Jerry Johnson: 2021 candidate for Antioch trustee
Five candidates are running for the three Antioch trustee seats in the April 6, 2021, election.
Occupation: "Invested in Our Community" as a current business owner in Antioch (real estate management company, telecommunications company, commercial real estate owner in three properties on Main Street with 10 rentals)
Civic involvement: Village Trustee since 2013, parks board member in Lake Villa (2005-2010) and Antioch (2010-2013), Lions Club Member, Lambs Farm, involved in other various not-for-profit organizations
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: As an elected official and a successful business owner in multiple businesses, I have provided support and guidance to our community. My experience in government gives me the opportunity to communicate with fellow business owners with the ongoing programs in funding and relief programs that are available. My proven leadership has made me a strong voice on making sure our residents and businesses know of all the help that is being offered at both the State and Federal levels. Being in the service area and owning several commercial buildings in downtown Antioch, I was able to relate to the impact the Pandemic has caused. This gave me the opportunity to provide direction to those seeking pandemic relief through various agencies.
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 Village of Antioch did a great job monitoring the Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation with federal, state, and local leaders. The Village of Antioch kept residents apprised of the most recent information via social Media and Village website.
The Village of Antioch created a program "Better Together" with a list of local resources and helpful information to guide residents through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. The resource list included Health and Welfare, Food, Clothing, Essentials, Utility and Financial Assistance. Testing and Vaccination Sites and dates were provided via Social Media and Village website.
To support our local businesses, the Village of Antioch collects information provided by local entities to see who is offering services during the pandemic. A list of those places along with a map of the business location was provided. The Village approved a Small Business Grant Program in December 2020 to help existing Antioch businesses.
The Village of Antioch created a Virtual Parks & Recreation Portal.
As a current Village of Antioch Trustee, I am proud of our efforts.
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 best way to stop a pandemic is to never let it start. Therefore, I do believe we can and have learned a lot from the current COVID-19 situation to help prevent a future crisis. I believe in various situations and circumstances; face masks and social distancing should be continued. For example, when any formation of lines is necessary, social distancing is required and masks should be worn in all health care environments by everyone. In addition, the practice of regular hand washing and sanitizing should be followed to help control the spread of any future virus. New acceptable forms of communication and greetings should be conducted such as zoom calls and no handshaking accepted. We need to listen and respond quicker to our Health Leaders and infectious disease physicians.
Q: What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A: Although I believe The Village of Antioch needs to be frugal, I also strongly believe we need a pro-active approach to stimulate our economy. By sitting back and making cuts, our economy will remain stagnant and it will take longer to bounce back. Therefore, we need to create incentive programs to keep existing businesses while encouraging new business. We need the beautification process to continue through our facade grant program, the reinvestment in our downtown through the newly created business district and continue to better all our parks, trails, and bike paths. A vibrant Antioch drives up new home sales and keeps existing homeowners. My formula of growth and to keep Antioch as one of the top destinations to live in Lake County has worked: More Rooftops + More Businesses = LESS BURDEN ON 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 "Pitman Property" is a project that is a work in progress. I feel the Village Board needs to continue to gather all the data from engineers, consultants and survey the residents of Antioch. It is then that we should consider the future of this project.
I think it is more important for The Village of Antioch to address the extremely outdated Parks & Recreation Building. The parks building was a home constructed in the 50s and acquired by the Village in the late 90s to be used for Public Works. At that time, a new garage addition was added to that building intended to be used for Public Works as well. A decision was made to convert the garage to a preschool and gym for the Parks Department immediately after it was constructed. An upgraded Parks & Recreation Facility can increase revenues with enhanced programs creating economic health of a community. Planning for parks and recreation facilities can promote active lifestyles, build healthy communities, and lower health care and transportation costs. A well-planned parks and recreation system can serve as a catalyst for economic development. Access to parks and recreation facilities and active transportation infrastructure can increase property values, foster job creation, and provide a foundation for place-based economic development. An active Parks & Recreation building can attract consumers to nearby downtown regions, increasing tourism. Surveying all the residents to see the interest level of a Recreation Center or the creation of a Park District should be considered. The newly formed business district funds can perhaps finance the project without increasing taxes and recent acquired land can be considered to centralize its location such as near 173 & Grimm Road.
The Village of Antioch Public Works Building needs to be addressed as well. Operations have outgrown the current facility and it is incredibly old (built in late 50s/early 60s). It has become more difficult keeping equipment inside out of the elements. However, we need to wait on this project until we get through the current pandemic. Although an upgraded Public Works Building can increase services and production, we can wait due to recent purchases of new equipment, replacement of outdated equipment, and with the great staff Antioch has at Public Works.
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: In June 2019, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a bill into law legalizing the recreational use of cannabis by adults, including retail sales beginning on Jan. 1, 2020. The cultivation, trafficking, sale, or possession of a small amount of marijuana is legal in Illinois under the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act. The law allows adults to consume cannabis either in their homes or at certain approved establishments. Businesses and landlords have the right to refuse its use on their properties.
I supported the approval of legal marijuana sales, per Illinois law, due to the fact it has economic benefits such as increased tax revenues, job growth, and investment opportunities. Regardless of if someone agrees with the use of marijuana, it is now legal, and individuals should make their own choices. There are a certain number of licenses that are going to be given out by the state. By opting out, it would give neighboring communities the opportunity to take advantage of the revenue from marijuana sales. Also, there is a level of difficulty for a community to opt back in. The Village Board did restrict zoning to certain areas in Antioch, limited 1 license per each business and discretion will be used during the special use permitting process.
However, I did not support Major Cultivation or Transporting Centers to be in Antioch which ultimately did not pass Village of Antioch Board Approval.
Q: What is one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A: I have started the discussion to create a program to help support all our local businesses and keep our spending in Antioch. Residents that shop in Antioch would be able to bring all their local business receipts to Village Hall to redeem them for a certain amount back in "Village Bucks." The "Village Bucks" then can be spent at any business in Antioch. This would continue to encourage residents to shop local while getting discounts on services they already need.