James 'Jim' Bertucci: 2021 candidate for Arlington Heights Trustee
Six candidates for four 4-year terms
Hometown: Arlington Heights
Occupation: Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
Employer: Equitable Advisors
Civic involvement: Vice president of The Performing Arts at Metropolis board of directors; past president of the Arlington Heights Library board of trustees; past president of the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce; past president of The Rotary Club of Arlington Heights board of directors; past president of Arlington Heights Crime Stoppers board of directors; past chairman of The Arlington Heights Mayor's Prayer Breakfast Committee; past vice president of Arlington Heights Historical Society board of directors Civic Awards: 2008 Arlington Heights Heart of Gold, City of Good Neighbors Award; Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce 2017 Business Volunteer of the Year; Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce 2019 Community Leader of the Year
Q. What is the primary reason you're running for office? What is the most important issue?
A. I love the Arlington Heights community. It's a great place to live, work and have a business. I would like to help take Arlington Heights to "Greater Heights" and make it everything it can be for our families and businesses. My candidacy's theme is "Greater Heights" and with my career experience in financial planning and budgeting, along with my leadership roles in community service with other organizations in Arlington Heights, I feel I can truly make a difference serving on the Village Board. As we go forward from the difficulties of our present most important issue ... dealing with the COVID virus, collaboration within our Village's departments, along with other units of government will be critical.
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. Leadership during this pandemic is about keeping people safe as well as helping our businesses survive. Adhering to guidelines set out by local, county, state and federal authorities, along with educating our residents about those guidelines, is certainly a part of keeping people safe. I'm already having discussions with village staff and business leaders on this topic. If elected as a Village Trustee, my role would be to further initiate, contribute to, and encourage discussions to support the safety of residents and the viability of businesses while understanding the evolving guidelines in this fluid situation.
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 Arlington Heights has served residents and businesses during this time in a variety of ways. These include initial and additional COVID-19 relief measures such as financial support for residents in need, zero-percent business loans and the reduction of liquor license fees for restaurants operating under capacity restrictions on indoor dining (passed in May and December). Other examples include the creation of expanded "curbside pickup" zones, the creation of Arlington Al fresco and a temporary waiver of parking spot minimums to support restaurant and retail businesses. In addition, the VAH has coordinated with other governmental entities and nonprofit organizations. One example is the Wheeling Township Food Pantry which provides food to those residents in need.
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. Certainly it will be critical to examine preparedness and the lessons learned during this time. This will likely entail collaborative review with local, county, state and federal agencies. First we need to get a report from village staff to see what we have learned during this pandemic regarding shortages, staffing, etc. We will need to concentrate on how our community was affected. Then, we can recommend safeguards and guidelines for the future.
Q. What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A. As a candidate with over 30 years of financial planning and budgeting experience, I'm confident in my ability to jump in and help in this area. I've already been reviewing the Village budget and have talked with village staff about the appropriate budget cuts that have been made to this point. Serving on other community boards, I've worked with Village Manager Randy Recklaus and Financial Director Tom Kuehne in the past. In addition, I'm familiar with the Village's budget format and budgeting process from my years as President and Treasurer of the Library Board where the Library budget was dropped into the Village budget. As a Village Trustee, I would continue to bring my experience and talents to address recovery and prepare for the future. Let's keep in mind that the village represents only 12% of our local tax bill, and of that 12%, the village's budget is over 80% payroll. It's a true balancing act to cut payroll without reducing service level. Again, I'm ready to jump in to participate in discussions and decisions if I'm elected.
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. Arlington Heights has started and must continue the current work on flood control. There are current cost sharing arrangements with homeowners to install overhead sewers, however more help is needed. In addition, on average, there are over 200 water main breaks in the Village annually. Since we were a town on the train line before we were a suburb, parts of our Village infrastructure are very old. I've had some discussions with public works staff to understand what's happening and what can be done to address this issue. Another priority must be addressing infrastructure needs for planned future developments, for instance the area that is expected to be redeveloped which is currently International Plaza on our south gateway. Proper infrastructure planning reduces the risk of systemic problems in the future. I'm currently discussing with village staff and trustees, what projects might be able to be put on the back burner.
Q. Do you agree or disagree with the stance your municipality has taken on permitting recreational marijuana sales in the community? What would you change about that stance, if you could?
A. I am, and have been, in agreement with the village board's current position. The dispensary that is allowed to sell medical marijuana has an 18 month trial period from September 2020 to March 2022 and then the Village will examine issues and concerns to determine whether to continue to allow recreational sales. I agree with this "pilot" approach. In addition, during the discussions, I visited the dispensary with a current sitting Village Trustee for a tour and discussion with the dispensary's management. I feel versed and ready to participate in discussions and decisions.
Q. What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A. Arlington Alfresco was a silver lining to our pandemic pressures. Going forward, I am interested in further enhancing our outdoor dining concept with more beautification of the area at its entrances and throughout. I'd like to see an area (maybe Campbell between Dunton Ave. and Evergreen Ave.) where restaurants from outside the downtown zone can be included, perhaps each weekend in the evenings. I'm also exploring how to make the area more accessible with a trolley or other transport. In addition, helping restaurants and businesses in the north and south of town to have outdoor seating and outdoor shopping should be considered. This is all part of my campaign's theme of "Greater Heights."