Mark Senak: 2021 candidate for Glen Ellyn Village President
In the race for Glen Ellyn Village President, sitting Trustee Mark Senak and former Trustee Pete Ladesic are vying for the village's top post in the April 6, 2021, election.
First-term incumbent Diane McGinley did not seek reelection as she was moving out of state with her family.
Senak received the endorsement of the village's Civic Betterment Party, while Ladesic is campaigning outside the party system that has produced a slate of candidates for elected office in the village since the 1930s.
The Daily Herald asked the candidates several questions about issues facing the village.
Below are Senak's responses.
In-person early voting with paper ballots begins Feb. 25 at DuPage County Fairgrounds Building 5, 2015 Manchester Road, Wheaton. In-person early voting with touch-screen voting begins March 22 at locations throughout the county. Learn more at www.dupageco.org/earlyvoting/.
2 candidates running for one, 4-year seat
Town: Glen Ellyn
Occupation: Attorney, Senak Keegan Gleason & Smith, Ltd.
Civic involvement: Glen Ellyn Village Trustee (2015-present); Glen Ellyn Architectural Review Commission (2013-15); volunteer, DuPage Pads; member, DuPage Community Emergency Relief Team (CERT); mentor, DuPage County Bar Association Lawyer-to-Lawyer Mentoring Program; trial judge, DuPage County Bar Association High School Mock Trial Competition; arbitrator, 19th Judicial Circuit, DuPage County, Illinois; counsel, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois Pro Bono Program; and Milton Township Precinct Committeeman.
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 village president, my role is to protect the health and safety of our residents.
The village president should also take steps to alleviate the economic hardship the pandemic has caused to our residents and business community. To do so, the village president should use all the available resources, including the knowledge and experience of the village staff, the recommendations of country, state, and federal health officials, the assistance of other stakeholders in our community (school districts, park district, Chamber of Commerce/Downtown Alliance), and input from our residents.
This information should then be provided to the village trustees to establish policies that promote the health, safety and economic well-being 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: I'm satisfied with the effort the village made to serve the community during the pandemic, but there is still work to be done. We provided uninterrupted village services to our residents, used every available means of communication to keep our residents informed of public health developments, set up an outdoor seating venue to help our local businesses, and established a grant program to help businesses who were financially impacted. But, the shock waves of the pandemic continue to ripple through our community.
So, we must continue to be vigilant and be ready to respond quickly as conditions change.
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 the village does not have a health department, we lack the institutional expertise to establish public health guidelines regarding COVID-19. Consequently, we must rely on county, state, and federal health officials who have the knowledge and resources for guidance on public health issues.
We do have the ability to continue developing ways to remotely interact with our residents, so we have a viable alternative to in-person contact.
We have taken steps in this direction by providing for online applications for building permits, online payment of utility bills, and online purchases of real estate transfer stamps and village stickers. From a financial perspective, we have to examine our reserve levels to ensure we maintain sufficient funds to continue delivering municipal services when normal revenue levels are reduced.
Q: What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A: All options should be on the table. We took some immediate steps to lessen the financial impact the pandemic had on our residents, including suspending late fees on water bills and village stickers, instituting a moratorium on water shut-offs, establishing a grant program for local businesses, and delaying payment of food and beverage taxes.
I also advocated for not raising the property tax levy for the current year and delaying discretionary spending projects.
We will have to take a hard look at next year's budget and see if revenue allows us to continue current spending levels.
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 downtown streetscape project is the largest capital project under current consideration, with estimated costs between $20-$25 million. The board and village staff devised a method by which the cost of the project is funded by revenue from the food and beverage tax, thereby reducing reliance on property tax increases to pay for the project.
While our infrastructure in the Central Business District is in need of modernization, recent engineering studies found the water mains and sanitary sewers were in good condition and the stormwater sewers remained "serviceable."
Given these findings, I would look hard at deferring these types of discretionary capital projects until we have a clearer picture of whether revenue levels will rebound to pre-pandemic levels.
Q: Do you agree or disagree with the stance your board 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 board's decision to prohibit recreational cannabis sales in Glen Ellyn.
I proposed the issue be submitted to a villagewide referendum because out residents should have direct input on an issue that defines who we are as a community. While the sale of recreational cannabis was approved by a vote of 6,501 to 6,359, the results did not provide a clear mandate either for or against recreational sales.
As such, for those who favor recreational sales, prohibiting sales in Glen Ellyn will not affect them; they can purchase cannabis in many of the surrounding communities. But, there was an equal number of residents who opposed recreational sales for many reasons.
In the end, I did not feel the relatively modest revenue that the village would receive from recreational cannabis sales justified ignoring the views of a large group of residents who opposed it.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A: A downtown green space, where our community can gather for seasonal festivals, like Taste of Glen Ellyn, Jazz Fest, and other civic events and outdoor performances.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A: What you see is what you get. Residents can look at my record over the last six years and know where I stand on the issues. Residents know that I will listen to their concerns, help them to solve their problems, and ensure transparency and fiscal responsibility in village government.