Sean Oskerka: 2021 candidate for Des Plaines City Council Ward 3
Four candidates are running for one four-year term in Des Plaines City Council, Ward 3.
City: Des Plaines
Occupation: Emergency room nurse
Employer: Advocate Aurora Healthcare
Civic involvement: Cubmaster Pack 14 from 2015-2020; Scoutmaster Troop 6 2021; Des Plaines youth baseball coach; food drives for the community backpack project in Des Plaines; volunteer with the Des Plaines Self Help Closet
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 is to keep people safe and inform the public of what is going on as much as possible. We need to be leaders and help people understand the situation and what they can do to help themselves and their neighbors to stay safe. It's easy to close businesses down but even harder to open stuff back up and keep people safe at the same time. The people that own those businesses are our friends, family and neighbors. We need to make smart informed decisions to make sure everyone has a voice and stays safe. Everyone has opinions on how the pandemic should be handled, but we need to follow the guidelines that are coming from the experts and the governing bodies.
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: Early on in the pandemic the city suspended all water shut offs for overdue bills and they didn't enforce parking restrictions. But as the pandemic went on Des Plaines was the leader in suburban Cook County in positive COVID-19 cases. The city could have done a hand washing campaign contest with the schools to have kids come up with a simple fun way to have people remember to wash their hands. The City could have also tried to bring in or partner with a local hospital for COVID-19 testing centers in our harder hit areas.
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: Nothing can be stressed more than mask wearing, simple hand-washing and having a list of services like food assistance, financial assistance, or other services that are needed at the ready to distribute to citizens that need them. The village website is a great place to start to post this information, then it can also be distributed through schools and local churches to get people the information in a timely manner.
Q: What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A: The city has done a good job as best as they can with not filling vacant positions and implementing a hiring freeze. Freeze all nonessential spending and look at equipment that can be repaired instead of replaced this year to save some money. The city of Des Plaines could also not offer health care to elected officials. I think the city needs to see how they can keep the budget as close to even as possible, so we are not building a bigger deficit and having to ask for more from taxpayers in the future.
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 S curve on Northwest Highway is an especially important infrastructure project that could potentially add pedestrian and bike lanes to help connect the community. Completing that project and adding lanes would make that part of town more connected to the downtown area, as well as help people access the Metra. The city can apply for grants to assist with funding. Each project that is set to be begin should be reprioritized and a list should be made about what needs to be done immediately and what may be able to wait until next year.
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 city council decision to allow recreational marijuana sales in Des Plaines. This is a chance for the city to attract new business and a way to collect a new revenue stream. These new businesses attract other new business and that could potentially be a big boost for our economy.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A: In a post COVID world I would like to see more done for community outings or get-togethers. I think we have a great opportunity for a better farmers market in Metropolitan Square. We could have food truck festivals at Lake Park. There are some great places we can have get-togethers that would provide great opportunities to get to know our community and our neighbors.