Laurel Moad: 2021 candidate for St. Charles City Council, Ward 4
City: St. Charles
Occupation: Vice President Consulting and Sales
Employer: Independent contractor for MOHR Retail
Civic involvement: I regularly attend city council meetings to stay informed. I am an officer on the board of the River Corridor Foundation of St. Charles as well as the Fundraising Chair. I am the President of the Brownstone Homeowners Association, and a member of the St. Charles Chamber of Commerce.
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. My role as an Alderman is to make informed decisions by listening to the concerns of my constituents as well as local businesses, to identify themes and common interests, as well as to take into consideration the data provided by state and county authorities. Professionally, I have a history of finding creative solutions that address strategic issues. Solutions are rarely one size fits all. I believe in providing informed collaborative alternatives while keeping public safety a priority.
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. STC City government provided excellent communication on the City website to keep citizens informed. Utilizing Zoom to conduct meeting was both effective and drew a greater constituent attendance than many in-person meetings. St. Charles took a proactive approach in late Spring 2020. By closing First Street at Route 64 and allowing restaurants to utilize public space, businesses were enabled, and a vibrancy could be felt in the downtown in the midst of the pandemic. There has been a collaborative effort between the City, Park District and other groups to coordinate efforts for residents. In October Scarecrow Festival and in November the Holiday tree lighting events were re-imagined to better engage the community. The St. Charles Park District retooled multiple programs throughout the year to safely draw out the community for a variety of events, and coordinated with the River Corridor Foundation to participate in a community Fox River cleanup and Project Daffodil in Mount St. Mary Park. I frequently work with the staff and commissioners at there Park District to maximize resident benefits.
Q. In light of our experiences with COVID-19, what safeguards/guidelines should you put in place to address any future public health crisis?
A. A full hindsight analysis should be completed by all departments of city government to identify the COVID practices to "start, stop or continue." From that a formalized protocol should be recorded for future reference. In addition, an assessment of City resources that might be utilized in future situations, such as a City hotline to answer situational questions and the coordination of a Volunteer network that identifies resident needs and individuals who are willing and able to provide their services.
Q. What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A. 1) Capitol purchases and projects should be reviewed to determine whether the expenditure can be deferred to later in the fiscal year or the following 1-2 years. Or, if expenditures will improve the tax revenue from visitors/purchases to defer the residential burden, the expenditure should be escalated. 2) All departments should review and renegotiate contracts for services and supplies. 3) Each department should review routine and discretionary spending to determine absolute need and ROI (return on investment) for each expense.
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. The development of the former Police Station and surrounding property in conjunction with the development of the Active River Project represent an opportunity for economic stimulus in St. Charles. The City along with the River Corridor Foundation identified a basic concept plan to modify the dam and create recreational access to the river north of Main Street. The studies to date were jointly funded by the City, Park District, County (Riverboat grant), and River Corridor Foundation. Much of the funding for the Active River Project can be funded without relying on taxpayer funds through leveraging local partnerships, federal programs, private donors, corporate foundations, etc. In order for this project to be eligible for any future State or Federal infrastructure funding, it will need to be fully defined and shovel ready. If we wait until funds are available to move from concept to a fully defined and qualified design, it will be too late. Building out the Police station and surrounding properties as well as developing the river will attract more economic growth and investment opportunities in St. Charles. With fewer families commuting to work, St. Charles is in a unique position to attract and cater to families seeking a place to live with local access to recreation and entertainment.
Conversely, the relocation of the pumping station at Langham Park and Devereux could be postponed for 2-3 years and be funded with EPA and other grants at the appropriate time.
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. Recreational marijuana sales provide St. Charles with additional tax revenue. Rather than those sales benefiting a neighboring community, I am in agreement with the decision.
Q. What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A. The re-imagining of the Charlestowne Mall (aka The Quad St. Charles) is an opportunity to repurpose a highly visible gateway property on the East Side. The vacant mall and surrounding land is owned by the Krausz Companies LLC, a developer in California. The mall has been vacant for several years, and in recent years, the company has been nonresponsive to communication from the City of St. Charles. Across the country a number of vacant mall properties have been successfully repurposed in a variety of ways. St. Charles has the opportunity to proactively conceive of ways the mall property might be utilized either intact or deconstructed. With optional visions for the property in place, we may be in a stronger position to negotiate with Krausz to take action and move forward with development or to sell the property to a developer who is interested in investing in the growth of St. Charles.