Dan Wilbrandt: 2021 candidate for West Dundee trustee
Five candidates for four, 4-year terms
Village: West Dundee
Employer: Wilbrandt Legal
Civic involvement: West Dundee Village Trustee, 2013-present
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. As a former prosecutor and as a private attorney, I have spent a career following the law. We have seen a number of new laws and regulations regarding the COVID-19 pandemic that are wildly unpopular with residents. Local governments cannot substitute their opinions for the law of the State. Likewise, local government cannot exceed its authority beyond the role given to it by law. These are not the regulations created by the Village, but rather, by the State. While the closure of restaurants, bars, and brick and mortar stores may be unpopular, the role of West Dundee should be to provide leadership and work with residents and businesses to comply with the law. That said, West Dundee and the Board are front line members of local government to listen to residents' and business' complaints, needs, and insights during the pandemic. This feedback is important to gather so that when input for law changes or need for guidance and direction are sought, we are prepared to speak to the needs of our residents and businesses.
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. The Village of West Dundee did, and continues to, adequately serve its residents during the ongoing pandemic. After the emergence of COVID-19, everything changed. From the police and fire departments responding to calls, to the way the Village Board met to discuss and vote on Village business, West Dundee modified everything that we could to help facilitate "normal life" in the Village. The Village Board meetings were done virtually and the meetings were published online in real time so that residents could still view and participate in meetings. For local businesses struggling with State shutdowns and regulations, the Village deferred loan repayments. For individual residents, the Village has provided a constant wave of information regarding testing, "Phase Changes," ways to access aspects of the Village operations, and more. West Dundee has truly adapted in response to the pandemic and will continue to do so. The attitude in the Village has been "How can we help?" rather than "Do this."
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. Now that a global pandemic has come to the Village of West Dundee and the world, we must be prepared for something similar in the future. Even if there is not a future global pandemic, COVID-19 has left a blueprint by which the Village, State, and federal governments can respond in a time of crisis. Many aspects of the COVID response can be done better. Therefore, we must learn from what was difficult now, and fix it for the future. One aspect of the pandemic that we will have in place for any future crisis will be a constant communication stream. One of the worst parts of dealing with COVID-19 has been a shortage of information. West Dundee will continue to do our best to provide accurate information and resources as a starting point for residents' needs and questions. Also, West Dundee will continue to follow State and federal guidelines and encourage others to do the same.
Q. What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A. With COVID-19, State regulations have depleted streams of revenue for the Village (sales tax from stores, restaurants, etc.). West Dundee can be smart about making cuts to budgetary items and reallocating savings. For example, if a budgetary item comes in as under budget, the difference must be saved and not reallocated for another project that has not been fully vetted as an essential need. Also, the single most direct way to alleviate the burden on taxpayers is to maintain a low property tax request. Each year, I have voted AGAINST raising property taxes on residents. While the daily cost of living in West Dundee remains the lowest in the immediate area, the Village can do better. West Dundee has built up a reserve fund for times just like this (COVID-19). It's time to give the taxpayers a break by not immediately putting revenue shortfalls directly on the backs of the residents and keep a flat property tax.
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. A few years back, the Village created a road replacement program. The resurfacing of roads costs millions of dollars. The Village has pledged to fund a road replacement program for $800,000 each year. The roads have been assessed and listed in a priority order, with the worst conditioned roads at the top of the list. Each year, we apply the road budget to repairing the roads on the list. This way, there is a schedule of road work that residents can look at and see when their roads will be repaved. By keeping the funding for this program constant, it assures residents that we will be tackling our worst roads first, getting to all roads in the near future. One project that can be put on the back burner is the repainting of the Spring Hill Mall water tower. While the tower has seen better days, the function of the tower is still top notch. Painting the water tower has been estimated at a price tag of $1 million dollars. This is definitely a project that can wait while revenue in the Village is taking a hit.
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. As a former prosecutor, I am personally against legalized marijuana. That being said, the State passed laws legalizing it statewide. Therefore, the Village has no choice but to allow recreational marijuana use in West Dundee. While a dispensary coming to the Village remains a long-shot, I voted in favor of allowing them to do so (despite my opinion against the legalization). There are financial advantages to having a dispensary in West Dundee based on the sales tax revenue. There would be no difference regarding the presence of marijuana in the Village if there is a dispensary in a neighboring town (residents would just go to that town to legally purchase marijuana), but there would be a loss of revenue for the Village. I would not change any aspect of my voting on this topic, but would have liked to see the legalization of marijuana not pass in the legislature.
Q. What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A. While the pandemic has put this on hold, I would like to see more community events in West Dundee. We now have moved forward with expanding the Riverwalk on the south side of Main Street, resurfaced Village parking lots, and added downtown parking. We have many great restaurants and shops in our downtown and surrounding areas. I would like to see our community spaces used to the fullest with farmers markets, craft and car shows, outdoor dining, and further use of the Fox River as a feature of West Dundee on the weekends and summer week nights. We have an amazing sense of community and beautiful Village community spaces. We need to use these and showcase our local businesses for the enjoyment of our residents and visitors.