Paul Hoefert: 2021 candidate for Mount Prospect Village President
Three candidates -- one four-year term
Hometown: Mount Prospect
Occupation: Director of Private Banking, senior vice president (42+ years in banking)
Employer: First Midwest Bank
Civic involvement: Mount Prospect village trustee since 1991; village board representative to Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County; Mount Prospect Historical Society board; Boy Scouts of America, Troop 23, assistant Scoutmaster; Trinity United Methodist Church (Mount Prospect), trustee; DePaul University, College of Business, advisory board; former board member of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce
Q. What is the primary reason you're running for office? What is the most important issue?
A. I am running for mayor to promote growth through economic development which is key to a strong, vibrant, and financially sound community, to insure that our village continues to provide high quality services such as police, fire, public works and human services, to insure a transparent and open-minded village government, and to maintain our village's strong fiscal position, keeping a lid on taxes, and spend every tax dollar wisely. Economic growth is absolutely the biggest challenges facing the village. The economic impact of the pandemic has been harsh. People have lost their jobs, businesses have had to close, and tax revenues are down. We will face this challenge head on by actively assisting our commercial landlords to lease their open spaces and increasing proactive outreach to the business community through the Community Development Department all with the goal moving revitalization forward by helping prospective businesses understand that Mount Prospect is well located, has numerous thoroughfares carrying thousands of people through the village daily, has excellent demographics, has a population of potential employees, and as a result, would be a great place to locate and do business.
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. The role of the mayor and the village board during the pandemic is to provide leadership to and ensure communication with the citizens of Mount Prospect with the goal of keeping people apprised of measures the village is taking to keep people safe. While everyone might not agree with the decisions and direction the village is moving, the mayor and the village board is charged with making those hard decisions no matter how difficult and unpopular those decisions may be to make. In addition, it is the role of the elected officials to be in contact with the county, state and federal authorities to strongly advocate for the citizens of Mount Prospect and secure necessary resources needed by our community.
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. I believe the village and the entire village staff stepped up and did an exemplary job serving our residents during this difficult time brought on by the pandemic. In many ways, our village never missed a beat in service to the residents. Initially, the village needed to understand how to adjust to keep our citizens and staff safe by understanding the issues, concerns, and protocols and then they pivoted accordingly. Our front line first responders, who are at risk every day, have continued to admirably perform their roles and keep the people of Mount Prospect safe. Initially, the village did shutdown face to face, in-person contact in public spaces. Relative to the village board, we quickly converted our weekly village board meetings to a virtual format so that we could continue to do the business of Mount Prospect in a safe fashion. As we navigated our way and better understood the science and the protections needed during the pandemic, we have gradually returned to appropriate in-person contact with the appropriate safety measures in place.
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. Relative to Emergency Preparedness, we must add major long-term public health crisis's to the list of potential emergencies and plan accordingly. I do believe the length and severity of a crisis, like the pandemic, brings about a differential of thinking and level of preparedness needed. Many emergencies like a storm or an accident occur and are dealt with immediately. However, an emergency like COVID-19 impacts our community for an extended period of time which requires ongoing measures and significant longer term funding. The village should have dedicated funding set aside for these types of elongated emergencies which we now understand could severely impact our community.
Q. What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A. First and foremost, keeping taxes and fees down during this time is essential. I supported and voted for a 0% increase to the tax levy in the last budget cycle and I would support a 0% increase to the tax levy for 2022. I also proposed a 0% increase to the tax levy for the 2020 budget but could not find the votes among my fellow village board members to pass a 0% increase levy. In addition, the village has already suspended or reduced a number of fees which has been helpful. Finally, the village may need to delay several additional "nonessential" capital projects budgeted for 2021 until the economy improves and funding is less tenuous in an effort not to overburden village cash flows and ultimately our taxpaying citizens.
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 projects are among the most important and impactful infrastructure projects that we undertake. The village recently completed a major project in the village's northwest area at Burning Bush Park. We have an additional flood control project at Aspen Trails Park coming up which will significantly help to keep water out of citizen's homes during major storm events. There is absolutely nothing worse than having floodwater come into your home from overland flooding. If you have ever been the victim of flooding, you know exactly what I mean. These flood remediation projects are generally funded by federal and state grants as well as village capital project funds funded by specifically dedicated tax sources. While the village tries to stay ahead of identified infrastructure maintenance of streets, water, and sewer, there are some specific infrastructure projects which can wait until economic times get better such as the Emerson Street Bridge Deck, Well # 4 Rehab, and some of our annual tree plantings. None of these projects are immediately essential, time sensitive, or if deferred, put people at risk.
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. When recreational marijuana first became legal in Illinois, the Mount Prospect village board decided to take a "wait and see" approach to observe what issues might arise from recreational marijuana sales by watching those municipalities which were first adopters of recreational marijuana sales. In the summer of 2020, following this "wait and see" period of time, I was the village trustee who brought forward the idea of a villagewide ballot referendum to hear the voice of the people of Mount Prospect on this issue directly. Through the referendum this past November, the people of Mount Prospect have officially and directly spoken. Prior to the referendum, I committed to listening to the voice of the people following the referendum and as a result, I voted in favor of moving forward with allowing the sale of Recreational Marijuana in Mount Prospect.
Q. What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A. Mount Prospect has several large retail centers in the village that have numerous vacant spaces. I believe the village should take a much more active role in helping the retail landlords fill those vacant spaces. While we already have a facade and interior build out assistance program, going further to actually help market the unleased spaces with a goal of finding viable users could ultimately bring about a huge benefit to the citizens of Mount Prospect in the form of sales taxes and fees to the village which would lessen the tax burden on the residential homeowner. Going one step further, given the dramatic and permanent changes in retailing, some properties may no longer be viable as a retail use. The village should work with the owners of those retail centers to consider zoning and use changes with an eye toward redevelopment. Kensington Business Center is a prime example of expanding uses. A few years ago, the village board broadened its thinking around the uses in the Business Center and as a result, we now have numerous uses beyond light industrial and office such as the Mount Prospect Ice Arena. Overall vacancy rates in the Business Center are now extremely low.