Patricia "Patsy" Smith: 2021 candidate for Des Plaines City Council Ward 7
Two candidates for one seat
City: Des Plaines
Office sought: Des Plaines City Council, Ward 7 alderman
Occupation: Recently retired after 35 years of being a business owner. We were a certified WBE (women owned business) consisting of sales, parts and service of heavy construction equipment and refuse bodies. In addition, we developed, manufactured and patented an environmentally friendly refuse cart cleaning system. These were either stationary or mounted on a truck. Our wash units were sold out of state and equally out of the country.
Employer: R.G. Smith Equipment and Rapid Wash Group
Civic involvement: Appointed by a prior mayor to serve on the EDC board; volunteer for state legislature campaigns; board member at Salvation Army men's residence and recording secretary at monthly meetings; assist weekly at a local church providing hot meals, lunch to go, clothing and nonperishable food to people in need.
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 view this pandemic as a life changer and take it very seriously. Leading by example, I would follow the CDC recommended safety protocol. In addition, keep up to date and complying with the ever changing State, Local and Federal guidelines. I would hold Des Plaines accountable to come up with a program that keeps both the residents and local businesses safe and informed. It would be advantageous to form a team of volunteers such as a Civil Society Group that have a close and direct relationship with our residents. Their main goal would be to raise awareness. They would communicate accurate information, counter rumors, provide needed service and liaise with government during an emergency. Households take measure to ensure they have access to accurate information, food, water and medicine. As unpopular as the restrictions might be to the residents, even more so to the small business owner. They must continue to stay in compliance. As sympathetic as I am to their need to reopen they must remember there is no economic health with no public health.
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.
Q. The pandemic has brought us through 4 seasons. Despite this, the Park District, less their usual season help, kept up their maintenance so well you would not know we were in the midst of a disaster. The streets and roads were cleaned with the mechanical sweeper and the grass was cut in the parks. In the fall the leaves were picked up according to their posted dates. They have been moving along trimming trees. There have been removal of diseased and dead trees. Regarding City Hall, I have been promptly answered by a person and then transferred to the appropriate department where once again a human answered. Like many other office staffs they have remotely worked from their homes, but believe the majority are back in the office. The City Council meetings have continued have their by-monthly via zoom in lieu of in person at the City Hall. With all the challenges the services have remained consistent. They have done a fine job.
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. Preparedness, rapid response, a stock pile of PPE and access to vaccine production coordination for a rapid containment operation and provide early assessments of the pandemic severity. We need to be ready for the next possible strain of COVID. These are unprecedented times the City needs to be prepared and step up with guidance and direction. The City needs to have a plan in place consisting of department heads, professionals from the medical field, 1st responders and police. They need to be educated and with confidence are ready in tandem with an immediate plan of action. PPE should always be fully stocked, respirators and depending on the severity hospitals need to have additional space for overflow. Seniors will be kept safe and away from infected persons. Everyone has a job working in tandem.
Q. What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of pandemic on taxpayers?
A. Residents of Des Plaines that have either lost their job permanently or still waiting to return and the businesses that were deemed nonessential possibly will need assistance. Business permits and licenses could be reduced. Elk Grove gave their residents $200.00 voucher toward their water bill. We need to keep in mind as residents, we want to see our services stay the same and taxes not raised. Des Plaines is collecting less and less revenue from the casino, operating businesses that have significant less sales thus producing less sales tax revenue for the city. In addition, the total loss of sales tax for the city from the many closed businesses. With no sight of when this will change, Des Plaines needs to stay solvent. Des Plaines needs to service the residents with up to date and viable information on organizations that can be utilized to assist them. A user friendly website with names and phone numbers of how to contact these places would be a needed.
A Des Plaines operated hot line with a live person to speak with that has many different up to date tips on where to get appropriate assistance in conjunction with the website would be viable.
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. Due to the benefit of the casino money which Des Plaines receives is earmarked for infrastructure projects. The following are some that I would put at the top of the list:
Continue to finish updating the Cities storm and sanitary drains. The separation of these drains would be a large saving for the City of Des Plaines. Currently, the ones they have not gotten to are tied in together. The storm along with the sanitary drain both go through the full cleaning process starting at the Water Reclamation plant and continue all the way through the process to make drinkable water. The storm drains are meant to catch rain water and run off water considered to then be gray water. This water does not need to go to the Water Reclamation, just flow into the Illinois River.
With all the new housing developments west of downtown Des Plaines along NW Highway a safe and accessible walkway is needed for both pedestrians and bike riders to take them there.
As far as an infrastructure project to be put on the back burner that I do not know. This would have to be decided by the deciding departments and the Mayor.
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. While I am concerned about the use of marijuana and the possible impact and long term effects on our young adults, it is legal and they are opening all over the Chicagoland suburbs. Not having a recreational dispensary in Des Plaines is no deterrent to just ten minutes drive you will be at one. The closest one is at our back door in Rosemont on Touhy and Manheim near the All State Arena. These facilities are highly regulated by the State, tightly run and very strict rules of conduct. There are ingredient labels on the product that tell you the strength of the product, expiration dates and also play a part in the taxing structure. Most locations have 1-2 armed security officers and there is no loitering. I would be assured that residents drive by a location and are unaware that it is a dispensary. In Evanston the tax is 16-1/4 percent, breaking down to 3 percent going to the township, 10-1/4 percent sales tax and 3 percent going to Cook County. In addition 25-35 percent excise tax which is calculated on the level of potency goes on top of the 16-1/4 percent tax. The law is that you have to be 21 years of age with valid and I mean valid ID to purchase their product. With the economy in such a weakened state and whether you like it or not, I feel we should not turn down the added tax on this lucrative product for our City.
Q. What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A. I have many visions for this question, but I would first like to start out by doing a survey with the residents of Des Plaines and seeing what they feel is most needed. Personally, I would like to see downtown Des Plaines revitalized. The empty stores need to be marketed and filled, new restaurants with outdoor dining, a pedestrian corridor that would bring people together to enjoy various venues appealing to the young people, families and seniors.