Mary Jo Mullen: 2021 candidate for Lisle Village Board
Seven candidates are competing for three, 4-year seats on the Lisle Village Board in the April 6 election. They are incumbent Marie Hasse; and challengers Robert Taylor; Lisle First slate members William Trussell and Dan Grecco; and Be Lisle (Lisle Forward) slate members Thomas Duffy, David Richter and Mary Jo Mullen, Lisle Township supervisor whose term is expiring.
Civic involvement: I currently serve as the Lisle Township Supervisor. I am a member of the West Suburban Community Pantry Advisory Council. Additionally, I volunteer for STEM events from mentoring young girls to judging the SCARCE Sustainability Design contest.
Party slate: Be Lisle
Q: How do you view your role in confronting the pandemic: provide leadership even if unpopular, give a voice to constituents -- even ones with whom you disagree, or defer to state and federal authorities?
A: The health and well-being of our community should be the number one focus during the pandemic. This must include:
• Ensuring we are taking all possible steps to prevent the spread of COVID,
• Looking out for our at-risk residents to ensure they have the means to protect themselves and get proper treatment,
• Providing services through partnerships to support the mental health of those isolated or otherwise struggling during these times, and
• Supporting our business community to ensure they have the means and methods to continue to operate in a safe manner.
This is not a partisan nor political issue -- all of us that serve within the village must represent this as a public health crisis and do all within our power to help our community, even when it may be unpopular.
Q: Did your town continue to adequately serve its constituents during the disruptions caused by the pandemic? If so, please cite an example of how it successfully adjusted to providing services. If not, please cite a specific example of what could have been done better.
A: I do not believe that the town adequately addressed the pandemic and served its constituents. Simple action such as virtual participation in public meetings and wearing masks during those meetings has been a constant fight. At the Township, we have conducted every meeting since April with at least a virtual option. Some meetings are fully virtual, and when it was deemed safe we conducted hybrid meetings. We have always made it possible for the public and those that serve who are high-risk or live with someone that is high-risk to participate in our meetings during the pandemic.
The lack of leadership on simple protective actions translated into disaster for Village staff. Many Village staff was required to return to work without accommodation for their personal or loved ones health issues. Masks are not taken seriously, and as a result several staff contracted COVID from a colleague, and then spread it to family. True leaders would put staff's health and safety first, thereby protecting residents that interact with the Village. Requiring masks and safe behavior in Village Hall, accommodating staff's needs, and pivoting services to enable virtual interaction to the maximum extent practicable could have prevented this outbreak.
Q: In light of our experiences with COVID-19, what safeguards/guidelines should you put in place to address any future public health crises?
A: The Village should have a Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) in place that takes into account a variety of threats and risks, including health pandemics, natural disasters, or man-made disasters. This plan should address what steps the Village will take in light of one of these threats occurring, as well as identify the work that can take place pre-disaster to be ready for when it happens. This is a standard plan for municipalities, companies and most levels of government.
If this plan currently is in place, it should be updated routinely and especially right now to incorporate lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. Updates or full rewrites should also involve a working group of residents and business owners to make sure it is comprehensive. In my time working at FEMA, we updated and exercised our COOP plan annually, as threats and risks evolved. This ensures Lisle is ready to act, stays open, and can continue to support its residents and businesses through any event.
Q: What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A: Services have already been cut without understanding the impact on residents, such as the taxi coupon service for seniors. Greater cuts right now while revenues are unpredictable may further negatively impact services. Instead, we need to:
• Operate more efficiently,
• Grow partnerships with other governmental bodies and nonprofits,
• Develop private-public partnerships, and
• Grow our economy.
Economic development is the heart of our platform. There must be a focus on bringing in development that not only fills empty space but also makes Lisle more attractive to more businesses and grows our overall value. This will help offset the residential tax burden.
Additionally, partnerships will allow us to do more with the same or less resources. I have actively worked with the Lisle intergovernmental group in my term as Lisle Township Supervisor. The Village has been an inactive member in the quarterly meetings. During the pandemic, we have typically met weekly to share best practices and partner to bring our community together and support our residents. This led to events like Senior food distributions at the Township, a drive-in movie night for residents, and shared promotion and advertising of events. These partnerships grow and benefit our whole community.
Q: What do you see as the most important infrastructure project you must address? Why and how should it be paid for? Conversely, during these uncertain economic times, what infrastructure project can be put on the back burner?
A: As a long time advocate and expert in flood prevention and mitigation, I would address the actions proposed in the St. Joseph Watershed Plan. Lisle has a long history of flooding, and the earliest actions to incorporate as a municipality were motivated by responding to repeated flooding. The Watershed Plan has 3 recommendations that would improve how residents are protected from flooding, and we should prioritize enacting those recommendations in partnership with the County, State and other available funding.
Flooding destroys property and people's lives. A loss during a flood can take months and years to recover from. Protecting residents and businesses from these devastating losses is not only my priority, but it is my passion.
Q: Do you agree or disagree with the stance your board/council has taken on permitting recreational marijuana sales in the community? What would you change about that stance, if you could?
A: I disagree with the stance on allowing recreational cannabis to be sold in Lisle. I believe that we should offer safe and reasonable zoning options that allow for dispensaries to open in Lisle. There could be significant revenue for the Village from a dispensary, offsetting residential tax burden. Neighboring communities, such as Naperville, have allowed for dispensaries without incident and negative impact. The dispensary industry in Illinois has financially performed well and this is a missed opportunity to explore new revenue sources.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A: I would introduce measures to make Lisle a more resilient, and more sustainable community. Resilience and sustainability ensure that we will bounce back stronger after an event -- like a disaster or pandemic -- and that we operate in a way that lessens the chance that we overuse our resources -- whether those be financial, environmental, or people. I chose Lisle when my husband and I moved back to Illinois after working in FEMA Headquarters -- because I loved the small community and school systems offered. Lisle is a perfect fit for our family. I want Lisle to last beyond me, and someday have my kids raising their kids here, and my grandkids raising their kids in Lisle.
My first focus is resilience, and I propose to develop crisis mapping to visually show our preparedness for disaster and the resources available. We will identify gaps and then work to fill them so we are ready for disaster. We will also identify partnership opportunities for preparedness and disaster response, then foster those before the crisis hits. Studies show that the heart of resilience is connectedness and capacity. I will use my own skills and background to assist in creating this.