Jenny Berman Ross: 2021 candidate for Mundelein trustee
7 candidates running for 3, 4-year seats
Occupation: Lead NAVAIDs Engineer, Federal Aviation Administration
Civic involvement: I have been a resident of Mundelein for over 25 years. My children grew up here, went to Lincoln School, Carl Sandburg Middle School, and Mundelein High School. They were active in sports, school and community activities like Cub Scouts and Indian Princesses. I volunteered in their schools and supported their activities. More recently, I have been active in the community on my own in the following capacities: trustee, Fremont Public Library District, 2015-2019; volunteer Waukegan Public Library English as a Second Language (ESL) and Adult Basic Education (ABE) tutor, 2013 -- present; Lake County election judge; Lake County voter registrar; Lake County Women United, member; Lake County Democratic Women, member; North Suburban Needlearts Guild -- workshop registrar
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: Elected officials and community leaders should provide leadership when confronting crises like the pandemic. They should work to identify and mitigate impacts to individuals, the economy, public health and the educational system. Creative solutions and cooperation between units of government and community organizations are key to ensuring continued access to necessary services while keeping government employees and members of the community safe.
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 did a good job of transitioning Board and Committee meetings from in person to virtual by providing means for residents and other interested parties to participate remotely. Both the Police and Fire Department remain responsive and work to keep employees safe while maintaining high levels of service. The Village proceeded with major projects including construction of the new Public Works Building. The Village should do more to make licensing, permitting and registration processes user friendly by transitioning to online forms and payment. Right now, if you want to apply for a building permit, there is a fillable form on the Village website, but it cannot be signed or submitted electronically and there is no provision for electronic payment. The Village should continue to work to be accessible to everyone. Right now, the Village website is available in Spanish, but documents uploaded to the website are only available in English. This limits access for Spanish speaking members of the community.
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 safeguards and guidelines used to respond to COVID-19 may not be an effective response to the next crisis. The important thing is to be prepared. The basis of any effective crisis response is based on preparedness and effective planning. Government needs to be prepared to respond to any the crisis while providing economic support, continuity of services and planning for recovery. The framework to support a response should be in place before the emergency occurs. I think one of the primary lessons that local government should take away from this year is the need to invest time and resources into infrastructure to better take advantage of technology. We should be thinking about how to be prepared for the next crisis.
Q: What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A: Local government should use the pandemic to take a close look at how constituents use government services and how those services can be delivered more effectively. One possible improvement is establishing an online building permit process to include electronic payment. Constituents should be able to view the status of pending applications online. Village staff could focus on timely communication and permit approval. This is also a good time to evaluate programs and processes to see if they are still needed and to increase cooperation between units of government to increase efficiency and eliminate duplication.
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 agree with Mundelein's position permitting recreational marijuana sales in the community. I would like to see more follow through on the original state commitment to minority representation in ownership of dispensaries and cultivation centers.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A: I would like to see more focus on the future of the property that was set aside for the Route 53 extension. The Village of Mundelein should take a more active role in working with other units of government on the future of that property. Future development will have a large impact on the west side of the Village. With increasing development to the north and west and changes in climate causing increased rainfall and storm intensity, there is a need for robust planning for stormwater management in that area.
Q: What is the primary reason you're running for office? What is the most important issue?
A: I am running for office to make my community better by improving communication between the Village of Mundelein and its residents and business community. Informing and engaging interested parties early can prevent minor problems from becoming major ones. I also want to improve communication between the Village and local and county units of government. I would like to see the Village more engaged in decisions that impact Mundelein residents and infrastructure and more responsive to residents and businesses.
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: Infrastructure maintenance is very important and well maintained infrastructure makes Mundelein an attractive place for businesses, residents and visitors. In uncertain economic times, it may be necessary to delay or phase infrastructure projects, but there is a need to continue planning them. At the federal level there is emphasis on infrastructure programs to "build back better" that focus on creating jobs to fuel local economic recovery. Local governments should be prepared to apply for and use federal funds to improve infrastructure for future energy and transportation systems if they are available. In addition to planning for an additional fire station and routine road maintenance, I think that Mundelein should be working with other units of government on plans for the 53 extension property, stormwater upgrades throughout the Village, and transportation planning throughout the Village. I will support a cooperative effort to establish a public transportation route along Midlothian to provide access to schools, the Regent Center, Mundelein Park District facilities, Fremont Public Library and the Metra Stations at Prairie Crossing.