Lawrence M Hanson: 2021 candidate for Antioch mayor
Three candidates are running for Antioch mayor in the April 6, 2021 election.
Occupation: Transportation and Logistics, Windy City Rooter, Antioch
Civic involvement: Antioch Lions Club (32 years), Antioch Rotary Club since 2016, Antioch Chamber of Commerce (two terms as president), St. Peter's Catholic Church
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: We opened the Antioch emergency operation center (EOC) in the beginning of the pandemic and we met on a daily basis with police, fire, Township, and senior staff to go over daily updates and to make sure we were doing everything possible to keep everyone informed of the communication from State and County agencies. As well, we declared a State of Emergency to ensure eligibility for necessary funding and support from other agencies.
From the beginning of the pandemic, it was critically important to show leadership, hope, and resilience to our citizens, and communicate honestly and frequently with them. Between our comprehensive website, our Facebook page, the police department lines of communication, email and text alerts, we kept people in touch and informed. Working with our state, federal and county legislators we always sought out and secured grant monies available and made sure they were directed to the most essential areas, including first responders, police and health care. We established a special local business grant program as well, which has been very well received, giving $5000 each to qualifying businesses in need. We spent about $40,000 on critical PPE needs. We passed a conservative spending budget and relaxed the fees and due dates on water and sewer billing for our residents.
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: With increased use of technology, including online bill paying and electronic and telephone communications, we were able to stay fully operational. We took many steps to increase the safety of our public works, police, and other essential workers with PPE, shift work changes, distancing, plexiglass, and more. We postponed projects and inspections and other functions that could be delayed, while making sure that critical services were delivered to residents. We also did all that we could to encourage the Shop Antioch program to support our businesses. We partnered with Antioch Township on Better Together, and developed at the Village a comprehensive All Together Antioch program. Both of these succeeded in strengthening and uniting our community and connecting people and businesses to resources and the latest information. We set up an interactive online map, among other steps, to help people navigate their dining and shopping options. Our efforts succeeded, as we have actually shown sales tax revenue increases over the previous year.
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 have beefed up our technology infrastructure and operational efficiencies. We have learned that we can reduce on-site staffing through these responsible measures, which I have done before during my 12 years as Mayor. With competitive bidding, contracting certain functions, and conservative fiscal practices, as well, we have cut over $10M during my tenure. We accomplished this without sacrificing services our taxpayers expect and deserve. Going forward, I would like to redouble my efforts to find the right public/private partnership.
Q: What cuts can local governments make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A: As mentioned above it is creating those efficiencies, cross-training staff, and working with a smaller staff, but enhanced technology and automation. I always look to partner with our county and township officials to look for ways to consolidate services and share assets of equipment and personnel. When we defer certain nonessential projects, savings are enabled. During the early months of the pandemic, with less vehicle traffic, the wear and tear on the roads was eased. But, I'm excited to get back to health and public festivals and events in the coming months, When those large events were postponed there were significant staff cost savings, including overtime, seasonal help, etc. But I would much rather have these fun activities for our public and businesses to enjoy.
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 Pittman Project is moving forward in a very positive direction. We have retained an expert firm to help us determine the highest and best uses for the property, while including and incorporating a robust amount of public input. Our website has a great deal of information on options for the property, which include using some of the creek to be uncovered to add natural beauty into part of the project.
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 our decision to allow recreational marijuana sales. It is legal in the state of Illinois, and many other local communities have enacted it without seeing a notable uptick in public safety problems. Antioch does not have a dispensary proposal in the works currently, and the number of licenses is limited by state law. While there are certainly legitimate concerns about the effects of marijuana on young people, and impaired driving must always be vigorously enforced by our police, and prosecuted by the State's Attorney, I still support Antioch's position on this issue. The Village had an extensive process that it put forth during the development of legalizing marijuana. We have a special section in our zoning code that requires applicants for a license to follow strict guidelines and it's all under the special use category, which adds a layer of protection to the Village.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A: More and more people are working from home, learning from home, and doing streaming, and ordering delivery from home. We need to always build up our internet capacity and speeds to serve this need. The best way to do this is with a public/private partnership, as mentioned above, that will bring fiber optic networks that work in conjunction with 5 G. By getting the private sector involved, costs to the Village taxpayers are greatly reduced.
Q: What makes you the best candidate
A: During my 12 years as Mayor of Antioch I have led with a TEAM approach with taxpayers, businesses, Trustees, professional staff, and other local governments and officials, to work for a strong and united Antioch. Here are examples of the real results earned from this proven experience from 26 years of public service (includes 14 years as Trustee).
• 11 Straight Balanced Budgets
• Saved $10 M by cutting expenses, reducing staff, competitive bidding
• Excellent AA- Bond Rating
• Healthy Fund balances of $5M and Reserves of $2.9 M
• New businesses/expansions: Fischer Paper, Handi-foil, Rivalry Alehouse, Station 51
• Business Incentive Grants, Beautification and Facade Grants for downtown
• Park and bike path upgrades so we can enjoy our "Authentic by Nature" beauty
• Excellent police department, keeping our community safe
As we move out of the public health crisis and into the future with hope and optimism, we need leadership at the Village that is proven, trusted, experienced and ready. I have worked, lived and volunteered in Antioch all my life. This Village is my passion. I humbly ask for your vote to continue to be your voice to keep Antioch moving forward into the future with a sharpened and focused vision, informed by a lifetime of qualifying experience.