Shawn Thomas Killian: 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: Operations at a credit union; formerly owned/operated a sandwich shop
Civic involvement: Des Plaines Friends of the Parks
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: I would like to think my role would be to create a landscape that is as safe and as successful as possible. As a former business owner I understand the difficulties that the pandemic has created for many businesses over the past year. Those that have had to learn how to pivot toward things they are not familiar with in order to survive deserve real credit. It's unfortunate that restrictions needed to be placed, but as a potential leader I realize that sometimes hard decisions have to be made in order to protect everyone's best interest, not just a solitary person. It is the job of the leaders in the community during times like these to listen to the experts, formulate a plan to do their best in striking a balance between safety and prosperity, and if need be, come up with relief programs for citizens and businesses that are really struggling. I wouldn't automatically defer to the state and federal authorities on any particular issue, as each of their responses would need to be looked at to determine if they are doing something in the best interest of the citizenry, or if they are just following party rhetoric.
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 think Des Plaines did a decent job navigating its way through the pandemic. They were relatively quick to begin the mask mandate, and were diligent in keeping the social distancing guidelines in place around town. They did a great job helping the senior center distribute vaccines to the elder residents and front line workers in town. I do wonder why you didn't see sections of street parking closed for restaurants to expand their outdoor eating areas like you saw in the other communities surrounding Des Plaines. And I would have liked to have seen the city create a mask distribution program in the beginning stages of the pandemic, educating the need for mask use while also providing one to every person in town.
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: We should take a look at the city's emergency plan and determine whether language should be included about making CDC or WHO guideline implementation as a required part of any pandemic type scenario. Although this is the first worldwide pandemic of this magnitude in 100 years, that doesn't mean another couldn't be lurking around the corner in five years or less. The city should have a proper program in place to not only teach the citizens the proper way to do things such as wearing masks during a pandemic, but also educate as to why it's so important that they do so. Des Plaines should also look at creating a permanent 'crisis fund,' or something along those lines, that would be in place to provide relief just in case we have another massive lockdown that will hinder citizens and businesses from being able to normally execute day to day life.
Q: What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A: Before I can comment on what cuts need to be made in the city budget, I do think I need to get in the actual nitty-gritty of how the city works. That will be best way to determine what are items are necessary, and what items are superfluous. We will also need some time to see what the effect of the pandemic will truly be on budgets everywhere going forward. Of course we know that the tax income from businesses will probably lower, but what will the long term effect of business slowdowns or closings be on the city as a whole. Will people spending less days in the office and more days working at home be a boon in the long run for restaurants in the city? Once we can begin to see how the long term effects will start playing out, then we will be able to make the necessary adjustments to determining what funding is needed where. I also believe that we should be looking to try and maximize the possible revenue streams the city has, and not always necessarily look to keep cutting from the budget all the time.
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: Completing the Theater renovation and the improvement of all the un/underdeveloped property in the downtown area is the most important project right now, and probably many years to come. The theater is the key cog in kick-starting the transformation from downtown Des Plaines being an afterthought, to a place that people/businesses will be attracted to. Tied into that project, we need to create a large green space with one of the dormant properties on the south side of downtown, which will be able to host fairs/festivals, outdoor concerts, or just be a respite for residents in a largely non-green area of town. If you surround the park with smartly built residential and retail space it will create an atmosphere of excitement that brings people back to an area that has been overlooked for years. These projects can be funded by private investment, use of the city budget, and possibly federal improvement grants. In general, we need a policy where no buildings are knocked down unless the ones that have already been knocked down get replaced, or have plans/funding in place to replace them. Nothing looks worse than huge swaths of empty land in what is the city's most visible area.
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's stance in allowing for the creation of dispensaries and cultivation centers. Enough evidence has shown that people were going to use marijuana whether it was legal or not, and adding a layer of control which can also provide an increase to the tax base of the city is something that the city would have been foolish to pass up. One thing I disagree with the council on so far is the apparent lack of recruitment of dispensaries or cultivation centers to properties in the city. The longer that we wait to try and get these businesses into town, the less likely it becomes that one ever will. Rosemont is already moving toward opening multiple dispensaries, including one right along the southern border of Des Plaines, which will deter other dispensaries from wanting to open in that area of town. There are also plenty of opportunities in the industrial areas of town to bring in a decently sized growing center. The city needs to begin recruiting some of these businesses before the surrounding suburbs have blocked the need for them to enter our city.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A: We need to create a safer and more mobile community throughout all of Des Plaines. Creating more bike paths and walkways throughout the city for people to traverse will be key going into the future. A big part of doing this will be building a path that can connect downtown to all of the new residences at the old Littlefuse site. Whether it's going over the tracks by the S-curve or building a path under them, it's something that needs to be done so residents can safely reach downtown without the risk of being hit by a car. And we should look into doing this in other areas of the city as well, such as creating a pedestrian path over the tracks near the Forest Ave. dead-end by the Aldi's and Boston Fish Market, which can then connect to the big shopping centers further down Mannheim. There are many railroad tracks and busy intersections throughout the city, and some creative ways to have pedestrians navigate them need to be looked in to.