Karen McHale: 2021 candidate for Rolling Meadows City Council, Ward 1
ROlling Meadows 1st Ward; 2 Candidates -- 1 seat
Hometown: Rolling Meadows
Occupation: Stay-a-home mom
Civic involvement: Current Ward 1 Alderman
Q. What is the primary reason you're running for office? What is the most important issue?
A. The reason I decided to run for office was because I would like to improve the connection between this portion of Rolling Meadows and the other areas of the city. In ward 1, we have residents with Palatine mailing addresses, other residents who utilize the Palatine Park District system. Our kids attend Palatine schools and Fremd High School. It's difficult to feel included when we are so far from everything that Rolling Meadows identifies as its city center and where community events are hosted. I feel that there are solutions to bridge this gap and make our neighbors feel like proud and valued Rolling Meadows residents. Having a social media presence and open lines of personal communication will assist in opening that door. I am in a unique position, being a stay-at-home mom to four younger grammar school aged children who are involved in different park district programs and schools than our counterparts in other wards to understand how this affects the residents. We, as a city, have a lot to offer, but that's often overlooked because ward 1 residents defer to surrounding areas for our means of entertainment and retail choices.
Q. Given the upcoming sale of the Arlington racetrack just outside of town, what kind of development would you prefer to see as a replacement?
A. I have fond memories of Arlington Park and attending races with my family on many special occasions or just because it was a beautiful summer afternoon. It will be bittersweet to see it go, but what an exciting opportunity for Arlington Heights to put something really special in its place! Though it may be premature to identify a specific "kind" of development, it will be important to make sure any development plans would have an emphasis on long-term positive economic impact not just for the specific location but also in consideration of the surrounding areas. It would be my preference that any development should also complement the existing surrounding businesses. It is a huge property in an ideal location with convenient highway access, the Metra line, and other public transportation, so there is a lot of potential there for everyone in the community to benefit as homeowners and as business owners.
Q. How should the city of Rolling Meadows proceed in trying to influence any development of Arlington Park?
A. Whatever Arlington Heights ultimately decides will happen to this property will directly affect Rolling Meadows with traffic resources and other infrastructure needs. It is my hope that there will be open dialogue and collaboration between all the surrounding communities, as this could be a great opportunity to enhance regional development.
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 position on City Council requires me to make decisions that will impact many and not simply a few. However, when these decisions are carried out, I have to ensure that we as a council, have set up mechanisms to provide aid to those negatively affected. Deferring to the state and federal regulations to me seems most logical in combating a global pandemic. I feel that we need to have a united front as citizens to keep from overrunning our hospitals and health care workers. Mask mandates and following social distancing guidelines will only make schools open faster and allow restaurants greater capacity to open and begin to resume some normalcy. I cannot control the actions or opinions of individuals and what they feel is best for their families. There are varying degrees of comfort toward the situation and everyone is impacted by the pandemic with their own unique set of circumstances. Sympathy, science and social leadership are the primary requisites required of a civic leader during this type of national emergency.
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 think Rolling Meadows did a great job of serving our constituents during the pandemic by maintaining continuity of operations in addition to creating a resident assistance program. The city also offered business relief, assisting local restaurants with extending outdoor dining. Additionally, the city established a partnership with the Salvation Army to offer additional financial relief to residents. On March 13, 2020 Rolling Meadows was one of the first in the State to host hybrid & virtual council meetings to promote physical distancing. City staff and council have done a great job keeping all future city council meetings safe by continuing to host virtual meetings, in which council members, staff and residents can still safely and comfortably attend without restricting the ability of citizens to interact with local city government. I personally was sworn into office as alderman virtually during the pandemic, ensuring that the residents of the first ward would be represented.
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. I believe Rolling Meadows handled the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic well. I think that any unprecedented situation like a public health crisis, allows one to reflect and take stock of what was successful and what wasn't. A review with city staff on how city services and employees fared in this past year would be beneficial in implementing strategy should the need arise again. An audit of technology and connectivity capabilities within departments to determine what changes in procedure might be warranted should a crisis like this present itself in the future. I understand that City Hall has put additional filtration systems in place in city Council chambers which I think is a great step forward for the safety of our residents and guests for future in person meetings.
Q. What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A. I think we should look at creating new revenue streams, for the city, as opposed to making cuts. We can begin by looking for more innovative opportunities to better the city while providing the same level of service. In turn that will save money while allowing for funds to be reallocated where they are needed. I believe this is a better way to address taxpayer burden rather than simply making cuts. Evaluating how the COVID pandemic affected our business community, looking at what our new normal will look like and going after new potential business opportunities will help take tax burden off property owners.
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. Flooding and stormwater retention issues are a source of major concern in my ward. Every spring, we seem to have more rain than we did the year before and the flooding gets worse. I think we need to begin addressing these issues and taking steps to rectify these problems. Opening the lines of communication with the Public Works department, the Environmental Committee and residents who are greatly affected by flooding problems, we can begin the process of identifying the issues and discuss corrective action, responsibility and cost. We may need to reprioritize projects and find alternative revenue streams in the way of grants and pilot programs to help assist in uncertain economic times, but I feel that the city already takes these steps to protect the bottom line.
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 have no problem keeping tax revenue in Rolling Meadows from legal recreational marijuana sales. Nature's Care has been a responsible and positive member of our community. They have provided funding and sponsorship for our community events. They are an active member in our business community. Financially, it would be illogical to drive business and revenue away from our city to neighboring communities for a legal and regulated product.
Q. What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A. Prioritizing flooding and stormwater drainage issues that have been plaguing residents for years is something I think would be a good idea, and while I think it has been talked about, it hasn't been talked about enough. I feel that this has been a back burner issue for far too long. I would like to propose that we create a comprehensive plan for flooding and drainage issues in Rolling Meadows. This will allow us to identify the causes of our flooding, determine what can be done at the city level, what the responsibility of the resident is and move forward with a realistic timeline and bench marks to complete this project.