Jeff Berger: 2021 candidate for Carol Stream trustee
Four candidates are running for three, 4-year trustee seats on the Carol Stream village board. Two incumbents, Rick Gieser and Matt McCarthy, are seeking reelection. The challengers are Jeff Berger and Erik Crawford.
The Daily Herald posed questions to the trustee hopefuls in the April 6 election. Below are Berger's responses. For more election coverage, visit dailyherald.com.
City: Carol Stream
Occupation: Communications Strategy & Execution, Berger Strategic Communications
Civic involvement: This is my first time running for office.
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: Protocols, precautions, testing and vaccination decisions stream down from the federal, state and county government agencies, but that's not to say that the village board doesn't have a role.
The village can offer assistance if asked by the county at testing or vaccination sites. Public education is important to residents by continuing to promote the wearing of masks, hand washing, physical distancing and getting vaccinated once eligible. This allows Carol Stream to play its part in generating a herd immunity.
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 issued an Emergency Proclamation last March which allowed them to avoid service disruptions by staggering employees work schedules. This also prevented outbreaks of COVID between staff members that other towns faced early in the pandemic. Village staff adapted many services like shifting building permitting online or held virtual meetings instead of in-person ones.
Additionally, the Village did an excellent job communicating with residents. Whether through the website, the media or social media, Trustees and others have continually pushed information out to residents and urged proper protocols, kept them up to date and answered questions.
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: The Village has learned and adapted to the best practices available based on information from the CDC, DuPage County Health Department and state of Illinois. Carol Stream did a great job of communicating on its website and social medial accounts important information residents needed to know. They also strengthened relationships with other local agencies like the Fire District for shared resources of PPE and other vital safety information utilized by the Police and Public Works departments.
I have faith that the village has updated its Emergency Operation's Plan in an effort to be better prepared for similar situations in the future. As part of that plan, we should be looking at ways to provide a healthier and safer environment, not just for pandemics, but to help stem the spread of the common flu for example.
Q: What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A: In May the Village Board and staff took action to cut or freeze over $2M in expenses in order to maintain a balanced budget. The Village Board and staff are currently working on their 2021-2022 budget and looking at ways to continue to hold spending while holding service levels to the residents. One example of how the Village is helping resident's is by suspending the Village vehicle sticker starting July 2021.
The Village of Carol Stream also helped local businesses by reducing business license fees, extending deadlines for fees and permits and setting up a webpage filled with grant and other business relief information.
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: One important infrastructure project is the Schmale Road water main project. This aging water main system is in need of repair. The Village is seeking grants for the completion of this project through several agencies.
Conversely, the Village will be looking at other infrastructure projects such as planned road and sewer projects to see which projects can be moved to future budget years or may qualify for grants to be completed.
Q. Do you plan to address businesses that don't adhere to the governor's order to close or restrict business?
A. Local restaurants were very hard hit during COVID. The Village of Carol Stream worked with local restaurants to set up new permits for outdoor seating at no cost to the businesses. The Village Board and staff strongly encouraged businesses to adhere to all federal, state and county guidelines. The Village did follow up on complaints of noncompliant businesses and referred them to the DuPage County Health Department for any continued violations.
Q: Do you agree or disagree with the stance your board has taken on permitting recreational marijuana sales in the community? What would you change about that stance, if you could?
A: The Village of Carol Stream opted-in to allowing recreational marijuana dispensaries in select areas of town and has set zoning to establish the necessary restrictions as to where dispensaries can be located. This includes restricting sales near schools, churches, parks, etc.
Currently, dispensaries would be limited to the B-4 zones, which are south of North Avenue.
I support the decisions by the board on this topic and would be willing to revisit the issue of zoning as circumstances require.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A: I'd love to support initiatives to help make Carol Stream more attractive to retailers and especially restaurants by making the Gary Ave corridor more attractive. With my marketing, communications and corporate background, I believe I can assist Village staff to bring new ideas for attracting businesses to Carol Stream. The Gary Avenue corridor needs to become a place where people come to spend money in Carol Stream rather than just a pass-through street through town.