Karin Jones: 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: Insurance agency owner
Employer: Kirkpatrick, Jones, & Herzog Insurance Agency
Civic involvement: I have enjoyed working with the City of Elgin's various departments over the last 20 years in several volunteer roles. Currently, I serve as a Commissioner on the Planning & Zoning Commission. I initiated and continue to coordinate downtown Elgin's "Adopt-a-Planter" program with the Public Works Department. I regularly make transport trips and foster dogs for Mobile Mutts Rescue, and I volunteer with many organizations in various capacities to give back to my community.
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. Our role as city council members in the pandemic should affect those things we can influence. We should be utilizing our staff to tap into resources available at the Township, County, and State levels for our residents and provide information and services to our community. Right now, we all need assistance navigating vaccines, evictions, and accessing the assistance programs available. We need to be making every effort to ensure our local businesses get back on track and our residents are aware, informed, and have access to all resources available.
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. Elgin did a great job of providing city services during the pandemic. All Departments and staff deserve our gratitude for their efforts during this difficult time. Salary reductions, furloughing positions, navigating working remotely and safely while managing to provide uninterrupted delivery of our core services demonstrates the level of talent we have. All government, Federal, State, and Elgin could have done better to proactively provide the necessary social services to our elderly, essential workers, and compromised residents to navigate the vaccination process.
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. When it comes to these public health crises, the city government is limited, and we have to follow the federal and state government directives. It would be forward-thinking for the City of Elgin to start creating programs and plans to safely utilize our numerous parks and outdoor facilities and tap into our Cultural Arts Commission to develop and continue supporting and developing community projects and programs. Review strategize and plan to create year-round programming that is safe and contributes to our community's physical and mental health -- keeping Elgin relevant and progressive.
Q. What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A. Elgin will have to make across the board budget cuts like every other municipality. We will need to maintain our strong fiscal policies and make wise use of our reserve funds. We need to avoid national political agendas dominating our local policy decisions. Creating positions and incurring consultant expenses without a full and reasonable analysis from our staff cannot continue. All the social and sustainability issues are noble and necessary but can quickly become costly and take away from our ability to have a meaningful impact on our residents and businesses. Our staff and departments need to be recognized by the council as the independent research and policy analysis bureau that they are in a city-manager form of government.
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 am not well versed at this time with the current infrastructure projects that are currently underway to provide an answer on this. Infrastructure would be an item that I would ask the City staff to provide education and information. I would weigh the pros and cons for each of the items so that I could better understand the need, benefit, and result to make a thoughtful and informed decision.
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. The state of Illinois has determined that marijuana is legal, and Elgin should not be turning away a tax revenue opportunity. I was a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission when the ordinance was presented, and I voted in favor of it. Our Community Development Department created a very comprehensive, well thought out plan for dispensaries. I am surprised that we have not had an applicant brought forward for review when many surrounding communities have dispensaries up and running.
Q. What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A. I would like to see a shift at City Hall that creates a customer service culture throughout all departments. My experience and interactions with City Departments leave me impressed with the knowledge and experience, but not always utilizing the ability to pivot based on individual situations and circumstances. I would like to see a survey created that our community members could complete following specific interactions with the various departments. We are all the clients and customers that our City serves.