Brent Bluthardt: 2021 candidate for Antioch trustee
Five candidates are running for the three Antioch trustee seats in the April 6, 2021 election.
Occupation: Logistics and trade compliance manager Cozzini, LLC
Civic involvement: Former District 34 board member, former environmental commission member, volunteer and donate time to various local charities
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: The role of the Village in pandemic situations should be as a primary informational hub to the residents. The Village should make sure that accurate and timely information is shared. As the federal, state and county governments enact measures that impact our businesses and residents we need to be a reliable source to access that information. In addition, the Village needs to coordinate with other government agencies, i.e., schools, libraries, townships to ensure that all the stakeholders are informed and working as one. I see the role of our elected officials as collecting and then voicing the concerns of the residents to the county, state, and federal officials. There are so many layers of government involved in these situations and we do not want to make matters worse by adding to the regulatory burden of our local businesses. We should look at ways of easing the burden at those times as long as the health and safety of the business owners, employees and patrons is met.
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: I believe that the Village of Antioch did a good job of maintaining service levels throughout the pandemic. I appreciated the fact that they worked in conjunction with the township officials to help spread information and unify the community. This was new to everyone and since I was not privy to all that the Village did behind the scenes, I cannot respond to that, but as a resident I did not suffer any service disruptions and believe that they have worked diligently to maintain as much normalcy as they could.
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 Village will need to take all that was learned and done to date and develop a standard operating procedure that would be used as a starting point for future crises. This "debrief" should include what worked well and where areas for improvement might exist. By taking this knowledge and training employees and officials on proper protocol, in the event these issues arise again we are not starting from scratch and we can go right into implementation mode.
Q: What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A: In the case of a pandemic situation the Village should immediately put a hold on any nonessential projects and only authorize these after a true understanding of the impact on revenues is known. I was impressed with the way the Village handled this in Antioch. A recent report by the finance department showed to many people's surprise that revenue did not decline as much as originally thought. The numbers are not complete for the year, but by eliminating nonessential projects and keeping tight controls on expenditures the Village can maintain current taxing levels and not pursue any additional tax burden on the residents and businesses. Now that being said, if the current pandemic continues for a very long time or requires additional shutdowns, the financial situation could change dramatically, and the Village may be required to make further cuts. These cuts reduce the burden on taxpayers by ensuring that future tax increases will not be needed. Further, the freezing of potential increases on utilities and/or water and sewer would directly support the taxpayers.
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 recent purchase of the "Pittman Property" is currently the most important infrastructure project. How this piece of property is developed will impact downtown Antioch. The Village is currently undertaking studies to garner the residents input on the development of the property. Resident input is critical to a project of this scope and if elected I will advocate for resident and business owner input on all Village projects. This same study is also looking at other infrastructure improvements for the downtown area. To continue to grow economically we need to have the proper infrastructure to attract and keep local businesses. The parking situation downtown is always an issue and once new businesses open their doors it could get substantially worse. Addressing the parking needs could potentially be a very costly endeavor. Some have mentioned the potential of a parking structure being built, the Village will need to look at the pros and cons of a public/private parking structure vs the potential expansion of ground level parking. The financing of any potential large- scale projects will also need to be determined. I want to make sure that any taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and that we ensure that the dollars spent are spent for the benefit of the whole community, not just specific individuals. Completing these studies and reaching a consensus on how to proceed will be a major priority over the next 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: Once the State legalized the sale and use of recreational marijuana, the Village responded quickly. I believe the Village acted properly so far, but I believe there is work to be done. I would like to put strong ethics rules in place as to the relationships and ownership of these businesses by current elected officials and or Village employees. I would want to make sure any potential dispensaries are in areas away from children and schools and located in industrial zones. I do not want to see a dispensary in our historic downtown district.
Q: What is one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A: I strongly believe we need to look at the development and eventual construction of a new Parks and Recreation Facility. This facility should include classrooms for Camp Crayon and other current programs, meeting space, a gymnasium, weight/workout rooms as well as the park offices. This facility could be the hub connecting all our sports programs in town as well as give our children, adults, and seniors places to socialize and exercise. By starting the planning immediately, it will allow the Village to look at different funding sources for this project. The Village would need to pursue state and federal grants as well as potential public/private partnerships to help offset the costs. In addition, by partnering with other government agencies, i.e., Antioch Township, school districts, etc., we can hopefully share the costs and provide additional services throughout the Antioch Area. The residents deserve a top-notch parks program here in town and a building of this caliber would allow them to develop and expand existing programs and ensure that Antioch is a desirable place to live.