Anne Kritzmire: 2021 candidate for Long Grove Trustee
Four candidates are vying for three four-year seats on the Long Grove village board.
City: Long Grove
Occupation: Marketing Manager, Consultant, Fund Trustee
Employer: Recently left Nuveen Investments after 21 years; also Thornburg Income Builder Opportunities Fund
Civic involvement: Long Grove Village Trustee, Finance Committee and Economic Development Committee; initiated partnership with Stevenson High School's Marketing classes; longtime volunteer with Boy Scouts; Adviser for Venturing Crew 140, where we earned District Crew of the Year; high adventure trip leader (multiple destinations including Yosemite National Park, Alaska, Glacier National Park, and Philmont Scout Ranch in NM); Troop Committee member; Former Girl Scout Troop leader; previous board member of the Chicago Children's Choir and of Chicago Public Media (WBEZ Public Radio); volunteer cantor (song leader) at my church since 2003
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 is a given -- showing up, reaching out, listening, and informing, with all constituent groups: residents, local businesses, and property owners. Communicating is key: in a crisis, people crave control and assurance. Timely, factual, relevant communication plays a huge role in both -- having more information helps people feel in control, and it helps reduce natural tendencies to imagine the worst. It also helps people know the Village understands and works hard to address the balance between physical health of our residents and workers and the economic health of our businesses. Not everyone views the balance the same way; being clear, calm, and consistent can help lower the blood pressure when we disagree.
Our role also includes advocating for Village constituents with county, regional, and state groups -- sharing issues, needs, and stories, and working to secure resources and to enable information sharing.
Besides communicating at the Village level, individually showing up (in health-safe ways) to strongly support businesses and neighbors by patronizing outdoor activities, takeout, delivery, and shopping local is important. It also affords opportunities for real time dialogue, listening, and learning, which I seek as much as possible.
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: Long Grove levies no property taxes for the Village itself. With our small resources we worked hard to quickly shift to virtual public meetings, ramp up online permit and payment services, health-safe inspections, and assemble COVID-19 information resources for residents and businesses.
Success stories include an ordinance enabling the President to quickly approve special event applications, including using parking lots for socially distanced events, drive-in movies, a New Year's Alpine Fest, and more. Staff and Economic Development Commission members reached out early to businesses to reassure and ask about needs and issues. The EDC hosted business webinars about grant applications, surviving COVID-19, digital marketing, business reopening, and more. We helped facilitate distributing donated hand sanitizer. We developed a conservative budget for May 2020 -- April 2021 that resulted in a cushion to help navigate future uncertainty.
Two things I'm working on that I think could make us even better are adding social media for timely 2-way communications (the Village currently has none, though the downtown business owners' association does) and streamlining our technology even more. Overall, I'm proud of the flexibility, creativity, and energy we all brought to help constituents.
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: This is a bit challenging to address at the local village level, but I would go back to the importance of timely, relevant, clear, and consistent communications. And strong integrated processes for delivering information and services. It's hard to anticipate the next crisis, but not so hard to see that people anticipate the worst scenario if they don't have solid information to rely on. It's not hard to see that the patchwork of information and approaches to deliver COVID-19 vaccines is bewildering and frustrating, particularly for our seniors. So, we should evaluate what to "start, stop, and continue" in those areas and work with the county and state to build a strongly integrated system for health information, and -- as much as we can at the village level -- for integrated public health service processes.
Q: What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A: As noted earlier, in Long Grove we have no village property tax and thus nothing there to reduce. The Village works to deliver services, communicate and advocate, and secure public safety through contracts with neighboring entities. This results in more flexibility for Long Grove, economies of scale we wouldn't otherwise afford, and actually helping the other entities make full use of their investments.
As well, local governments can deploy technology to help balance increasing demands for services with increasing payroll costs. I don't advocate for staff cuts in Long Grove, but streamlining technology may help us serve taxpayers without necessarily adding staff.
I think an emerging trend outside of the Village that can help reduce taxpayer burden is reducing the actual local governments. While I don't foresee the demise of Village government, consolidating certain county and/or township districts and functions (like merging the Lake County Recorder into the County Clerk's office, and Ela Township Highway District into the main Township) can help reduce the number of taxing bodies.
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: In the past 4 years, we've invested in substantial Village infrastructure, including new streets and downtown streetscape including safer sidewalks and lights to encourage longer business hours, plus expanding Village water to the downtown, which is a huge improvement in public safety and a broad economic development enabler. After the historic bridge was terribly damaged in 2018, we dug into the budget and secured a state grant to redo the foundation, repair the bridge, and install a steel frame inside the new cover that helps protect the historic portion -- in a sense, "making lemonade out of the lemons" that incident created.
Going forward, I think the most important projects are those that help realize economic development in areas identified in our comprehensive plan, help keep the Village from instituting a property tax, and provide the lifestyle residents seek in Long Grove. Those would include possible projects in the new South Gateway TIF district, expanding customers for Village water, and working hard on pathways that connect us physically and culturally. In all cases, I would explore grants and advocate for creative public-private partnerships to ensure the Village finances stay solid.
Q: Do you plan to address businesses that don't adhere to the governor's order to close or restrict business?
A: The Village Board and President have frequent conversations with business owners in our small village and we all share interest in safeguarding public health. The Board has been very flexible and the business owners have been very flexible and inventive at finding creative ways to keep some level of business activity going while adhering to health guidelines. Examples include the Buffalo Creek Brewery's successful outdoor AlpineFest, Chatterbox "Camp Find-A-Way," private igloos at Enzo & Lucia's and Corked, safely distanced outdoor alternatives to Village Festivals, and weekly "Long Grove COVID-19 Survival Kits" last spring. While we are not going hunting for noncompliance, the evidence is strong that our businesses are adhering to the governor's order.
Q: Do you agree or disagree with the stance your board/council has taken on permitting recreational marijuana sales in the community? What would you change about that stance, if you could?
A: I disagree with our board's September 2019 vote against adult-use cannabis businesses, though a business trip prevented me from voicing and voting that night. I don't personally use recreational marijuana. But, I think that in certain geographies already identified for development in the Village's Comprehensive Plan, retail cannabis establishments may help add customer traffic and/or sales tax revenue that would benefit our overall Village goals. Given we now have 12 months of experience in the state, the Board has discussed surveying residents and businesses to gain a broad sense of views and opinions from our constituents, and hopefully will do so in the next months. It's a topic that drew strong response in Lake Zurich, where residents voice stronger support in 2020 than they did in 2019, causing that village to reverse its moratorium on recreational cannabis. While the ultimate decision is Village Board responsibility, broadly understanding the thoughts of our residents and businesses will be important.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A: Given I've been an elected official for 4 years, I would hope that I've already shared my good ideas as much as possible! However, our experiences during the COVID pandemic have made me think we need to work even harder to build and maintain community culture. Besides the communications and technology initiatives I've already described, one idea I'd like to see is an open-air structure that is large enough to support a covered village farmers market, host food trucks as restaurants re-emerge, host additional music and cultural events, and partner more with local entities like our schools and libraries. Or even a public village meeting. We already have a few smaller structures, but something large enough to really gather community -- safely -- and be useful in multiple ways and seasons, would align and support the special community we cherish in Long Grove.