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November 8, 2016 — Illinois General Election
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Lake County BoardCandidate for Member, District 18

Photo of Gerri Songer

Gerri Songer

Education Chair of District 214 Education Association, Educator
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My Top 3 Priorities

  • Represent a community voice in local government decision-making while promoting economic development that reflects the vision and goals of our residents
  • Promote transportation options that consider both costs and benefits, relieve unfair tax burdens, and allow Lake County to be competitive in a 21st Century economy
  • Ensure accountability for public safety by demanding timely, accurate, accessible information and lobbying on behalf of our communities on issues pertaining to the transport of crude oil by rail



Profession:Education Chair of District 214 Education Association, Educator
Educator, Township High School District 214 (1991–current)
Education Chair, District 214 Education Association — Appointed position (2014–current)


Concordia University M.A., Curriculum and Instruction (2008)
National-Louis University C.A.S., Educational Leadership - Administrative (2002)
National-Louis University M.A., Special Education: LBS I (1992)
Lake Forest College B.A., English - Concentration on writing and additional courses in secondary education (1989)

Community Activities

Volunteer, Livable Lake County (2015–current)
Member, Speaker, Sierra Club (2015–current)
Co-Curricular Sponsor, Elk Grove High School - Students 4 Democracy (2014–current)
Youth Ministry Volunteer, The Chapel – Mundelein and Grayslake (2013–2015)
Instructor - Evenings, St. Mary’s Church of Buffalo Grove (1994–1998)


Growing up, my parents and grandparents instilled in me the importance of family, friends, and community. It’s easy to get caught up in our daily routines and to become distracted from those things in life that are most important. My family taught me a value that seems to be rapidly fading – we baby boomers believe it is our responsibility to “leave it better than we found it.” We considered it a duty to leave something good behind for later generations to enjoy.

My desire to be a good steward and commitment to service led me to pursue a career in education. As a long time employee of Township High School District 214, I’ve helped support generations of students in their academic careers. I'm a life-long learner and have earned four degrees, including Educational Leadership and Administration, Curriculum and Instruction, Special Education, and English/Language arts. I hold three certifications in Administration, Secondary Education, and Special Education. 

As Education Chair for the District 214 Education Association, my articles on the topic of standardized assessment were highlighted by Diane Ravitch, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education serving both George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations.

Service extends into the community, too. After discovering hazardous rail cars filled with highly explosive crude oil ran feet from homes, playgrounds, and schools, I demanded answers. Moved to action out of concern for public safety, I made a commitment to pursue a role in civic participation. Citizen Advocacy Center recognized my efforts with a Citizen’s Initiative Award for speaking out publicly and sponsoring a co-curricular activity, Students 4 Democracy, where high school students learn how to become participants in their democracy.  Since, I've travelled the state as a speaker on behalf of Sierra Club, and contact for energy transport and infrastructure, in an effort to raise public awareness regarding the hazards associated with crude-by-rail transport.

I also worked as a volunteer on a local campaign against the environmentally damaging and ridiculously expensive 25-mile extension of Route 53 through the middle of Lake County.  This project is a bad plan that won't work, and it will destroy sensitive wetlands in Hawthorn Woods and divide our communities.  It's prohibitively expensive with a 4 cent-per-gallon gas tax increase; a tripling of tolls on existing I-94 to 20-30 cents per mile; an indefinite skim of all new, non-residetial property taxes from municipalities located within 1 mile of the corridor and 2 miles of an interchange (no cap, no end date); along with other devices that still do not cover its cost.  

Other areas of civic participation include youth ministry at St. Mary’s Church of Buffalo Grove and The Chapel in both Mundelein and Grayslake.

I’m an educator, administrator, volunteer, mom and proud grandmother of my 2-year old grandson. I’m not a career politician. I’m a long-time resident of Hawthorn Woods – my family has lived in Lake County for more than 28 years and plan to stay for years to come.

Who supports this candidate?

Featured Endorsements

  • State Senator Terry Link
  • Northwest Suburban Teacher's Union Local 1211
  • Sierra Club - 2016 Primary Election

Organizations (1)

  • Turnout Project

Individuals (1)

  • Mark Green, Former Chicago Bears Running Back

Political Beliefs

Political Philosophy

Our community needs a new representative willing to fight for our interests. We need an advocate.

Leadership is a position of service – elected officials are responsible for looking after the needs of their constituents, not catering to outsiders who stand to profit at our expense. My opponent spent the last four years championing the damaging and expensive extension of Route 53 right through the middle of communities in Hawthorn Woods and Long Grove. Our voices were not heard; neither community had a seat at the planning table. Both towns have passed resolutions opposing the road, and Mundelein has opposed letting the planning studies go forward.

Soon after the primary election, my opponent realized he could lose his seat on the County Board and flipped his support of the project. He now erroneously claims to have "led efforts to protect our environment and preserve open space." We didn't start out on the same side of this issue, and many are left stunned and question the legitimacy of his new position. 

My position hasn't changed.  I didn't support the project before election, and I will continue to not support it after.  I’m strongly in favor of improvements to our network of existing roads and expansion of transit opportunities.

During the past year, the Federal government passed higher standards for the construction of oil tanker cars and is currently reviewing the rules governing the availability of emergency supplies in case of an oil spill or explosion. The Lake County Board took no action – no resolution, no lobbying.  My opponent said the issue of transporting crude-by-rail through our neighborhoods wasn’t his responsibility.

I’m committed to fighting for accountability in providing timely, accurate, and accessible information to residents. I will lobby for higher rail safety standards, fight to ensure appropriate emergency protocols are in place, and continue to raise public awareness regarding the hazards associated with crude-by-rail transport.

We need collaboration between municipalities to promote a balanced emphasis between corporations and the promotion of small business, entrepreneurship, apprenticeships, and specialty trades.

While I do support consolidation of some governmental units, we need a consistent and transparent evaluation process, a long-term cost analysis, and public input prior to making these decisions. The County needs to ensure it doesn’t compromise its ability to provide quality services for residents and unduly burden those working to provide those services.

I advocate for preserving farmland and promoting organic farming. Farmland is irreplaceable, and we should be proactive in sustaining it. Lake County Forest Preserve District provides opportunities for public and privately owned agricultural lands to be preserved.

We must also lay the foundation now for implementing a systematic phase out of fossil fuel in lieu of clean, sustainable alternative energy sources.  This won't happen overnight, but our dependence on petroleum product has place the public in harm's way.  We are human beings, and our lives have value.  It's time for us to solve this problem.

I’ll propose affordable, sustainable solutions that represent the residents’ voice, so we can leave behind a safe community with a quality of life our children and grandchildren can enjoy.

Position Papers

The Route 53/120 Extension


The Route 53/120 project is a bad plan that won’t work  and comes with an unaffordable price tag.


The excessive $2.65 billion costs of the proposed Lake Route 53/120 extension project requires:

  • A 20¢ per mile toll on not only the Route 53 extension, but also on the Route 120 bypass and I-94 (triple the current 6¢ per mile) along with an additional rush hour toll increase of 5¢ per mile.
  • Twenty-five percent of new, non-residential property taxes siphoned from municipalities located within 1 mile of the corridor and 2 miles of an interchange indefinitely - no cap, no end date.
  • Tolls that increase automatically with inflation.
  • A gas tax hike of 4¢ per gallon levied in Lake County.
  • Taxpayer-owned property in the amount of $650 to $700 million given away to the Tollway Authority by our cash-strapped State of Illinois.
  • Another $1.5 billion the Tollway Authority will collect to cover the unfunded balance of this project. 
Other costs to residents of our communities are:
  • Those associated with increased flooding of the Des Plaines River.
  • An inequitable loss in property value along the corridor as compared to surrounding communities resulting from associated noise, pollution, crime, and stigma.
  • Increased damage to roads caused by a projected 80% increase in truck freight  between the years 2004 and 2030, swelling the road maintenance backlog.
  • Loss of time resulting from more traffic and congestion in our communities.
  • New commercial centers and retail development clusters along the corridor drawing patronage away from current businesses (area targeted for majority of development is Rt. 53 and Rt. 120 junction).
  • Decimation of Lake County’s wetland-rich center resulting from the extension being developed into noisy truck depots and malls with degraded air  and water quality.

And, please don’t overlook the sky-high cost to follow for new schools, sewage, water, and other public and commercial services – none of which are currently planned for.

As a candidate for Lake County Board, one of the issues I'm fighting for is smart solutions for our traffic problems. My message hasn’t changed - I’ve maintained the Route 53/120 project is unaffordable, unlike my opponent who flipped his position a few months prior to election after recently standing before the Tollway Board in support of a $50 million Environmental Impact Study.

Please visit my website for more information and sources: 

Crude-By-Rail Transport


Oil trains are rolling through two rail corridors in District 18, one in Hawthorn Woods and the other in Vernon Hills. Public health and safety are jeopardized. 


An explosion resulting from the transport of Bakken crude oil can decimate everything within a 1-mile (radius) blast zone and requires up to a 3-mile (radius) evacuation zone depending on the size of the spill.

Below are some of the hazards and issues related to the transport of crude oil by rail:

  • Trains carrying crude oil from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota to east coast refineries contain hydrogen sulfide, a colorless, flammable, and extremely hazardous gas used in production. Hydrogen sulfide ignites at lower temperatures. It’s explosive when mixed with air and can cause severe corrosion to oil transport equipment. Trains have exploded in America since the early 1940s; the earliest NTSB filing was 1991.
  • Exposure to more than 50 parts of hydrogen sulfide per million milligrams of liquid triggers shock, convulsions, and coma; pushed beyond 700 ppm, and death is likely within two breaths. Bakken crude was found to contain 1,200 parts per million of the gas. Exposure to hydrogen sulfide, no matter how seemingly insignificant, can lead to internal organ failure, infertility, immune system suppression, blood disorders, cancer, birth defects, and genetic mutations.
  • Even without derailing, spilling or exploding, doctors have warned that proximity to oil trains poses a serious risk to the health with increasing rates in cancer, asthma and cardiovascular disease through exposure to particulate matter released as emissions from trains.
  • The older DOT111 "Ford Pinto" of rail cars makes up approximately 70% of the fleet and is considered a "substantial danger to life, property, and the environment" according to federal rail safety officials. Train cars are inadequate for flammable materials and unable to withstand forces of an accident, even at slow speeds. The updated CPC-1232s have not proved safe; they've failed at least four times. The Department of Transportation predicts 10 fiery accidents a year.
  • Local responders are ill prepared to handle increased oil-train traffic and accidents. There’s little they can do other than isolate the area, remove people from the area, and allow the incident to burn down to a level where they can extinguish it, which can take days. Local fire departments and fire protection districts across the rail transportation corridor have inadequate funding necessary to plan, train, and equip their communities for a crude oil incident.
  • We’ve had four freight derailments near our communities: a January 2014 incident in Mundelein, a January 2009 incident in Buffalo Grove, and two at the same Northbrook location on November 2009 and July 2012. The second Northbrook derailment crushed a married couple in their car beneath debris of a collapsed bridge; authorities didn’t find them until the day following the incident.
  • There is no legal limit to the length of freight trains, and most oil trains carry more than 3 million gallons of explosive crude on turn of the century railroads not built to accommodate their current weight and frequency.

As a candidate for Lake County Board, one of the issues I'm fighting for is accountability in providing accessible, accurate, and timely information. Trains passing through our communities travel yards from schools, parks, playgrounds, and other public locations, leaving over 25 million men, women, and CHILDREN in the United States at risk. Our current county board representative has done nothing to publically address this issue.

Please visit my website for more information and sources: 

Economic Development


We need collaboration between municipalities to promote a balanced emphasis between corporations and the promotion of small business, entrepreneurship, and the trades.

In fear of corporations throughout Illinois relocating and taking their jobs, sales tax revenue, and income tax with them, corporate tax incentives have been awarded to create jobs and to lure businesses from other states. Incentives offered to corporations in Lake County include:

  • Property tax breaks
  • Financing for relocation costs
  • Financing to train new hires
  • Waived state income tax liability
  • Local sales tax reimbursement with no financial obligations if the corporation doesn’t generate sales revenue
  • Waived sales tax revenue for sales made to other corporations
  • Property tax abatements from school districts and township governments
Small businesses, entrepreneurships, and specialty trades offer Lake County the following benefits:
  • Less than half, 42%, of Lake County’s educated workforce has a bachelor’s degree or higher, which leaves a majority of the workforce that can be leveraged.
  • There is currently an employment deficit in the trades (electricians, machinists, welders, plumbers,cosmetologists, construction, auto mechanics, heating and air, etc.)
  • In 2012, 53% of skilled trade workers were 45 years and older.
  • 62% of firms are struggling to fill important skilled trade positions.
  • If this deficit is not addressed, 32% of manufacturers that make over $1B estimate they will lose over $100M as a result of the loss of baby boomers over the next 5 years.
  • Nationally, a predicted 31million positions will be left vacant by 2020 due to baby boomer retirement estimations.
  • The 28 million small businesses in America account for 54% of all U.S. sales.
  • Small businesses provide 55% of all jobs nationally and 66% of all net new jobs since the 1970s.
  • The 600,000 plus franchised small businesses in the U.S. account for 40% of all retail sales and provide jobs for approximately 8 million people.
  • The small business sector in America occupies 30-50% of all commercial space, an estimated 20-34 billion square feet.
  • It’s predicted the network marketing industry is “poised for explosive growth.”
  • Multi-level marketing (MLM) companies and direct selling programs offer low barriers into entrepreneurshipoften providing training, support, and ample encouragement along the way.
  • Many small businesses and marketing networks can be ran from a home office, which preserves valuable Lake County real estate and our open spaces.
  • The small business sector is growing rapidly. While corporate America has been "downsizing", the rate of small business "start-ups" has grown, and the rate for small business failures has declined.
  • The number of small businesses in the United States has increased 49% since 1982.
  • Since 1990, as big business eliminated 4M jobs, small businesses added 8M new jobs

As a candidate for Lake County Board, one of the issues I advocate for is encouraging economic development by promoting and supporting small businesses, entrepreneurships, and specialty trades.

Please visit my website for more information and sources: 

Videos (1)

— October 29, 2016 Friends of Gerri Songer

Cancel the Route 53 Extension
In a county where residents pay the second highest property taxes in the country, we can’t be burdened with long-term projects such as the Route 53/120 extension. This project would divide our communities and disrupt our quality of life, which is why I'm fighting to protect our wetlands, open spaces, and agricultural areas.

Rather than recklessly burdening us with a 50-year old boondoggle we simply can't afford, I support solutions that consider costs and benefits, offer relief from unfair tax burdens, and allow Lake County to be competitive in a 21st Century economy.

Increase Safety
After discovering rail cars filled with highly explosive crude oil ran feet from homes, playgrounds, and schools in both Hawthorn Woods and Vernon Hills, I demanded answers.  We’ve had four nearby derailments – Mundelein, Buffalo Grove, and two more at the same Northbrook location where a bridge collapsed, crushing a married couple in their car beneath.

We need a representative willing to take responsibility for public health and safety.  I’ll fight for accountability in providing timely, accurate, and accessible information to residents.  I'll lobby for higher safety standards and continue raising public awareness regarding the hazards associated with crude-by-rail transport.

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