Pamela Carr Hagerman: 2021 candidate for West Dundee trustee
Five candidates for four, 4-year terms
Village: West Dundee
Occupation: Integrated and e-commerce marketing leader
Employer: In transition
Civic involvement: Board Member, Elgin Master Chorale; secretary, Dundee Township Republican Organization; former president, Chicago Chapter of Western Michigan University Alumni Society; former president, Western Herald Alumni Society; former two-term elected board member, Western Michigan University Alumni Board
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. In Illinois, the Governor issued a disaster proclamation and provided pandemic guidelines. Then the West Dundee Board further approved an authorization for the Village President to exercise temporary, extraordinary authority at a local level. However, even with these new emergency powers, the West Dundee Village President and Trustees did not solicit feedback to understand local resident and business owner's needs (i.e. Town Hall). Instead, they implemented the state guidelines exactly, which resulted in catastrophic business and job losses. Another role of Village leadership during a pandemic should be to identify and protect the vulnerable population. For COVID-19 this was determined to be people with compromised immune systems and the elderly. The Village should have created an enhanced plan to isolate and protect senior residences and other vulnerable population locations. Finally, at the local level there was significant confusion and inconsistencies regarding rapidly changing business guidelines. West Dundee Board should have focused on proactively connecting with residents and businesses through emergency contact channels, instead of just passively posting state documents on the website.
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. West Dundee leadership continued to provide basic services during the pandemic. This included funding and management of essential services, holding limited business hours and continuing board meetings remotely. The Board reacted appropriately when ordinance changes were necessary including approval of outdoor restaurant sales and liquor service which had previously been prohibited. However, there was limited community outreach regarding how residents and businesses would prefer to manage the pandemic at a local level. As an improvement, the Village would benefit from a stronger digital presence to quickly disseminate pandemic-related and other news to residents and businesses. This could include a website upgrade that includes user-generated content and feedback, development of permissioned email list for updates, and text message notices to businesses.
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. When COVID-19 first arrived, there wasn't much precedent available to clearly define how to manage a pandemic. Since then, we have learned and adapted balanced processes to protect residents from getting sick vs. keeping businesses open and viable. Moving forward, I believe the best method should be to allow business owners to decide how and when to implement suggested safety guidelines that work for their business and employees. Then consumers have the same rights to decide if they will choose to abide by these guidelines based on when and where they spend their money. A one-size-fits-all policy is not necessarily in the best interest of all businesses or all residents. Also, as a backup, the Kane County Health Department is in place to monitor any escalating issues.
Q. What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A. In 2020, the Federal Government allocated $93 million under the Federal Cares Act for Coronavirus Relief in Kane County. These funds were distributed within the Village of West Dundee to reduce the burden of the pandemic. (However, it should be noted that there was no audit process put in place to ensure these funds were applied in proper channels.) Also, due to safety concerns associated with the pandemic, many budgeted events and services had to be canceled including festivals such as Heritage Fest and Dickens in Dundee, and maintenance of parks, playgrounds and pools. Budgeted funds in these areas should have been moved into the general fund. If cuts are still needed, they should be directed to nonessential services. Police, Fire and other safety services should remain fully funded and a top priority, while adding other new positions could be considered optional. Additionally, infrastructure projects should be evaluated and ranked based on their ability to generate tax revenue. This may involve putting some projects on hold, and then replacing them with high-potential revenue sources.
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 top priority for West Dundee should be to turnaround retail sales declines and vacant properties in the Spring Hill Mall Corridor. For years, West Dundee was a regional shopping destination for surrounding communities, and the tax revenue generated by the mall benefitted local residents. Shifting consumer preferences, competitive shopping options, and in an increase in online shopping have significantly eroded sales in the Spring Hill Mall Corridor. A 2015 revitalization plan was developed that combined elements of indoor and outdoor malls with strong national anchor stores. A portion of that plan was implemented including a newly renovated entrance and outdoor space for Cinemark theater. However, the rest of the mall has seen more anchors leaving (including Macy's and Sears), and it appears almost vacant from the street. Now consumer shopping preferences need to be refreshed since 2015, and then move forward with an adjusted revitalization plan. This project is already budgeted within infrastructure TIF funds and other sources. There needs to be a comprehensive ranking of all infrastructure projects based upon potential tax revenue generation. Once this is complete, the Spring Hill Mall Corridor project will likely be prioritized as a top initiative.
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. In 2020, West Dundee approved adult-use cannabis businesses to locate within the Village so long as they are in B3 business district, and are at least 250 feet from schools, day care centers and residences. Currently, there are no adult-use cannabis establishments within West Dundee.
Since the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act is approved Illinois law, West Dundee should concentrate on protecting the safety of its residents, and as well as controlling the tax benefit allocation. To strengthen protection for children, West Dundee should add 250 feet perimeter protections from adult-use cannabis locations to all businesses that attract children including parks, sports arenas, churches, and other children's retail locations. In addition, West Dundee should dedicate a meaningful portion of the cannabis tax collected to support addiction education for residents.
Q. What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A. West Dundee has seen a significant decrease in retail tax revenue to due online shopping. One idea to help nurture local retailers would be to create a Village-sponsored online marketplace funded by revenue sharing, that would extend prospecting opportunities to vendors who participate in major events such as Heritage Fest. Vendors could extend their reach by listing select items on our shared e-commerce site. Orders would be drop-shipped directly from the vendor, and these shipments could include personalized marketing literature for future purchases. This breakthrough experience would deliver West Dundee vendors with a competitive advantage.