leo Burnett. She grew up in Hawthorn Woods and attended Lake Zurich High School.  Snetsinger was a birder and is said to have been the first person in the world to see and identify more than 8,000 bird species, according to community organizers involved with helping to bring the garden to the area.

Wanca said the Eagle Scout garden project, which started in planning last January, is about, “remembering people and what they did and what they brought to society.

“It’s important just to remember people who made significant contributions to our communities,” Wanca said.

The garden will feature a metal engraved plaque recognizing ornithologist Snetsinger who died in November 1999.

“We’re delighted that it’s honoring a really wonderful person and that kind of legacy is being sustained,” said Brian Sullivan, Hawthorn Woods director of parks and recreation.

“We love the fact that it’s going to be pollinator-friendly, meaning that we’re going to be able to have monarchs here, a bunch of bees, hummingbirds,” Sullivan said. “It will grow and become a cornerstone for the park.”

In a statement, the Snetsinger family offered their gratitude for the tribute garden.

“We’re so delighted that the legacy of our mother’s love for nature will live on in Hawthorn Woods. This garden will no doubt inspire the future generation of naturalists,” read the statement, which came from Snetsinger’s children, Penny, Tom, Marmot and Susan.

Wanca connected with Pam Self, of Hawthorn Woods, and Shari Gullo, of Lake Zurich, co-founders of the Phoebe Snetsinger Garden project and the Ela Peace Project.

Self is a landscape architect and designer of the Phoebe Snetsinger Garden.

“You always have to identify what’s an appropriate project for an Eagle Scout,” Self said, “and we had this project as part of the (Ela) peace project. … We needed to get that (garden) in first and so, we brought it here.”

Alicia Timm, of Lake Zurich, an avid home gardener, was among volunteers planting native perennials such as liatris (Blazing Star) and two types of milkweed (for monarch butterflies).

“With native plants, the first year they sleep, the second year they creep and the third year they leap,” Timm said. “It will be so fun for them (youth volunteers) to come back in two and three years when the plants really leap.”

William Dowell, 18, of Barrington, left, works with other volunteers to plant June 10, 2022 in the Phoebe Snetsinger Garden in Hawthorn Woods at Community Park. (Karie Angell Luc / Pioneer Press)

Volunteers did planting June 10, 2022 in the Phoebe Snetsinger Garden at Community Park in Hawthorn Woods as part of a Eagle Scout project led by Kyle Wanca, 18, a 2022 graduate of Barrington High School. The garden pays tribute to the late Snetsinger, who was a birder, Hawthorn Woods resident and Lake Zurich High School alum. (Karie Angell Luc / Pioneer Press)

Kyle Wanca raised more than $2,000 for the garden. Midwest Groundcovers of St. Charles assisted, donating plants.

“We cannot say enough about the Hawthorn Woods Public Works Department and Parks and Rec because they’re helping Kyle maintain it while it gets established this first summer,” Self said.

Gullo said she learned about Phoebe Snetsinger while doing research on the peace project.

“When I asked residents about her, no one had ever heard of her,” she said. “I thought the community should in some way commemorate her.”

The garden has the potential to grow if other interested groups have suitable expansion ideas, Sullivan said.

“We’re delighted to welcome any volunteer projects that people bring forward,” Sullivan said. “If people come forward and we say, ‘Let’s find an area for it,’ we don’t like to say no, we want to say, ‘That’s a really great idea,’ so let’s do it.”

Brian and Janet Wanca expressed being proud of their son’s project.

Janet Wanca called the garden “a beautiful idea.”

“It’s important to do something and give back to the community,” said Brian Wanca.

Kyle Wanca’s friend William Dowell, 18, of Barrington, also a 2022 BHS graduate, was among volunteers helping to plant in the garden.

“It’s great just to make a lasting impact,” Dowell said. “So when you come back in 30 or 20 years, you take a look at it, show your kids, and realize what you did.”

Karie Angell Luc is a freelancer.