Yasmeen Bankole: 2021 candidate for Hanover Park Trustee
Five candidates for three 4-year terms
Hometown: Hanover Park
Occupation: Outreach Coordinator
Employer: U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin
Civic involvement: Economic Development Chair, DuPage County NAACP; Board Member, Firehouse Community Arts Center of Chicago; Volunteer, The ONE Campaign
Q. What is the primary reason you're running for office? What is the most important issue?
A. I am running for Hanover Park Trustee because I believe that our residents deserve committed, transparent, and effective local governance. As a longtime Hanover Park resident and Illinois public servant, I am acutely aware of the challenges that our residents face and how the decisions of our elected officials have an impact on our everyday lives. I believe the most important issues that our elected officials must focus on are reducing the financial burden on our taxpayers, supporting our small businesses in these times of economic downturn, and investing in the well-being of our community. If elected as your Village Trustee, I will advocate for vital services and resources that support working families during the pandemic and beyond. I will also push for continued fiscal responsibility and a review of village expenditures. As a millennial candidate, I hope to bring fresh and innovative ideas to the Village Board that serve the interests of our residents.
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. In times of uncertainty, I believe elected officials should face these challenges head on and work with their state and federal partners in a collaborative manner. I recognize and understand that we all come from different walks of life, and with that may come a difference of opinions. But if elected as your Village Trustee, I will work to ensure that your voice, concerns and opinions are heard. In my profession, I have worked tirelessly to assist Illinoisans locate and obtain vital resources during this pandemic. I currently serve as an Outreach Coordinator for U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and due to the pandemic, I have taken on additional responsibilities and worked to assist Illinoisans obtain unemployment insurance, secure small business grants and loans, inform them on current COVID-19 mitigation efforts and vaccine distribution, and connect constituents with PPE resources.
In my role as Economic Development Chair for the DuPage County NAACP, I have continually assisted small business owners navigate funding resources available to them, while highlighting mortgage and rental assistance opportunities as they arise. I believe my current profession and leadership experience has equipped me to succeed in the role of Village Trustee.
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 believe that the Village of Hanover Park has taken several actions that have greatly assisted our residents during this pandemic. The Village of Hanover Park put in place an Emergency Declaration in March 2020, which waived late fees, and suspended water shut-offs and parking citations until Aug. 6, 2020. Additionally, the Village worked with state officials to bring pop-up COVID-19 testing locations to Hanover Park on several occasions. While I appreciate the work and efforts of our village officials, I believe more can be done to better serve the interests of our residents. As I mentioned before, the Emergency Declaration ended certain services on Aug. 6, 2020. I believe this declaration could be extended. Last week, over 32,000 Illinoisans filed for unemployment last week, and many people are still struggling to cover basic living expenses. As the pandemic continues and many village residents are still experiencing financial hardships, I believe it is important to continue accommodations for village residents. If unable to extend the Emergency Declaration in its entirety, I believe vital provisions, like the suspension of water shut-offs, should remain in place.
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. At the state and federal level, I believe this pandemic has taught us that having strong public health infrastructures set in place, with ample medical supply stockpiles and coordinated supplies chain are of the upmost importance. This pandemic has also taught us that a continuous stream of federal monies to state and local governments, coupled with direct stimulus payments to working families are needed to allow for well-being and survival. But during this pandemic, relief efforts at the federal level have stalled on several occasions, which is why I believe that municipalities should have financial reserves that provide direct benefits to their residents. I think we can all learn from the positive actions of our neighbors in Elk Grove Village, in which their village officials were able to pull monies from their reserves to cover the water bills for their residents for two months.
One of my campaign priorities is to not only support our small businesses throughout this pandemic and beyond, but to invest and advocate for a diversified base of businesses, so that an increase in sales tax revenue affords our village the ability to create a financial reserve of this nature.
Q. What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A. Budget cuts are always difficult decisions to make, but to reduce the burden of revenue shortfalls on taxpayers, village actions may be grouped in two distinct categories: suspensions and terminations. The suspension of buying non-vital equipment, upgrading infrastructure, or any large scale-purchases are necessary. Hiring freezes and layoffs may also be necessary in this regard. Our current Village board has had recent discussions in which they opposed raising property taxes but explored the idea of increases to the Food and Beverage Tax, in addition to approving the purchase of several new vehicles for village operations. In these times of economic uncertainty, a delay or postponement in the approval of these expenditures would be in the best interests of our taxpayers. If elected as your Village Trustee, I will advocate for continued fiscal responsibility, in addition to a review of village expenditures.
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. As municipalities look for ways to make up for lost revenue, I believe forging ahead with new developments that will generate sales tax revenue is important. For example, the Village board has given preliminary approval to the demolition of a preexisting building near the corner of Lake Street and Bartels Rd, with a three-lot commercial development. Another example is continuing efforts to develop the south Metra lot near the Hanover Park Metra station. Our village has already acquired grant funding for this project through the RTA and because the Village maintains our Metra lots, this development could generate additional revenues through monthly permits and daily fees.
Recently, the Village board discussed a face-lift for Fire Station #2 located at 3855 County Farm Rd. Unless the face-lift is needed to maintain a safe working environment, I believe this face-lift can be revisited when the pandemic has ceased.
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. The Village of Hanover Park and Hanover Park's Development Commission have opted in and allowed for the cultivation and retail sale of recreational marijuana. These operations are allowed in predesignated industrial districts. Although permitted, our village currently does not have any commercial cannabis businesses in operation. I agree with the stance that the Village has taken and would not make any changes, although it worth noting that Hanover Park falls in two counties -- DuPage County and Cook County and each county has different operating ordinances set in place. Currently, sales, craft growers and the cultivation of recreational marijuana is allowed in Cook County, while in DuPage County, it is prohibited in unincorporated areas.
Q. What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A. Many residents are still working from home, and students are still attending school remotely. An idea to better the community is to increase broadband access for our residents, in the form of complimentary mobile Wi-Fi hot spots. This would not only serve as a direct benefit to our residents, but would help address gaps in the digital divide, often seen in minority and low-income communities. Our officials could work with the Office of Broadband and Citizens Utility Board and learn more about the Connect Illinois program to inquire if our village is eligible for grants to fund this initiative.