Peggy Pissarreck: 2021 candidate for Mount Prospect Village Trustee
Mount Prospect Village Trustee
Four Candidates -- Three 4-year terms
Hometown: Mount Prospect
Occupation: Association Executive
Employer: American Society of Plastic Surgeons
Civic involvement: Member of League of Women Voters. My Local League is the LWV of Arlington Heights-Mount Prospect-Buffalo Grove Area. I have served on the Local League's board of directors, chair of the Nonpartisan Committee, and as the co-chair of the Program Committee. I currently serve as a member of the Local League's Bylaws Committee and as a member of the State League's Electoral College Committee.
Q. What is the primary reason you're running for office? What is the most important issue?
A. I'm running for Village Trustee to help improve the lives of Mount Prospect residents. My greatest concern right now is for people and small businesses in our community who are having difficulty making ends meet. It took a long time to recover from the 2008-09 recession. I fear it's going to take a long time to recover from our country's current economic disaster brought on by the pandemic, but we need to get started. I also want to ensure the board decision-making process is more transparent, responsive, and inclusive; that greater effort is made to improve Mount Prospect for all its residents while maintaining fiscal responsibility; and focus more attention on ways to make our community even more environmentally sustainable.
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. As a Village Trustee, it would be my role to provide leadership and to give a voice to constituents. To the extent the Village can provide economic support to residents and small businesses, we should do so. The Village Board should also fully support state efforts in mitigating the effects of the pandemic. Now that we have actual leadership in the federal government, the Village Board should also fully support federal efforts to mitigate the effects of the pandemic.
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 pandemic brought unique challenges to Village government. Other than reducing or waiving certain residential and business fees and expenses, there is little the municipal government can do. The Village did abate the property tax levy so that residents will see a 0% increase in the village portion of their CY 2021 property tax bill, but that amounts to only 11% of the total bill. It was fortunate that Trustees Saccotelli, Hatzis, and Zadel and Mayor Juracek voted to raise last year's tax levy (for CY 2020) by 2%, which made abatement this year possible. The Human Services Department worked to ensure families suffering food insecurity were assisted. I'm sure donations from the farmers market went far in aiding that effort, as did Police Department fundraising efforts and the Fire Department's food drive. At the end of 2020, Mount Prospect provided grants of $10,000 to 61 restaurants that met certain criteria. That was good. Some villages are including links to coupons to local businesses in their village e-newsletters. I have not seen Mount Prospect do that, but that would be an easy thing to do.
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. Mount Prospect has a terrific Human Services department! It is amazing what the department accomplishes on its minuscule budget. I would empower this department, which houses the nursing/health programming, with coming up with mitigation strategies that the Village can put in place and enforce. Rumors abounded on the Mount Prospect Neighbors page that several restaurants were violating mitigation rules and were allowing indoor dining at a time when that was not allowed. Public safety required the Village to do more to shut down that activity and I was disappointed the Village did not.
Q. What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A. The Village has already abated any increase in the property tax levy for FY 2021. Reducing the taxed amount would negatively affect public safety funding, the police and fire pension fund, and the debt service fund, so that is a non-starter. The refuse fee was increased 8%, but that raises the monthly fee only about $1.25 to $2 a month per household. Waiving that fee increase would provide negligible benefit to the residents and would cause a hardship for the Village, so that is not an avenue I would take. Perhaps waiving or reducing business fees is one avenue the Village could explore.
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. Flood Control remains a high priority as climate change is going to continue to make the Chicago region wetter at least in the spring. The Levee 37 project at Burning Bush Trails is completed and the Aspen Trails site is underway. Mount Prospect received grant funding for both projects, including $3 million from MWRD. Additionally, the Army Corps of Engineers and Illinois Department of Natural Resources have provided support. The Public Works Department is great at getting federal, state, and county grants to fund infrastructure improvements. I'm sure they will continue. Deciding on projects to delay is a careful balancing act. I'm in favor of delaying infrastructure projects for a period so long as necessary maintenance continues and that is the approach the Village has taken over the past year. Further, any project that does not directly involve public safety and can be delayed without negative downstream consequences should be deferred. For example, projects similar to the signage over Central Road at Emerson could be postponed. While the project is associated with a safety issue it was not necessary and we had been getting along fine without the signs especially now with reduced commuter traffic. However, I suspect the project proceeded because the funding had already been allocated and equipment purchased. Clearly, beautification projects can be put on the back burner. That's already been done with the Klehm's Island project.
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. I disagreed with the Village's negative vote in December 2019 as the question had been asked on the April ballot. I found it interesting that certain Trustees were happy to accept the votes electing them to their office, but not the approximate 60% of votes in favor of recreational cannabis. Those Trustees cost the Village about $900,000 in tax revenue in FY 2020 that could have reduced our $3.2 million deficit for FY 2020. I agreed with the Village's positive vote in December 2020 but still found it interesting that Trustee Rogers voted no even though Village constituents supported the issue in the second referendum on the November ballot at a consistent rate of 60% in favor.
Q. What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A. I have watched and/or listened to every Village Board and Committee of the Whole meeting since January 2017 to gain a greater understanding of the issues the Village Board faces each week. I am not hearing Village leaders talk about mixed income housing in the downtown area. Much like financial managers stress the importance of having a diverse investment portfolio, it is vital to the Village's resiliency efforts that we have greater multicultural diversity throughout the Village. One way to do that is to develop and maintain mixed-income housing wherever feasible. There are several residential property developments recently completed, well underway or contemplated in downtown Mount Prospect. When listening to the developers describe their projects, all I hear is "luxury units." If we want to be a warm, welcoming and multiculturally diverse community, we need to increase our mixed income housing stock throughout the Village. It will make Mount Prospect a more compelling place to visit and live. The following is from Useful Community Development: Mixed-income housing, either in one building or in a district or neighborhood, offers many social advantages and almost no disadvantages. That's because mixed-income neighborhoods strengthen our social networks and therefore expand what might be called the social capital that your town has to work with. Many suburbs are homogeneous in socioeconomic level simply because the housing stock was developed in the same era and similarly priced at the time. Then as new households buy or rent the homes, subtle social cues keep people within their own income group.