Colleen Saccotelli: 2021 candidate for Mount Prospect Village President
Three candidates -- one four-year term
Hometown: Mount Prospect
Occupation: Background in government administration, village of Mount Prospect trustee
Employer: Village of Mount Prospect
Civic involvement: Village of Mount Prospect trustee since 2015; Mount Prospect Sister Cities Commission; Northwest Municipal Conference Legislative Committee; Mount Prospect Junior Women's Club; St. Raymond Mom's Plus
Q. What is the primary reason you're running for office? What is the most important issue?
A. I want to ensure that Mount Prospect reaches its full potential: A place where families and businesses thrive and a destination for our neighboring communities. As a resident with a young family, I am dedicated to the future of Mount Prospect. Decisions we make now will shape the community for years to come. The biggest challenge facing the village is recovery from the pandemic. We must ensure our residents are educated about vaccination and that vaccinations are accessible. The physical and mental impact of the pandemic will affect our residents into the future. We must make sure that our Human Services Department has the resources and staffing necessary to address what is sure to be a greater need for their services. The COVID pandemic has struck a blow to village revenues but it is one that we can recover from to be stronger. Through sound financial planning and decision making the village is poised to come back stronger than ever. We must help our business and restaurant community recover from the pandemic through collective action with the village's Community Development Department, Economic Development Commission and Chamber of Commerce as well as programming put on by the Mount Prospect Entrepreneurs Initiative.
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 mayor, I will continue to lead by example in modeling best practices to combat COVID. We have all been through a horrible ordeal, but we are coming down the mountain. If we continue to follow COVID mitigations and then get vaccinated, we will have won our collective battle against COVID. Our village does not have a health department. Therefore, Cook County is the local lead when it comes to COVID response and vaccine distribution. State and federal authorities are the lead on pandemic response and health policies. However, as mayor I will share feedback from constituents with the proper health authorities if I think it would inform their decision-making process. Ultimately, I will defer to the scientists and doctors to determine best mitigation practices.
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 village continued to provide high quality services to our residents and businesses during the pandemic. We were able to have many of our village staff productively work from home. We were also able to move some of our services online for both the safety of the staff and customers. For instance, at the outset of the pandemic the Community Development Building Department pivoted to an online building permit process. Residents and contractors were pleased with the ease and efficiency of the process. Village meetings from the village board, to commissions meetings, to police beat meetings were moved online. The village was able to pivot its focus from in person services to virtual to continue to provide high quality services.
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. My masters training is in international affairs specifically in United States foreign policy. I believe that the role of mayor in Mount Prospect is changing. Global events have an impact on Mount Prospect as we have seen most recently with the pandemic. As mayor, I will bring my world affairs education into my decision-making process. I will strive to learn about best practices nationally and internationally and bring that perspective to Mount Prospect. This can be further accomplished by being active in national organizations such as the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Since Mount Prospect does not have a health department, I will rely on guidance from the federal, state and county governments to guide response to any future public health crisis. I will communicate that guidance clearly and effectively to our residents and businesses. Mount Prospect staff had the foresight to have a reserve of PPE that was acquired prior to the pandemic. This reserve was invaluable to our public safety and front-line staff especially at the outset of the pandemic when PPE was difficult to acquire. I will make sure that funding is available for PPE reserves to be replenished for any future public health crisis.
Q. What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A. Prior to the pandemic, the village had crafted a five-point contingency plan to address any potential economic downturn. This plan was implemented in 2020 which enabled the village to address revenue losses in such a way that the village did not have to adjust staffing or service levels. Further, we were also able to have a zero percent increase to our tax levy to provide relief to our taxpayers. The contingency plan will continue to guide financial planning going forward. One way to reduce the burden of the pandemic on our taxpayers is for the village to increase our commercial tax base by recruiting businesses. We need to promote economic development throughout the Village. The village is fortunate in that there were many development projects in the works prior to the pandemic that are being completed now. These projects will bring both new residents and new businesses. I believe that by continuing to work in a collaborative manner with the business community, we can further help attract businesses and continue to develop the village.
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. The village has a robust Community Invest Program (CIP) which is a five-year plan for capital expenditures over $25,000. It is a living document reviewed every year during the budget process. Projects can be deferred based on funding and priorities. Village staff did an excellent job of prioritizing and deferring infrastructure projects in 2020 based on available funding during the pandemic. One infrastructure project that needs to be addressed this year is the Aspen Trails Park Stormwater Improvements. This is a critical flood control project that will bring much needed flood relief to the surrounding area. The project is a partnership between the village, River Trails Park District and School District 59 (Frost Elementary School). It is reliant on both general fund and grant funding. Village staff also does an excellent job of finding and applying for grant opportunities. Grant funding will continue to be a critical piece of infrastructure financing in 2021. Going into the 2022 CIP process, I will rely on village staff to once again carefully evaluate project priorities based on funding and grant opportunities and then bring those recommendations to the board.
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. A cannabis referendum question was on the ballot twice for Mount Prospect voters: Once through Cook County and once directly by the Village of Mount Prospect. Both times Mount Prospect voters voted in favor of permitting recreational cannabis sales. I voted to permit adult cannabis sales both times it came before the board. I wish it would have passed sooner so that our taxpayers would have benefitted from that tax revenue especially in light of the economic downturn due to the pandemic.
Q. What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A. I think we need to focus on the village's efforts for adaptive outreach and citizen engagement. I want to see the village identify new and improved ways to communicate and engage with the community. Whether that is through a greater number of village commission meetings being televised or introducing changes to the formats of our meetings, I think we can engage and hear from constituencies that we may not have heard from in the past. As mayor, I will strive to increase the diversity of applicants to village boards and commissions. I will work to improve awareness of board and commission opportunities for residents. The more diverse members of boards and commissions the more likely that diversity of village board candidates will increase too. Diversity of perspective makes for a more robust and inclusive decision-making process.