Richard Baldino: 2021 candidate for Arlington Heights Trustee
Six candidates for four 4-year terms
Hometown: Arlington Heights
Occupation: Environmental chemist
Employer: Sustainment and Restoration Services, LLC
Civic involvement: Arlington Heights Village Board Trustee
Q. What is the primary reason you're running for office? What is the most important issue?
A. I'm running to follow through on some really important work that was started in my first term, but isn't finished yet: infrastructure improvements, addressing affordable housing, renewable energy funds, restructuring Village events and commerce in response to the pandemic, and the DEI initiative. The most important issue in Arlington Heights is infrastructure because it has a direct impact on the health and well-being of all residents. The longer it takes us to fix our infrastructure, the more expensive it will become. It's central to the services that the Village provides.
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. My role isn't to pick just one way of helping Arlington Heights through this pandemic. I lead by listening to experts and following the science. I also listen to a lot of residents and business owners who are suffering right now. And I'm willing to take an unpopular stance if it protects the most people.
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. Yes, I believe Arlington Heights was able to pivot and continue to provide excellent service to our community. As an example, Village Hall was closed to walk-in traffic but remained open and was able to provide services to the public by appointment. The Fire Department was also able to adjust when some of our firefighters were infected with the virus. The Department was able to adjust work schedules and provide overtime hours so that there were no service disruptions. Arlington Alfresco was another example of how the Village Board can stay nimble and support innovative responses to the pandemic.
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. Arlington Heights has a disaster response plan that covers the entire Village: schools, fire, police. We should extend that framework and put a pandemic response plan in place that balances resources and coordinates thoughtfully. We could do more if we apply everything we've learned to preparing for the next pandemic.
Q. What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A. Arlington Heights is suffering the same ill economic effects as the rest of our country. We will potentially need to delay some capital expenses such as brick paver replacement, downtown street furniture, and streetscape improvements. 85% of our budget is basic public works, fire and police. Our discretionary spending is in other capital projects and that's where we will have to make hard choices. We can also continue to hold off on filling Village staff vacancies.
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. Water mains and sewers are equally important although not equally funded. Water mains are critical because Public Works spends a high percentage of its budget repairing and they directly impact the health and well-being of our residents. Water main replacement is funded via a large bond just to maintain the status quo, not get ahead of the problems. As we retire debt, we need to redirect funding to more aggressively replacing water mains. I think we should be slowing down on some of the less vital capital projects like brick paver replacement and streetscape improvements in favor of those projects that directly affect the health and well-being of our residents.
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 supported recreational marijuana sales from the beginning for multiple reasons. Voters in Arlington Heights supported the Cook County referendum on cannabis legalization. The additional tax revenue helps bridge the gap between revenue and expenses during a downturn. Diversifying the types of businesses in the Village makes our tax base less subject to large dips during hardship in one sector. I think my position took into consideration all factors and has been a positive position for the Village.
Q. What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A. I want to explore disadvantaged business goals for the village -- for example, 15% set asides for SBE/WBE/MBE. These are a means to create both economic diversity and social diversity. We may already be meeting these kinds of goals but we aren't measuring it with any kind of policy or accountability. This could also include TIF funding to incentivize developers who engage with disadvantaged businesses to execute their projects.