I am Jorge Fernandez and I am running for Allen County Commissioner this year. All three Allen County Commissioners are elected by the entire county, and each is elected in a separate race on the ballot. Two of those are on the ballot this year (the other seat up this year is unopposed). Early voting has already begun.
What do the county commissioners do you might ask? The Allen County Commissioners positions are dictated by state law. They are considered the executive and legislative body of the county but not the fiscal body. That essentially means outside of appropriating county tax revenue, which falls to county council, pretty much every local function left is given to commissioners which results in a hodgepodge of responsibilities. These are some of the major ones:
(1) Given that the county commissioners are only part of county government that can contract, departments like the Sheriff’s department often come to them for contracts.
(2) The county commissioners also are in charge of the physical jail building whereas the Sheriff manages what happens inside of those walls.
(3) Construction and maintenance of roads and bridges in unincorporated areas of the county.
What are some things you bring to the role you might ask? If I don’t know the answer to an important question, I tend to seek it out. Also, I’ve seen how the criminal justice system interacts with schools; having worked several years in public school districts in several capacities, including as a teacher, which gives me a valuable perspective that I can bring to the role of a county commissioner.
Priorities of mine include improving transparency in county operations; reducing TIF (Tax Increment Financing) use so that important government services like fire districts and schools get funding they would otherwise not have received; creating a responsible bidder ordinance to improve contracting; reducing the imprint of the detrimental aspects of the criminal justice system on the county; and environmentally conscious planning, which among many other benefits should help alleviate drainage issues in the county. Speaking to environmentally conscious planning, I would encourage zoning that focused on urban infill rather than paving over arable land. At the same time, I do want to facilitate use of existing infrastructure, like the Airport, and to make sure there is enough affordable housing. I would try to acquire and use grants available that encourage renewable energy use in the county and lowering the county government’s carbon footprint.
Regarding the criminal justice system, we must work to reduce the nonviolent offenders in Allen County’s jail system. For one, I would be looking to people for board appointments that hold the view that substance abuse should be treated as a mental health issue rather than a criminal issue. I want an outside group to come in and do a thorough analysis of the criminal justice system in Allen County. The release of a snapshot of the jail population a couple of weeks ago was welcome, but there is still a lack of publicly available information and analysis on many aspects of incarceration in Allen County. We need a broader look at that system if Allen County is going to best approach the issue going forward. Also, I think there are major problems with the explanations behind the proposed siting for the proposed Allen County Jail that reinforce equity concerns, and I think that this current kind of suspect decision-making process poses a major impediment to the future of Allen County.
Publisher’s Note: In the interest of public education of local politics and to encourage voting, The Waynedale News offered all of the candidates in the upcoming general election the opportunity to share their biography and goals for the office that they are running for. This came with the stipulations that they were not allowed to degrade other candidates or current policy, and they were required a minimum advertising budget for The Waynedale News area. Staying true to our non-bias news and positive outlook, we do not endorse or recommend any of the candidates on this page further than any other candidates running for office. But, these are the candidates wanting to be seen by you. Our recommendation is to use these pages as a reference when researching candidates for the upcoming primary election, make educated decisions on who you would like to see in office and most importantly VOTE on November 8 at your predestinated voting location. More information: www.allencountyinvoters.gov