Brian LaVaque: 2021 candidate profile for Lombard Trustee District 1
Brian LaVaque is running for one 4-year term as Lombard Trustee District 1 in the April 6, 2021, consolidated election.
Bradley Hanewall, who is also running, declined to answer questions from the Daily Herald. Aaron Carlson recently withdrew from the race.
In-person early voting with paper ballots begins Feb. 25 at DuPage County Fairgrounds Building 5, 2015 Manchester Road, Wheaton. In-person early voting with touch-screen voting begins March 22 at locations throughout the county. Learn more at www.dupageco.org/earlyvoting/.
For more election coverage, visit dailyherald.com.
Occupation: Key Account Executive at Kellogg's Away From Home
Civic involvement: Village of Lombard Economic & Development Committee 2013-2019
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: In any crisis, it's critically important that public officials at every level speak clearly and provide all of the best information available to avoid promoting doubt or confusion. If you don't know something on a specific subject, don't say anything. The village itself has a limited role in confronting the current pandemic and few resources or levers for enforcement of public health directives other than following the best available guidance in its own practices and encouraging compliance with all public health mandates from the county and state. We could do a much better job leveraging village communications to provide directions and resources for residents. This in particular could become an important tool as vaccines become more available.
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. Other than responsibly limiting public access village hall hours, there were very few noticeable changes and no major disruptions of basic services. The Village limited application of the Places of Eating Tax for a short time to try and support struggling dine-in restaurants. They could have done a better job communicating official guidance or changes in ordinance for local restaurants wanting to implement some form of outdoor dining. This left establishments to throw together whatever they could -- some without consideration of practical weather requirements or minimum safety standards. Even now, we still need to clarify basic tent standards and solidify enforcement going into the spring season. I would also explore extending a local sales tax rebate or a suspension of the PET for dine-in restaurants for a much longer period, as the need has clearly not passed.
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: Again, village government is really not the appropriate place establishing health guidelines. We would rely on health and science authorities at the county, state, and federal levels to provide guidance, establish regulations, and give us clear directions and ample resources to face the challenge. We should establish collaborative partnerships with large health care providers in town like the Edward Elmhurst Clinic in my own district and DuPage Medical Group across town to create future public health initiatives, or provide virtual seminars to offer information and answer questions (short of direct medical advice) that residents have about the ongoing pandemic. We need to budget to increase our own stockpile of necessary PPE for our public safety departments and other operations against future shortages. We should coordinate with the county and other municipalities to buy PPE in bulk to reduce the cost and establish a more reliable and resilient supply chain.
Q: What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A: Lombard was already cutting for years prior to the current crisis. With the uncertain future of our retail corridors, Yorktown Center anchors, and major hospitality and lodging operators our budgetary pressures are only likely to increase. That being said, we need to preserve resident services and, in the case of public safety, find money to fully staff as we already have critical coverage issues now. With more people at home more often trying to carve-out work and school space, one way we could help taxpayers directly is to waive permitting fees for any residential improvement projects valued at $25K or less and commercial projects of $50K or less. Promoting this type of increased investment would eventually return on rising property values while also providing an incentive for existing businesses facing COVID challenges to adapt or reinvent, like restaurants looking to make outdoor dining improvements or add off-site catering capabilities.
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: For Lombard District 1, all the residents' focus is on the condition of our traditional downtown along the Metra rail corridor. It literally is the heart of the neighborhood. Unlike surrounding towns, we have not leaned in to a comprehensive, strictly maintained, revitalization plan. Where we could save money is on the seemingly random investments we have been making in the area for decades on piecemeal improvements that are clearly not driven by any cohesive vision or even minimum quality standards. We already have some money set aside for these projects, but also need to be aggressive as the TIF district that covers the town center expires in just three years.
Q: Do you agree or disagree with the stance your board has taken on permitting recreational marijuana sales in the community? What would you change about that stance, if you could?
A: I wouldn't change a thing. They have done an excellent job in identifying separate permitted location zones well-spaced across town. They are all off of major access routes so that businesses locating there will have every opportunity to be successful while their presence will have minimal to no impact on congestion or nearby residential neighborhoods.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A: Talking to people across the district, one thing that nearly everyone is concerned about is traffic, particularly with people speeding down unregulated residential side streets. Families with children, especially the ones who attend neighborhood schools, are extremely worried. I want to review all existing traffic control measures and devices throughout District 1, for the village to engage my neighbors to identify serious traffic safety problems, and then work to revise and enforce speed limits and add regulation devices where they make sense on streets that the village controls. I would partner with the appropriate county and state departments and officials if we identified problems or opportunities for improvement on roadways they control that cross or are adjacent to the district. We should include making the traffic safety and infrastructure investments needed to make our whole neighborhood more walkable and bikeable. We need to identify safe bike routes for schools, look for opportunities to create bike lanes, and make sure that attractive, adequate, and conveniently located bike racks are part of the comprehensive downtown revitalization plan.