Mundelein board candidates discuss empty storefronts and their visions for the town
Six candidates for seats on Mundelein's village board in the April 6 election talked about the local economy, the pandemic and other issues facing the town during an online forum Thursday night.
Board hopefuls Sol Cabachuela, Willie Davismckennie, Ray Mullen, Jenny Ross, Angela Trillhaase and Tim Wilson participated in the roughly 75-minute discussion. A seventh candidate, Edith Reese, didn't participate.
The event was hosted by former Mundelein trustee Dakotah Norton. He asked questions generated by members of a Facebook group dedicated to issues in Mundelein.
Topics covered a lot of ground, including what sets the candidates apart from each other, their visions for the future and how they would fill empty storefronts.
Ross, a former Fremont Public Library trustee, suggested financial incentives could lure new tenants to vacant commercial spaces. The village has offered tax-sharing deals and other incentives to developers and merchants, but sparingly.
Mullen, a Realtor, said village hall should launch an "aggressive outreach program" in which staffers would speak with local business owners and prospective owners to see what ideas they have for boosting Mundelein's commercial occupancy rate. The staff should be proactive, he said, rather than waiting for businesses to come to them.
Trillhaase, a former trustee, questioned how much of a role brick-and-mortar retailers will have in Mundelein's future. She suggested village leaders seek businesses that encourage social activity.
Later, when asked about the biggest issue that needs addressing in town, Trillhaase was among the candidates who said the COVID-19 crisis.
"If we don't do that, nothing else really matters," she said.
Cabachuela, however, said improving communication with residents should be the top priority. She suggested promoting meetings better, and not just on social media, and said messages should go out to the public in several languages.
On a different topic, Cabachuela said her Latina heritage sets her apart from the other candidates and would bring a unique perspective to the board. Cabachuela currently serves as village clerk and is the only nonwhite elected official in Mundelein.
When asked how he envisions Mundelein in the future, Davismckennie, a professional cabinet maker, said he sees a town in which everybody gets along and is happy.
"I'm pretty simple -- I just want Mundelein to be more like Mayberry," Davismckennie said, referring to the fictional small town from the classic "Andy Griffith Show."
Wilson, who works in sales, said he wants Mundelein to be "a safe, prosperous, diverse and welcoming community for all businesses and residents, current and future."
Three open seats with 4-year terms are up for election this spring. Trustee Ray Semple is stepping down from the board, while trustees Dawn Abernathy and Robin Meier are running for mayor.
Also running for mayor are incumbent Steve Lentz and Mundelein High School board member Tom Ouimet.
Heather Mullen-Gaschler, Karen Walsh and Lisa Willems are running for village clerk.