Brooke Shanley: 2021 candidate for at-large Aurora city council
Voters have a choice for Aurora alderman in Wards 4, 7 and 10 and for the at-large seat in the April 6 election. In the 4th Ward, incumbent William Donnell is facing John Bell. In the 7th Ward, incumbent Scheketa Hart-Burns is being challenged by Saul Fultz. In the 10th Ward, Shweta Baid and Arjun Nair are running to fill a seat being vacated. And Raymond Hull, Brooke Shanley and Ron Woerman are running for the open at-large seat. All are 4-year seats.
Occupation: Educator for East Aurora School District 131 and Waubonsee Community College
Civic involvement: SHARE Fox Valley; American Legion Auxiliary Unit 84
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 view my role in confronting the pandemic as being a blend of the three options listed, not any one of them in isolation, but the most important is advocating for the residents of the city. I will work to ensure our residents have access to vaccines and access to testing while encouraging the use of masks and social distancing. I realize there are members of the community that do not wish to wear a mask. It can be unpopular, but I will support the science and encourage the safety, health, and well-being of all Aurora residents. I will also be an advocate for our business community, ensuring they continue receiving the support they need; especially hotels, restaurants, and other hard hit businesses in our city. I will speak truthfully with our residents about the pandemic and be a resource to help our residents in all their needs during this difficult time.
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: We are all navigating uncharted territory as we move through the pandemic and we are all learning and growing as we do so. I believe the city of Aurora has done a good job of serving its constituents throughout the pandemic and has made adjustments as necessary and as information and guidelines change. The city's communication of the guidelines and the data points with regard to positivity rates have been clear and consistent. Additionally, the city has had several mask disbursements and has worked with local food pantries to provide needed supplies and groceries to our residents. I would like to continue collaborating with officials at all levels to ensure that our small businesses can remain open. Also, we need to ensure vaccinations are available to our residents and provided for them as quickly and as efficiently as possible for all wishing to be vaccinated. We need to help our businesses while still ensuring everyone's health and well-being.
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: We should continue to work collaboratively with our local, county, state, and federal health organizations to ensure we are well-prepared for any future public health crises. As we move out of this pandemic, I would request an all encompassing after action report to see how we can be better prepared in the future, and how we could have done things better in retrospect. This could be done within the Public Health, Safety, and Transportation committee. The committee could then work to create procedures to be followed in the event of future public health crises, using what we have learned from our experience with COVID.
Q: What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A: I am committed to reviewing the budget line item by line item to determine where we can achieve savings for the public. Currently, the city has worked to provide assistance to our businesses. I will continue this work as well as working with the residents and elected officials to ensure residents receive any unemployment benefits they are due and other much needed relief.
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: There are concerns with infrastructure projects related to the Motor Tax Fuel Fund. People driving less, is resulting in less funding for our roads. We need to look at our projects and continue work on the city's priority list, focusing on the worst streets and the most needed projects in the Capital Plan. We must continue working with our state and federal elected officials, identifying available grants for our infrastructure needs. We should also continue working collaboratively with our local, county, state, and federal health organizations to ensure we are well-prepared for future public health crises. Moving out of the pandemic, I would request an after action report to see how we can be better prepared in the future, and how we could have done things better in retrospect. This could be done within the Public Health, Safety, and Transportation committee. The committee could create procedures to be followed in future public health crises, using what we have learned from our experience with COVID. Aurora is still included in the Capital Bill the state of Illinois passed in 2019, and we must work with our state legislators to ensure we continue to be included.
Q: Do you plan to address businesses that don't adhere to the governor's order to close or restrict business?
Many of our local businesses have done and continue to do a wonderful job working to follow the established guidelines. This was no small feat on their part and required much patience and creativity. Conversations are happening on the City Council about the allocation of new funds for businesses and it has been brought up that those businesses that did everything they possibly could to follow the guidelines be given higher priority for these funds then the businesses that chose to continue their normal operations. If elected, I intend to continue these conversations with my fellow Aldermen to find the right balance of support for those businesses that did the right thing and followed the CDC and IDPH guidelines.
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 would like to see the data and trends over time for how this is impacting our city as a whole prior to determining any possible changes. I respect the action of the City Council on this subject.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A: If elected, I would like to focus on mental health, especially the mental health of our youth. I don't think the struggles our youth are going through during this global pandemic are getting enough attention. I would like to work with the city to create programs in our youth department that address the mental health and social emotional needs of our youth that this pandemic has, only, exacerbated. Additionally, we should focus on the impact the pandemic is having on the mental health of our senior population. Depression due to isolation is a huge issue. I'd like to create a senior wellness program to further connect the community with seniors who are unable to get out until they are vaccinated in order to offset the negative impacts of being isolated throughout COVID and support them as we come out of the pandemic.