Jodi Perkins: 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: Flight attendant
Employer: United Airlines
Civic involvement: Board member of the Friends of Lords Park Zoo, member of Elgin Historical Society, member of St. John's Lutheran Church
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 pandemic changed our lives dramatically and caused our economy to go into a recession. The duration of this recession may be short, but the recovery will be prolonged. This is not the correct time to be adding newly created positions to the City payroll while other City employees have taken pay cuts, had their hours slashed, had contractual pay raises postponed, and others been laid off. Instead, the Council should be addressing the inevitable crisis in housing we will have when the state's moratorium on evictions ends. The Council should be making every effort to help our local businesses in their recovery as well. And lastly, The Council should be proactively working with the state of Illinois, Cook and Kane Counties to ensure our residents are getting the vaccinations in a timely manner.
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. Thankfully, our city services continued despite the pandemic. We need to thank the city staff and the employees. The teamwork and dedication they demonstrated, through pay cuts and reduction of hours should not go unrecognized. At the beginning of this pandemic, our lives were directed by Federal and State mandates, but as restrictions eased, so should the City's response. The residents needed the Parks and Recreation Department and the programs it offers, but the City keep everything closed. Yet, cities just down the road continued to open their pools and offer programs to their residents.
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. City government is limited in what it can do during a pandemic because we need to follow the directives from federal and state governments. This is where proactive thinking comes into play. The City Council, along with the Parks and Recreation Department, should come up with a fitness and health campaign where residents are encouraged to exercise, eat better with the goal of better health. As studies have shown, the best defense against this virus, and any other, is a strong immune system.
Q. What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A. First, we must make sensible use of our reserve funds to limit cuts. This is what reserve funds are for, but they cannot alleviate all the economic damage caused by the pandemic. We should be using those reserve funds to maintain our basic essential services. Elgin will have to make budget cuts to make ends meet just like every other municipality in the area.
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. Our streets are designed to last approximately 10-12 years. To get the maximum time/usage, we must continually preform preventive maintenance. These preventive activities are paid for by the Motor Fuel Tax funds the city receives from the state of Illinois. In addition to maintaining our streets, residents are walking more due to the pandemic so we must maintain the Neighborhood Sidewalk Program. This program ensures our sidewalks are safe to walk and free from trip hazards. During this economic downturn, the City should consider postponing the Dundee/Summit Street intersection. This would save $2.7 million. Putting the LED Street Light Conversion Program on hold for a year should be another consideration. Doing so would save $1.7 million.
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. Regardless of my opinion on the issue, marijuana is legal. Elgin would be foolish to turn away the tax revenue generated from a marijuana dispensary. I would be in favor of a dispensary in Elgin, but if approved, we should work closely with the Elgin Police Department to be sure it works well for everyone involved.
Q. What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A. Homelessness is not only an individual problem but is also a community problem. It is possible to end homelessness in our city, but first there must be a political will to put forth the effort. We need progressive Councilmembers who are willing to look for solutions and create a comprehensive response. Luckily, those solutions are nearby. We need to look no further than Rockford to see a community which has almost eradicated the homeless problem by partnering with Community Solutions, a nonprofit organization that works to achieve a lasting end to homelessness that leaves no one behind. Their initiative "Built for Zero" is a movement of 80+ communities working to measurably end homelessness. By using data, these communities have changed how local homeless response systems work and the impact they can achieve. -- and thus, proving that it is possible to make homelessness rare and brief. The City of Elgin could be the next success story.