Dawn Abernathy: 2021 candidate for Mundelein mayor
4 candidates for 1 seat
Civic involvement: Current Mundelein village trustee; Mundelein Vernon Hills Rotary Club president; Mundelein Community Connection; District 75 Steering Committee; Stand Up Task Force; Mundelein United Advisory and Leadership; Carmel High School Street Scenes; Rotary District 6440 Environmental Committee; OMNI Youth Services ambassador; Shedd Aquarium -- Aquarium council.
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: During a pandemic, we need leadership. It is the role of the Mayor to be the public spokesperson for the Village of Mundelein. The first role of government is to protect our residents, no matter what. We need to make sure we are providing a safe environment for the residents and businesses in Mundelein. We need to listen to the medical experts that are on the front lines. This might be an unpopular position, but it is for the benefit of everyone, that is always the focus.
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: Mundelein shifted well to serve constituents and most businesses during the pandemic. We adjusted for our businesses and provided funding to our restaurants for items needed to continue operating. We provided picnic tables to all restaurants that asked for outdoor seating, so they did not have the additional expense. We provided funds for outdoor tents and heaters. We followed state guidelines and adjusted ordinances to allow takeout alcoholic beverages for our citizens and restaurants. One area that was lacking was our providing PPE for our residents in a timely fashion. I made over 400 masks for residents and had an inexpensive outlet for providing masks to our residents while supporting our businesses, yet the mayor did not want to do it. So, it did not happen. Another area was education for our businesses. The Economic Development Commission called to let businesses know about PPE funding, but there should have been Zoom seminars for our businesses with community bankers from the area to guide them through the process. We should have provided leadership and direction on where and how to apply for the loans, what is covered, and what is needed to get the loans.
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: We need to update the emergency plan with the Fire Department and Police Department. The last time this was updated was when Tim Sashko was fire chief. An updated plan, with the pandemic in mind, would set in motion many protocols for safety. There are difficulties that we know now that we could avoid in the future. I would also make sure that we have enough PPE for our Public Safety and Public Works employees.
Q: What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A: The Department Heads in Mundelein have done a great job keeping the budget tight. There is not a lot of fluff. Where we have gotten into trouble is reaching into the reserves for extra spending. We ended 2020 with only 35% of reserves. The level in reserves has been decreasing since 2013. This is the first year we have seen a report and been explained the status on the reserves. Anytime I asked about where the money was coming from, it was said "we had the money" or that "we will bond that out." The Village of Mundelein must start to live within their means. There are many fixed costs that we cannot control. Payroll, pensions, and infrastructure repairs must be funded. The hard decisions are on vehicle purchases, overtime and capital projects. The Village of Mundelein also owns a lot of land. We need to start selling this land, not just give it away to developers for $1. Mundelein is a desirable location for developers. We need to make sure the developers are paying their fair share to build in Mundelein and pay their impact fees.
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: Right now, we have already funded our most important infrastructure project. We will complete the Western Slope flood project this summer. We need to have a road replacement plan. One that is publicized to the public so they know when their roads will be replaced/rebuilt. This is being paid for by the road and bridge tax and Corporate fund. I would like to see some funds dedicated to road repairs from the sales tax derived from the sale of Cannabis.
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 was against the sale of recreational cannabis when first discussed. I voted against the ordinance. Since then, I have visited the Rise facility and have been following the company. I have found that they have been a very compliant business, very professional and diligent to address all concerns the Village and neighbors have had. I even purchased medicine after my knee surgery. I am satisfied with the stance the board took on permitting the sale in the community.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A: I have a vision for the downtown area of Mundelein and a path to make it a reality. We need to work with the Park District, and developers to make a walkable downtown. Expanding on the North Lake Project and using the bank buildings, and the water building, we can create an area that has a large gathering space, public art and outdoor shopping. Working with the Park District and relocate Fort Hill Museum. We can convert the water building to a Civic Center. We partner with a 501 C 3 organization so we can receive grants and funding for the renovations needed to create the space. The corner of Park and Seymour can become the main hub for the area. With the addition of townhomes and retail on the corner, this can become a destination area. The area is ready for conversion.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A: I will be at Village Hall daily, available to meet with residents and businesses at their convenience. As mayor, I will reach out to businesses to bring economic growth. Businesses want to see a commitment from the elected officials. I will promote our businesses and make sure we have a program to maintain and grow the economic base. Residents will be able to meet with me, and if they want to volunteer to be on a commission, I will meet with them and get them involved. Everyone that wants to serve, will have the opportunity. I will work with and build consensus with all the trustees. I want the trustees to be more involved with the decision making process, not just rubber stamp administration ideas. Each board meeting, I want to have an open discussion where trustees can introduce a topic that is of interest, or something that a resident has asked them. I will hold neighborhood coffees, continue coffee with the mayor and quarterly town hall meetings where residents can introduce questions to the board. I will have educational series for the public to learn how their tax dollars are spent.
Q: What is the primary reason you're running for office? What is the most important issue?
A: I am running for Mayor to bring full time leadership to Mundelein. Together, with the board of trustees, we will bring financial responsibility, economic growth, term limits and open communication to Mundelein. The uncontrolled spending has become a problem; Spending has been on entrance signs, parks and various land purchases and this needs to end. I am running to have a Village department that actively seeks businesses to relocate to Mundelein. We need to create a larger economic base that takes the burden off the residents. This can be done with careful planning and smart development. Some trustees are kept out of discussions and expected to rubber stamp whatever is being suggested. We need a mayor that will communicate with all trustees and residents, not just those that support the administration; to be accepting of all ideas and have a discussion when there are opposing ideas. Village Hall needs to communicate with the residents in a more diverse platform. Not everyone in Mundelein has Facebook or a computer. I would institute a "Mundelein Minute" a daily message that is placed to residents in many different platforms, even a hotline that you can call in to hear the information.