Steve Lentz: 2021 candidate for Mundelein mayor
4 candidates for 1 seat
Occupation: Securities market researcher and trader, self-employed
Civic involvement: Current Mundelein mayor; before running for office in 2009, I served as a youth baseball and football coach for 15 years. Also, I served for many years on the local Little League and Mundelein Junior Football League boards.
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: Early in the crisis, and in the face of criticism, I issued a villagewide mask mandate to protect our residents. A few days later, Gov. Pritzker issued his statewide COVID mandates. For a season, I posted weekly videos to let the community know current updates. I also worked to help local restaurants provide outdoor dining, and our public works delivered many of our Mundelein Days' picnic tables around town to help set that up. Later when the data supported it, I wrote a letter to the Governor asking for looser restrictions on businesses. I've also called local elected officials to compare notes and our local response. More recently, regarding restaurants, it became clear that the legal responsibility of enforcing the Governor's mandate was not on the villages, but on the county health departments. Consequently, the Village of Mundelein clearly communicated this position to our restaurant owners, and we advised them to work with the Health Department in understanding the penalty process should they make a business decision to stay open. The restaurant owners I reached out to all appreciated our stance and our support.
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: Yes, our Village Hall remained open the entire time. We creatively restructured our employees into a split crew with one-half working in the building, while the other half worked at home. After a few weeks, the two groups would switch. This approach protected our employees and our residents, while also allowing for a continuity of service to our residents.
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: I'd like to see more updated air filtration systems, and ensure that we continue to store an adequate supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) for our first responders and village employees. After the crisis hit, the Village outfitted our two fire stations, police station and the Village Hall with upgraded air filtration systems including UV light filters to protect our employees and residents. We are now looking into the cost for upgrading other facilities as well. Years ago the H1N1 crisis taught us to stockpile PPE so that when the next crisis hit, we weren't caught entirely off-guard. Now with the challenge of COVID, we have an even better idea of the inventory we would like to have on hand for the next crisis, whenever that might be. We also have the ability to send an informative robocall to residents should it become necessary to disseminate information quickly.
Q: What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A: When the crisis hit, we analyzed the financial impact this would have on our residents and our resources. We knew that revenue for village expenses would take a hit, and that we did not want to increase the tax burden on our residents. We examined our budget and directed our department heads to reduce overtime pay by 40% to save on costs. They accomplished this without compromising safety and service to our residents or employees. Secondly, we decided to offer early retirement incentives to employees who qualify. This is a more long-range plan, but will provide sizable savings in the years to come.
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 July 2017 floods were devastating and it's most important that we finish the flood mitigation project we started last year. We are now 80% finished. We only need to connect the 72" underground storm sewer pipes (on the west side of Lake Street) to the new 8-acre detention pond located on the east side of Lake Street. Under my leadership, the Village Board painstakingly deliberated how to pay for this $10 million bonded-out project while placing as little burden as possible on our residents. These meetings were not easy. The answer was a $3/month storm sewer fee on our water bills and a 3% packaged liquor tax. Both are set to expire after 15 years. In terms of a back-burner project, the improvement build-outs for the new Courtland Park could take a back seat to other higher priorities for a few years.
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: Due to my participation in every 5th grade DARE graduation in Mundelein since 2013, I could not in good conscience support the sale of recreational marijuana in our town. It would have been hypocritical to the hundreds of children I've encouraged to "just say no to drugs," to then turn around and champion this. That said, the horse is now out of the barn and it's important that we work closely with the RISE dispensary to ensure that customers and medical patients have safe and easy access to this highly in-demand facility. The medical patients I've spoken with are thrilled with the numerous therapeutic products available at RISE, and say they benefit from them on a daily basis. I know that adequate parking has been a problem for RISE customers, and the excellent staffs at RISE and the Village of Mundelein are working closely together for solutions to this issue.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A: Our industrial vacancy rate is less than 5% and there is not enough room for new or out-of-town industrial businesses looking for space here. Therefore, I believe Mundelein can use a new job center. We have an opportunity on the south side of town to create a tax incremental financing (TIF) district that will attract industrial developers to build one or more significant industrial buildings that will provide new jobs and tax revenue. In my next term as Mayor, I will work diligently to see this potential come to fruition for the benefit of our community.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A: First, my track record as Mayor of Mundelein is excellent. As detailed in Question #1 above, my administration has accomplished an amazing amount in just 8 years including redevelopment projects, attracting businesses to Mundelein and solving complex problems like our flood issues. Further, I still have the fire in my belly to Keep Mundelein Moving Forward. Second, our village needs outside investment from great developers. Yet my opponents all have placed votes or said things at Village Board meetings that betray an anti-development attitude. The face of the Village needs to be someone that developers will trust and not someone they suspect harbors disrespect. Finally, after this election, our Village Board will have just one trustee with over 2 years experience. And as any experienced mayor or trustee will tell you, there is a learning curve for new trustees and new mayors that lasts one to two years. Consequently, now is a critical time to retain an experienced Mayor, like me, who is willing and eager to serve another term.
Q: What is the primary reason you're running for office? What is the most important issue?
A: My campaign slogan is "Keep Mundelein Moving Forward" and I sincerely mean it. During my tenure, I've striven to push an agenda that de-industrializes our downtown to redevelop it into something great. This is starting to happen and the momentum is building. Throughout Mundelein, we have made great progress in just eight years. We replaced the West Hawley Street road and infrastructure. We addressed our downtown flooding issue with 72" pipes and an 8-acre detention pond. Five downtown residential projects are in the works and another has recently broken ground. Lake County's largest law firm moved their offices into our downtown. We removed blighted buildings and opened up a beautiful view of Diamond Lake across from Allanson Road at Hwy 45. And Ulta, Panera and Chipotle have all come to Mundelein. But along the way, we've had tension on the Village Board from the two trustees running against me. Both candidates voted against some big projects that were ultimately Village Board approved, and subsequently had significant community impact. Should one of my opponents prevail, then Mundelein's momentum for positive change will certainly diminish. Great things are happening in Mundelein, and I would like to Keep Mundelein Moving Forward.