Dustin Good: 2021 candidate for Elgin City Council
11 candidates are running for four, 4-year seats on the Elgin City Council. One candidate, Marcus Banner, declined to participate.
Occupation: Social entrepreneur
Civic involvement: Elgin Community College Student Trustee (2011-2012); Strategic Plan Advisory committee member (2012-2017); Downtown Neighborhood Association board member (2017-present); Farmers Market Committee Chair (2017-2019); COVID-19 Downtown Business Adaptation Grant committee member (2020-present); Elgin Police Community Advisory Board member (2020-present)
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. I believe it is my role to help existing Elgin stakeholders as well as seeking out new partners to speed up our economic recovery. For example I have served on the Downtown Neighborhood Association's COVID-19 Adaptation Grant Committee where we established a grant specifically for small businesses in our downtown district. I'm proud to say we have distributed thousands of dollars to our resilient downtown business owners, helping them to adapt their spaces during this challenging time. I would also like to see our community create a mutual aid operation, initially aimed at providing assistance during health crises, and later reiterated to serve in a more general capacity. As a council member it is our duty to represent all Elgin residents, and though I will inevitably have disagreements with individuals on various topics I will always listen to resident's concerns and ensure their voices are heard behind closed doors and in public. I also intend to continue polling residents and will review findings in town hall and round table events where residents can voice their thoughts on challenging issues.
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. The city's decision to provide emergency funds for food pantry operations was a wise decision. As mentioned above the Downtown Neighborhood Association created our local COVID-19 adaptation grant which was partially funded by the city, another great decision. We also appreciate the city dedicating curbside pickup spaces to downtown businesses, and enabling outdoor dining. However I think the city could have done a better job with community engagement. Proper community engagement requires constant coordination between city management, elected leaders, committees, resident groups, and individuals. After investigating internal efforts taken by the city and seeing their limited social media outreach, I can confidently conclude our approach fell short of what Elgin residents deserve and pay for. Fortunately the city has made an important move and hired a bilingual Community Outreach Specialist. Again, as stated above, I wish the city would have implemented a robust mutual aid operation, enabling residents to better help each other. Facebook was never designed for these purposes. Lastly I think our city's self described "kick the can" approach to addressing vacancy in the downtown is weak, shortsighted, inhumane, and detrimental to the health of our people, businesses, and reputation. We need to prioritize a HOUSING FIRST model.
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. Every aspect of in-person community engagement should have a remote contingency plan in place. This includes assisting community groups to establish proper online communication capacities. For example, an existing neighborhood association halted meetings because they were not familiar with video conferencing tools. City staff or other more tech aware peers in other neighborhood groups could have assisted this particular association. In addition to establishing remote infrastructure we should build a roster of local health professionals and craft a community engagement calendar for updates. Having regular updates from leadership at our hospitals and other medical facilities would have gone a long way in fortifying trust in our community. I will again mention the importance of having a local mutual aid operation in place, allowing residents to share resources, expertise, and materials. However we also need to have more engagement at neighborhood levels to get the most out of a mutual aid platform. This requires outreach efforts to every door on each block, and in various languages. Ultimately investments in empowering neighborhoods will not only help grow trust among residents, but it will create more a more resilient population better suited to handle unforeseen crises.
Q. What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A. Like we saw in the aftermath of our Great Recession, staff layoffs, pay freezes and cuts to services are already here again. Fortunately our city has a strong track record of fiscal responsibility which has us in a better position than other municipalities, however we are still looking at an eleven million dollar budget gap next year. Going forward I think it will be imperative to involve residents in the extremely difficult budget decisions coming our way. Citizen Assemblies are gaining popularity across the globe and I believe we should strongly consider implementing them here in Elgin. Speaking to specific budget items, I would consider halting the Utility Fund Comprehensive Master Plan. ($1,000,000 -- Page 67 in our budget document). I believe plans of westward expansion while we are currently unable to maintain existing infrastructure is shortsighted. To that point I would also consider holding off on the West Zone Pump Modification ($630,000 -- Page 68). I would also strongly consider raising the fees on Video Game Gambling distributors (page 135), if that means we can properly fund our public safety efforts. I would also understand if the city held off on tree replacement. ($300,000 -- page 56)
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. When I campaigned two years ago I was the only candidate who was proposing an expansion of high speed internet access, and I stand by that position. 2020 has shown us how high quality internet access is essential to navigating our changing society. For workers, for students, for medical patients, for companies, and for entrepreneurs, it is a utility, and should be treated as such. Not only do we need to build the physical infrastructure but I believe Elgin should also form a technology and innovation committee. I would advise this committee to consider making Elgin an OpenGov municipality and begin researching how Elgin can leverage open source software to reduce costs and reliance on private tech companies who don't have resident best interest as their core mission. I would propose that Elgin leadership approach our community and ask to issue bonds for investment in the project. According to 2020 census data 15% of Elgin lacks access to high speed internet. This is unacceptable. I would put the sports complex expansion on the back burner, and would instead approach the public with plans for a large scale urban farm, which would also serve as a jobs training facility.
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 the council's decision to allow recreational cannabis sales in Elgin. What I would have changed is the urgency in which they approached this opportunity. The fact that other communities are currently capturing tax revenue from our residents because we haven't attracted this amenity, is unacceptable. The developing cannabis industry was easy to see coming and the fact that leadership took until late 2020 to change ordinances allowing a dispensary in downtown is baffling. Every effort should have been made to get this badly needed source of revenue up and running immediately. This delay also hurt downtown businesses who desperately need more foot traffic.
Q. What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A. Impossible to pick one. I still think we need to partner with ClearGov. We need to ramp up investment in our digital infrastructure to attract a new wave of developers and businesses. We need to establish a housing first model to help individuals secure permanent housing. We need to grow our online and offline entrepreneurial community (www.initiatorsguild.com/guild) if we ever hope to benefit from tax revenue generated by successful startups. We need to increase resident participation in local elections, neighborhood associations, and civic organizations. Research shows the best way to activate new people is through community events, the most popular being block parties. Which is why I have set a four year goal of raising Elgin's number of annual block parties from the current average of 15, to 150. For comparison Evanston averages 160-180 per year. We can't have a strong city, without strong residents. Strong residents are those who care about their neighbors, and are invested in each other and their community. After this unprecedented year I want to help residents rebuild trust, in each other, and in leadership. Let's start by winning this election and throwing some much needed, COVID-19 safe, block parties!