Thom Koch Jr.: 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: Retired teacher, still active as a coach
Employer: Hawthorn District 73
Education: AA College of Lake County, BA Barat College, MAC Northeastern Illinois University
Civic involvement: Member of the CLC Southlake Advisory Board, Vernon Hills trustee
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: First and foremost follow the science and the protocols set up by the CDC and state guidelines. It's not a simple yes or no problem.
There are a wide spectrum of answers and we need to help keep as many people as possible safe and informed. Staff has done a great job of expanding our media presence. We have to work with the LCHD and our state reps as well as the Municipal League to make sure that our residents have adequate information and the guidelines are appropriate.
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: Village staff did an amazing job keeping the Village Hall open and providing services while following protocols to protect both our citizens and our great staff. As with many businesses we modified areas with signage and barriers. Staff followed daily health protocols. Regular meetings were held involving our staff, the police department and Countryside Fire Dept. These meetings were especially important in dealing with the group residence facilities 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: Since we do not have a health department or fire department we must continue to work with those agencies to make sure that we are creating a safe post-pandemic environment. We are a retail hub and therefore an area of significant person to person contact.
Q: What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A: Since we do not levy a village property tax it isn't as much a matter of cuts as it is working to maintain the strong financial base that we have by working with our local businesses. This should include revisiting the incentive programs for the food and beverage businesses that we have recently implemented. We also need to continue to work with the other local taxing bodies as we have in the past.
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: Route 45 needs to be widened from Route 83 to Route 21. Much of the early engineering and most of the right of way acquisition is done. The state now needs to find the funding to finish the project. It is a major traffic artery for people in our community and widening is long overdue. It should be paid mostly with state and federal highway money.
While it is not technically infrastructure, the Hawthorn Mall 2.0 project must be completed. Including the new housing, road work and the related infrastructure.
As a part of dealing with loss of income during the pandemic we have already pushed back several road projects including the widening of Lakeview Parkway and Fairway Drive.
We also need to continue to upgrade our stormwater management system to deal with the problems created by spring storms.
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: Before making our decision we held numerous meetings including a large town hall at the high school. The vast majority of the citizens who spoke were against local sales. The numbers were at least 8 to 1 against. While extra tax money sounds like a good idea, that amount of citizen input should not be ignored.
It is a decision that is always open to review.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A: Affordable senior housing is something that has not been talked about enough. It has come up occasionally but it is something that needs much more discussion. Our community, like most, is aging a bit and it is very unfair for people to have to move out of a community that they have lived in for a long time because of a lack of affordable housing.