John 'Jack' Kozar: 2021 candidate for Villa Park trustee
City: Villa Park
Occupation: Self-employed attorney, Realtor, developer
Civic involvement: Volunteer legal clinics, pro bono legal work
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: I view my role in confronting the pandemic as both willing to provide leadership even if unpopular and giving a voice to constituents. Our residents have a right to be heard and listened to. Solutions are best reached when taking into consideration the needs and desires of our residents and ultimately leading by example.
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: Villa Park could have done so much more to serve its constituents during the disruptions caused by the pandemic. Early on, I suggested and submitted a plan to the Village Manager and Board President to close several streets and a public parking lot in our business district and create a "block party" open for outdoor dining and entertainment. It was summarily denied. I suggested that the unused picnic tables held in storage be staggered along the Prairie Path for families, residents, and guests to enjoy while safely distanced. It too was denied. My rationale was twofold. First, it would have helped small businesses in the community continue to conduct business and pay employees so we could lessen the financial strain and burden caused by the pandemic. Several of our neighboring towns did exactly this. It is important to compete on a Village level and attract consumers from surrounding communities. Secondly, a safely distance "block party" would create a sense of community and togetherness. It would show the residents of Villa Park that we are all in this together and that we will get out of this together.
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: I will be proactive rather than reactive. The first step in creating safeguards and helping the residents in a time of crisis is to create a database of our residents who are most vulnerable and how to contact them. (i.e., phone, email, social media etc.) This will enable Village Staff and volunteers to contact our residents after and during public health emergencies, power outages, tornadoes, and storms, etc. Once identified, individuals and households could be directed to local charity organizations, volunteers, or appropriate government services. If such a database was in place now, we could be helping our vulnerable population get vaccine appointments and assist in transportation where necessary. In these difficult times, we must strive as a community to take care of our neighbors in need.
Q: What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A: Villa Park must look at more efficient policies to retain staff and minimize net labor costs to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers. Whenever possible, the Village should look to promote existing staff to higher positions, rather than hiring from the outside. There is generally less cost for training and wages when an existing Village employee is given the first opportunity to advance their careers while staying with Villa Park. More importantly, finding ways to increase revenues will help to solve our budget problems. This is why Villa Park should work to promote business in the community and give them the tools needed to succeed. There is far too much red tape, procedural obstacles, and out right opposition to a common sense pro-business approach. The more our local businesses can generate through sales taxes and fees by increasing sales, the less the residents must pay on their property taxes.
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: Besides the need for roads and storm drainage, the most important infrastructure project is building a community aquatic center. The benefits to a modern, state of the art community aquatic center will pay dividends through increased property values, and increased business revenue as more people are attracted to Villa Park. Additionally, it will give the children of Villa Park a place to recreate and form social pride. Done correctly, a community aquatic center can be the jewel of our Village. There is a major State grant to assist us financially with this, as well as the allocation of certain reductions in expenditures that should get redirected to this cause. Additionally, the business community can be provided sponsorship opportunities that will defray the cost.
Q: Do you plan to address businesses that don't adhere to the governor's order to close or restrict business?
A: I would encourage adherence to the Governor's orders. However, I would give closed and restricted businesses alternatives such as open air or outside public spaces. I would encourage the Village Manager to enforce any future restrictions equally. Currently there is a policy of nonenforcement. It sends the wrong signal to allow certain business to blatantly defy the Governor's order while others attempt to adhere to it. I would ask for a vote of the Board as to its collective opinion. Should that opinion be in favor of enforcing the Governor's order, I would ask the Village Manager to do so, evenly. If the vote of the Board is not to comply with or enforce the Governor's order, I would ask that a Legal Petition be filed stating the reasons that we as a Board feel the order is either illegal, unconstitutional, or otherwise unenforceable. If Villa Park chooses not to follow the Governor's order, we must do so within the confines of our legal system. Enforcement must be equitable and equal for all businesses and done within the purview of the law.
Q: Do you agree or disagree with the stance your board/council has taken on permitting recreational marijuana sales in the community? What would you change about that stance, if you could?
A: I support permitting recreational marijuana sales within our town, provided sales are taxed and dispensaries are established in areas zoned for such types of business. The Village must look at the overall, long term plan for business in the community. The Village's current haphazard approach, encourages gaming, alcohol sales, Marijuana sales, pawnshops, and payday loans yet discourages current businesses the ability to expand by enforcing an outdated parking requirement, preventing a rooftop deck, and restricting outdoor entertainment. Villa Park needs a comprehensive plan if it is to be known as a safe, family friendly, village, that encourages good business and supports well run business organizations allowing them to thrive and expand within our borders.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A: There are so many but if I am limited to one idea to better Our Villa Park, it is flexibility to its businesses and residential community. There are so many outdated Village ordinances on the books that prevent and discourage new investment into our community. There is a reason why Villa Park is the most underdeveloped suburb compared to its neighbors. Individual businesses do not compete within our borders, it is our town itself that competes with the other surrounding towns. We must attract those outside of Villa Park to choose to spend their money here, with us. In order to thrive, Villa Park must modernize its rules and its attitude toward business and investment. Although there must be a procedural process, we must look at every situation as unique. We need reasonable solutions for reasonable requests. The cookie cutter approach to government and its current rules do not work if we are to thrive. The old guard has brought our village this far. A new, business minded approach is what is needed now to bring us through the aftermath of the pandemic and into the future where Villa Park has unlimited potential.