Burt Natkins: 2021 candidate for Huntley Village Board
Newcomer Burt Natkins is one of five candidates vying for three, 4-year seats on the Huntley Village Board in the April 6, 2021 election. The other candidates are incumbents Ronda S. Goldman, John M. Piwko and JR Westberg, and challenger Mary Holzkopf.
The Daily Herald asked the candidates several questions about issues facing the village.
Below are Natkins's responses.
In-person early voting begins March 10 only at the Kane County Clerk's Office, 719 S. Batavia Ave., Bldg. B, in Geneva and the Aurora satellite office, 5 E. Downer Place, Suite F. In-person early voting at locations throughout the county begins March 22. Learn more at www.kanecountyclerk.org/Elections.
For more election coverage, visit dailyherald.com.
Five candidates running for three, 4-year seats
Occupation: Attorney. Formerly: legal counsel, League of Wisconsin Municipalities, an association comprised of Wisconsin cities and villages; former co-owner, Local Government Services Inc. -- published handbooks (including Local Government Digest, an exhaustive newsletter issued every two weeks) and sponsored seminars focusing on subjects of interest to local government officials; private practice attorney representing various Wisconsin local units of government in a wide range of issues
Civic involvement: Kane County Zoning Board of Appeals (2019 to present); Huntley Historic Preservation Commission (2018 to present); member, Citizen Police Academy Alumni Association (2018 to present). Formerly: Oregon Planning Commission; Oregon Community Development Authority; Village of Oregon (Wisconsin) Board of Trustees; chair, personnel committee, Oregon Village Board; co-chair, Oregon Community Economic Development Commission; chair, 1996 and 1997 Oregon Summer Fest (4-day festival attracting 10,000 people); vice president, Oregon Area Chamber of Commerce (1996)
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: All levels of government must provide a certain level of leadership if the pandemic and its consequential social and economic hardships are to be effectively combated. The role of the federal government, for example, should be to establish an overall policy framework for addressing the pandemic within the states and those measures necessary to keep the public safe and economically secure.
Given those policies, state officials should, in turn, develop more detailed responses to the pandemic tailoring them to the needs and prevailing circumstances of their own state. County governments should then be that level of government largely charged with the responsibility of implementing and coordinating the state-established policies.
Finally, cities and villages need to assume three distinct roles in the current pandemic environment -- assist the county in its implementation function when appropriate (dissemination of information, etc.); provide their residents a true outlet to voice their concerns about the pandemic and the policies employed to mitigate it; and act as an effective resource for its residents. Local officials, including village trustees, should therefore provide that type of leadership expected of them because they are the closest, most visible, and most easily accessible member of government to the public.
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: Not having yet served on the village board, I obviously do not have firsthand knowledge as to the detailed internal measures that the village may have instituted to ensure that the village residents were adequately served during the disruptions caused by the pandemic. However, based on my observations as a resident, the village should generally be commended for its overall response, because the level of services now provided compared to the services delivered prior to the pandemic is outwardly the same. The village's police department and public works department, for example, have seemingly continued to provide the high quality of services that the community has rightfully come to expect.
All village functions have not, however, been spared. The format of public meetings has had to be modified to be in align with those precautionary measures imposed as a result the pandemic. The village offices were also closed to the public for a duration of time. Yet, while in-person contact with village officials may have been severely curtailed, other means of communication did remain intact. Overall, the village did adequately adjust to ensure that the basic services of government could continue without causing much disruption to the public.
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: Future health crises comparable in scope and severity to the current pandemic are likely inevitable. At each level of government, therefore, a formal "lessons learned" assessment should be conducted now rather than later. Indeed, the one broad lesson to be learned as a result of the pandemic is that good proactive emergency planning is critical if future public health crises are to be effectively, efficiently and quickly addressed.
Any such plan should, for example, recognize the need to rapidly identify those within the general populace who are the most vulnerable and how best the village can use its local resources, together with other private and public entities, to protect them. The village should also establish guidelines for ensuring that it continuously maintains an adequate supply of equipment and materials for purposes of adequately implementing the plan, when required, in a timely and efficient manner. In the end, planning now with other interested parties is critical to avoid the missteps experienced during the current pandemic.
Q: What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A: Having not yet formally participated in the village's budgeting process, I cannot now specifically point to any one budget item that the village can cut or reduce to lessen the burden of the pandemic on its residents. However, if on the board, I would be guided by the basic philosophy that during the annual budgeting process, each budget item should be evaluated based on a three-pronged test: is the item reasonably necessary to ensure that the overall quality of services within the community are maintained; will the item be effective in meeting its intended purpose; and is the level of funds to be allocated for the item reasonable thereby not placing an undue burden on the village residents.
While this pandemic continues, the first prong of the test -- "reasonably necessary" -- would obviously play a prominent role in assessing a particular budget item. For example, if a specific item is not absolutely indispensable now, but can otherwise be deferred, then the possible funding of such an item should be delayed, which may at a future time be more fully evaluated based on all three prongs of the test. The end result -- a reduced burden on the village's taxpayers now and in the future.
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: I deem two infrastructure projects within the village to be of the highest priority, while a third of a lesser degree. The two projects are the realignment of Kreutzer Road and the reconstruction of the Route 47 railroad crossing at Main Street. The third undertaking would be a restoration of the Route 47 roadway from north of I-90 to Kreutzer Road, together with the upgrading and installation of additional pedestrian and bicycle pathways and facilities along that segment of the highway.
Funding for the reconstruction of the railroad crossing would be provided by various sources, including the state, the railroad, and the village. However, because Route 47 is a state highway, IDOT would pay the majority of the costs. As for the Kreutzer Road project, the state and the village would likely provide the bulk of the funding, while the Route 47 restoration would be borne largely by the state.
On the other hand, to perhaps lessen the tax burden on the village residents during these uncertain economic times, certain infrastructure maintenance projects could possibly be deferred, provided the delay of such projects would not in the end result in higher costs to the village.
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 fully concur with the position previously adopted by the village board in prohibiting the sale of recreational marijuana within the community. My agreement is based on two factors. First, as has been demonstrated by other communities, the sale of recreational marijuana could very likely result in (a.) an outcome whereby the health and safety of Huntley's residents are adversely affected and (b.) an increase in criminal activity within Huntley, thereby placing an additional burden on the police department.
Second, if an adult so chooses to use marijuana for recreational purposes, that person is plainly able to purchase the product at outlets in fairly close proximity to Huntley. The Huntley prohibition, in other words, does foreclose the potential of users legally purchasing the product elsewhere. On balance, therefore, the generation of sale tax revenues for Huntley would not outweigh the potentially deleterious effect of selling recreational marijuana within the community.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A: While the village has undertaken some measures to make the community more walker/cyclist friendly, I believe that the village should place an even greater emphasis on achieving that goal through a well-defined safety program. Such a program should largely consist of two components: (a.) a greater dissemination of safety information to the general public and (b.) the improvement of existing paths and roadways and the construction of new walker/biker-related facilities to better separate walkers and bicyclists from other vehicular traffic and to otherwise better protect them from injury.
In the end, by actively embracing and maintaining a friendly communitywide environment for walkers and cyclists, the village not only boosts the notion that the village is good place to live but also solidifies it.