Gail Cabala-Lowry: Candidate profile, DuPage County District 3
In the Nov. 3 general election, Democrat Gail Cabala-Lowry of Downers Grove is challenging Republican incumbent Brian Krajewski of Downers Grove to win the seat representing District 3 on the DuPage County Board.
Gail Cabala-Lowry is a licensed architect and a former owner of an ecologically-focused firm. She was a Brookfield Village Board trustee in 2001-03.
To explore her campaign website, check gail-cabala-lowry.org.
District 3 includes all or portions of Burr Ridge, Clarendon Hills, Darien, Downers Grove, Hinsdale, Lemont, Naperville, Westmont, Willowbrook and Woodridge.
The Daily Herald asked the candidates to answer a series of questions. Here are Cabala-Lowry's replies.
Q: What have we learned as a county from the COVID-19 pandemic and what changes should be made looking forward as a result?
A: The health and economic crisis brought on by COVID-19 has affected everyone, but low-income and ethnic minority families have been impacted especially hard. Loss of employment for low-income families can mean the difference between having food on the table or not.
In addition to this, their school-age children are at a greater disadvantage, as many families don't have internet or computers for them to participate fully in online education. Most alarming is that racial minorities are getting sick and dying at higher rates than the rest of the population, with no genetic disposition to account for the disparity. The time to find solutions is now.
Alongside having open community discussions of how to solve the problems of economic inequities, the county has an opportunity to make an investment in its economy and its citizen workforce with green infrastructure initiatives and job training alongside hiring practices that are inclusive and ethnically diverse.
Q: Why are you running for this office, whether for reelection or election for the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you? If so, what?
A: We face many global challenges that affect us on a local level and have been caused by poor land use decisions. Problems such as the climate crisis, stormwater management and species decline. We've been paving over our life-sustaining green spaces, fragmenting the habitats of our plants and wildlife, causing flooding and global warming.
These problems may all sound too big to be remedied by any decisions made at a county board level, but the fact of the matter is that land use decisions are not made in one fell swoop on a national level.
Instead, they are frequently made at a local level and sometimes one piece of property at a time. I have decades of experience in environmental design and planning and am passionate about the built environment and land use issues. This is what motivated me to run for county office, and I want to apply my experience and expertise to help DuPage make good land use decisions, increase green space, and become more sustainable.
The county can lead the way by collaborating with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, the DuPage County Forest Preserve districts and the many municipalities within its 336 square miles of land.
Q: If you are an incumbent, describe your main contributions. Tell us of any important initiatives you've led. If you are a challenger, what would you bring to the board and what would your priority be?
A: I am a challenger in this race, and my priority is to work as an advocate for a Sustainable DuPage, particularly as it relates to the built environment and land use. Our ecosystem depends on plant life, and yet many local communities and the county continue to make decisions that increase paved area and decrease green space. I will work to reverse those trends.
In addition to this, my experience as an architect has prepared me well for much county business. In my day-to-day work, I prepare construction documents, estimates and contracts and am involved with bidding and construction administration.
I will apply this knowledge to the county when hiring contractors and reviewing construction costs for county projects. I also work regularly with zoning and building codes and understand the implications they have on the built environment.
I can contribute to the discussion about potential land planning and zoning changes that can lead to a more sustainable county. With no other architects currently on the county board, I believe my experience brings value to the decision-making process.
Q: Describe your position regarding the allocation of resources in the recorder of deeds' office. Are personnel allocated as they should be? Are there capital expense or other budgetary items that the office must address, and, if so, how do you propose to address them?
A: At one time, it was thought that there would be a question on the ballot asking voters if they support merging the recorder of deeds' office with the county clerk's office, but this question was recently dropped. A study by MGT Consulting Group indicated that the office was run efficiently, so I do not have any suggested changes to make within the department.
The study also indicated, however, that merging the department with the county clerk's office would save some capital costs and could create more efficient services, particularly because many transactions occur online.
I do hope the question is explored again in the future, giving the voters the chance to have a say.
Q: Name one concrete program you'll create or personnel move you'll make to improve efficiency in the office or make it more successful. Explain how it will be funded and how you will overcome any obstacles to initiating it.
A: The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning GoTo 2040 is a comprehensive regional plan (that includes DuPage County) aimed at achieving sustainable communities. Green infrastructure is an integral part of this plan and an initiative I will promote.
Relating to watershed, green infrastructure strategies (which manages stormwater where it falls) include using permeable pavement, installing bioretention and bioswales, thus reducing the amount of water entering the sewer system. Grants are available for these types of projects to help offset costs to the county.
Life cycle cost studies would be in order, and we can't answer the question of costs without asking, "how much money is spent in flooding damage to homes and property, and what is the cost for repairs and expansion of our overwhelmed sewer system?"
We can learn from Milwaukee, which has implemented a widespread green infrastructure plan with the goal of eliminating basement backups and sewer overflows by the year 2035.
Starting with a pilot project can help raise public awareness and garner support. And, of course, an investment in infrastructure would bring jobs to the county and lead the way to the new green economy.
Q: Describe your position on transparency in the office and the ease of access to records by the public. If you believe improvements are needed, what are they and how would you go about achieving them?
A: Government must be transparent and operate in full daylight. I believe records and reports should be easy to access.
I would like to see improvements in the budget process so that it is more transparent. Allocation of county tax dollars is one of the most important roles the county board has but in past years, much of this discussion has not taken place in the public eye.
I believe the process should include public workshops that allow county board members and their constituents to hear department heads make the case for fully funding their budgets. Ample time should be given for each department to be questioned by board members about costs, so that there can be real understanding behind the numbers.
This is the only way board members can make intelligent decisions about where to cut costs or approve budget increases. Public workshops will also allow citizens to weigh in on how their dollars are spent.