Michael Schenk: 2021 candidate for Vernon Hills trustee
Six candidates are vying for three four-year seats on the Vernon Hills village board. Two candidates did not respond.
City: Vernon Hills
Occupation: Owner, multi-unit restaurant franchisee
Education: University of Wisconsin-Madison (1996), bachelor's degree in political science
Civic involvement: I lead the successful Hawthorn District 73 Pro-Referendum Committee in 2018. As a result, District 73 now has a new school (School for Young Learners) and expansions/updates to all of the other schools on campus to help alleviate the growing enrollment. Vice president of Key to 73 Education Foundation, a 501 (c)3 dedicated to bringing innovation to the classrooms in District 73. We recently successfully raised funds to provide home Wi-Fi to 160 families in-need to aid in remote learning during the Pandemic. I recently joined with other community members to voice our opinions in regards to the Hawthorn Mall TIF in front of the Village Board. We felt it was necessary to be a voice of reason and to find compromise for the schools, developer and the village. School volunteer, coach.
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 has created a complete disruption to everyone in our community. As a potential future Trustee, we must be a role of support. Many of our local businesses are struggling to pay their bills. Recently the Village has allowed for qualifying businesses to apply for some needed financial relief. It's a good start, but as a business owner myself, it's the customers and employees who allow the doors to stay open. We must help ensure our businesses are following safety protocols during this time period in order to keep the public trust and we also must continue to encourage our community to shop local. The pandemic has shown us we all have varying degrees of perspective. I feel I can bring a sense of levity to all of those perspectives to help our Village get through the Pandemic or potential future crisis.
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: I feel our Village has been able to serve its constituents during the pandemic very well. I do not recall of any major disruption to village services. I also know our Village and Park Districts all worked together to allow youth athletics and programs to take place in a safe manner during the pandemic which for many families, including myself, was a much needed somewhat return to normalcy.
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: Plans must be in place for many reasons. A good plan must address immediate needs, but these plans must be flexible for the unforeseen. These plans must address past learnings from the pandemic, and they must have a specific purpose that would address the health and safety of our families first. I am always problem solving in my business. I know how to get to the root of problems fairly quick and help set a plan in place toward resolution. I feel this would be a very beneficial attribute as a Village Trustee.
Q: What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A: The Village of Vernon Hills does not take a Property Tax levy from its residents, I do Not intend to be in favor of one. Most of the Village revenue comes from Sales Tax. If a budget constraint is brought on from less revenue due to the pandemic, we must look at all current projects and determine if they are necessary or can be placed on hold. Sometimes cuts have to be made, but we don't want to make cuts that will potentially diminish the image of Vernon Hills. Our Community comes First.
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 Lakeview/Townline Road project (allowing for better traffic flow) is now pushed to at least 2023. I think this is a good decision so funding can be used elsewhere. Even though this is a state project, the Village would still have its proportional expenses which will now not be spent for several years.
Eventually, I would like to see a way for safe pedestrian traffic between Mellody Farms and the New Hawthorn Mall 2.0 Development. Many considerations will have to be accounted for, but I do believe there is cost effective solution.
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 am currently content with the past decision the Village of Vernon Hills has made on this matter. As a trustee I will always remain objective and Ensure all of our residents have their voices heard if they choose shall this matter be proposed again in the future.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A: My idea is to hold semiannual town halls for our community. We have had them in the past for specific issues, but I feel we should have all of our pillars in these town halls. Our Village is only as strong as how involved all of our community residents want to be involved for the betterment of our Village. This could be a great way to hear from the residents and strengthen the partnerships with our pillars. These would be very transparent discussions but I feel would be very beneficial to everyone.