Paul Esposito: 2021 candidate for Oakbrook Terrace mayor
Two candidates are running for a 4-year term as Oakbrook Terrace mayor.
City: Oakbrook Terrace
Occupation: Director of Sales
Employer: V & V Supremo Foods, Inc.
Civic involvement: City of Oakbrook Terrace Youth Commission supervisor assistant
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 have been a part of the city council for the last nine years and have carefully constructed a strong foundation to withstand difficult times. Specifically, we have established a strong financial reserve which has enabled the city to pay off outstanding bonds, and have been able to retain talented employees to manage through unstable times. The City of Oakbrook Terrace Council and myself has supported Gov. Pritzker's orders throughout the pandemic. We have also worked in conjunction with DuPage Mayors and Managers to collectively participate in weekly calls with the DuPage County Health Department and the Illinois Department of Public Health.
The city continues to be responsible for providing services to the residents and businesses which include fire, police, public works, and administration. We have not reduced this commitment to our residents or business throughout the pandemic. Lastly, the city will need to be creative in implementing new communication platforms to better service our residents and businesses to better service health awareness issues. There is always room for improvement.
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 city council, staff, and employees have served at the highest level possible through the pandemic. All of the city services remained at full strength.
For example, our fire district worked through strict protocol to serve the community to prevent the transmission of COVID and ensure the safety of those who they came in contact with. Our police department conducted routine wellness checks with our elderly residents through the pandemic to ensure they were safe and their needs were addressed.
Lastly, the city voted unanimously to provide financial aid to our bars, restaurants, and hotel through COVID. Due to our strong financial position, all businesses received three months of sales tax revenue returned and two months of water billing waived in the amount of $427,000. We also approved a $100 Eats Voucher Program distributed to all single-family homeowners to be used at local restaurants and bars to support the downturn in business. Estimated program value was $41,000. In August, we conducted a free mask and sanitizer drive for all residents. We also provided a sufficient quantity of PPE for the safety of our employees at city hall.
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: One of the largest concerns created by COVID was the ability to communicate with our residents and provide updates through the pandemic. We have worked hard to establish social media platforms and a new website that will enable better communication with our residents. In the next few months, residents will be able to receive text and voice alerts informing them of emergencies, power outages, city programs and services, and health awareness. We will continue our communication with the DuPage County Department of Health and work closely with District 2 County Board Members in building stronger relationships so that we can successfully respond to the next crisis.
Q: What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A: The City of Oakbrook Terrace has a strong sales tax base that helps offset the burden of rising property tax. The City of Oakbrook Terrace has one of the lowest tax bases in DuPage County. Through COVID-19, the city has taken a conservative spending policy.
In 2020, the city cut $437,000 in spending and another $197,000 in employee head count. We will continue to take the same approach in 2021 managing expenses and freezing capital purchases. Lastly, I would ask for our government to continue to address the needs of taxpayers impacted by the pandemic financially.
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 City of Oakbrook Terrace is in a great position, major infrastructure projects were completed prior to COVID-19. The city was able to self fund the paving of new streets and installation of new streetlights in the amount of approximately $2M paid through the city's capital fund. We continue to replace curbs within our residential area annually through available grants. Safe Route to School Program grant would help pay for new sidewalks in our community with no additional increase in taxes to our residence. This project would enhance residents' property value and provide a safe pathway to our schools.
We are also working on a streambank stabilization project that will stop erosion, flooding and beautify the city's landscape from Dorothy Drennon Park to Terrace View Park. Project to be funded through grants received by the Illinois EPA and city's capital fund. Long term, it is important for the city to expand water infrastructure to our Berkshire. This will only enhance efficiencies and support other development projects in the future. I would also like to see burying of all underground power/utility/cable lines to reduce power outages.
Q: Do you plan to address businesses that don't adhere to the governor's order to close or restrict business?
A: We have supported the Governor's "Restore Illinois Plan" to the best of our capabilities throughout the pandemic. There is a delicate balance between the need to protect our residents and the need of businesses that are struggling to survive. We have worked with all local businesses to ensure proper guidelines have been followed through local code enforcement and the help of DuPage County Department Health Department. We must encourage our businesses to only themselves comply with these steps, but also require compliance of their patrons.
Q: Do you agree or disagree with the stance your city council 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 position taken by the city council to allow recreational marijuana in the city. The facility in Oakbrook Terrace is state of the art and drives educational use of the product through medicinal and recreational use. At this point there have been no incidents or conduct issues requiring attention. Over the last year, two other bordering cities approved recreational facilities within a mile radius. I do believe the state should regulate the number of licenses being issued.
Q: Describe your leadership style and explain how you think that will be effective in producing effective actions and decisions with your city council.
A: My leadership style is to treat people with respect, which in turn helps with productivity and growth for the City of Oakbrook Terrace. I feel my calm demeanor, attentiveness to residents' needs and willingness to hear what the city council members have to say brings good constructive conversation.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A: As an Alderman for the last eight years, and acting Mayor for one year, I have a direct vested interest in community functions have made positive impacts with residents and businesses. No mayor in the history of Oakbrook Terrace has been faced with the challenges of leading a city through a pandemic. As acting Mayor, I was nominated by my peers, to take over unexpectedly.
My ability to lead the city, residents, and businesses through these tough financial times speaks volume about my dedication, commitment, and leadership. I have learned to work with residents and businesses, form a budget, established a strategic plan and overseeing staff. My abilities have been developed through my career experience as a business professional. I have lived in Oakbrook Terrace for 48 years, I attended school in the city, I have raised my family here, and many of my friends and family live in the city. I am passionate about Oakbrook Terrace as it touches so many areas of my life. I want to make a difference that shapes the future direction and success of the City of Oakbrook Terrace.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A: We are initiating a new program that solicits input from the city's residents regarding goal session planning. We are asking the residents to submit their top three goals needing to be addressed in the city. The engagement will allow our residents to have active participation in setting goals and open additional lines of communication in the city.
Also, we need to continue to support businesses, restaurants, and hotels in the area. One idea would be to encourage a multipurpose entertainment district that could support concerts, restaurants, and retail opportunities. This would help the revenue stream for the city, businesses, and taxpayers.