Mundelein trustee candidates differ on whether transparency at village hall is a problem
Candidates for Mundelein's village board are voicing concerns about the level of transparency at village hall and calling for better communication with the public.
But not all see a problem.
Seven candidates are running for three seats with 4-year terms in the April 6 local election: Sol Cabachuela, now the village clerk; Willie Davismckennie; Ray Mullen; Edith Reese; Jenny Ross; former trustee Angela Trillhaase; and Tim Wilson.
The candidates spoke about government transparency and other issues in a joint, online interview with the Daily Herald last month.
Davismckennie, a professional cabinet maker, is among those critical of the village' communication skills.
"There's not enough transparency at all, as far as I'm concerned," he said. "They're sneaking things under the rug and hiding things from you."
He accused village officials of not being open enough about their 2018 plans to purchase and demolish buildings on Route 45 near Diamond Lake or about strict sign restrictions that were adopted in 2015 but repealed in 2020.
Although Mundelein has official social media accounts, many residents don't use social media, Davismckennie said. He suggested sharing important messages to the community on electronic signs at local churches and the police station.
Reese, who is retired, also complained about a lack of transparency at village hall. She cited the controversial plan to build a Thorntons gas station at routes 45 and 176 as an example.
The proposal, which still awaits approval, was publicly unveiled at a board meeting in August 2020 and has been discussed at subsequent meetings, including a planning and zoning commission session this week. But that's not good enough for Reese.
She said the board should've held a town hall meeting to discuss it.
Trillhaase, who briefly served on the board in the 1990s, said a multifaceted approach using social media, newspapers and other outlets is needed to improve communication in Mundelein.
"I believe we need to drive the information to where the people are," she said.
Cabachuela, the village clerk since 2018, agreed with Trillhaase about the need to communicate with people in different ways.
She suggested sharing important village news on flyers posted at local businesses or with mailers. She also said officials should use notices on the website to alert people to important issues coming up at board meetings.
Such notices should be available in different languages, too, Cabachuela said.
"If we really want our residents engaged, we need to have it available in their language," she said.
Ross, a former Fremont Public Library trustee, praised the police and fire departments for its communication efforts, and she called the village's website "outstanding."
Still, she said communication with residents and the business community hasn't been a priority for the village staff.
"I spent four months trying to get somebody from the village to tell me when they were going to replace a tree they removed in front of my house, only to find out that they never intended to replace it," she said.
Mullen, a Realtor, said it's easy to assume residents and business owners are aware of what's happening in town but said "that's not really the case."
He said officials need to do a better job driving people to the village's website and its newsletter, which contain a lot of information about municipal activity. He didn't suggest how to do that, however.
Wilson, a former member of the village's economic development commission, didn't have any complaints about communication with residents.
He called the village's website "robust," and he said people must make an effort to look for information they may need. Wilson said he's found staffers responsive when he's had issues, although "maybe not initially."