Rick Gieser: 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 Gieser's responses. For more election coverage, visit dailyherald.com.
City: Carol Stream
Occupation: Public Relations Director and Radio Producer, Zanies Comedy Clubs and WGN Radio
Civic involvement: Carol Stream July Fourth Parade Committee, Memorial Park Task Force, Holiday Decorating Contest, Carol Stream Historical Society, Chamber of Commerce member, Health Department Prevention Leadership Team, Christmas Sharing Volunteer
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 as a combination of all three: 1) showing leadership by sharing factual information, addressing budgetary challenges and working for the best interests of the community. 2) I think a Trustee should always listen to the concerns of residents and businesses. We may not be able to act on the request, but we should be willing to listen. 3) we need to set an example and follow all regional, state and federal regulations.
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 COVID-19 pandemic presented challenges for all residents and businesses. The Village of Carol Stream was able to find ways to conduct business and provide services to the community. Village Board meetings were held virtually throughout the spring and summer. This allowed residents to still be able to interact with their local government. Even though the Village Hall was closed, staff created a kiosk outside the front doors to provide construction permits and other information. Plus, staff was able to conduct business via phone, video chat and email. The schedules of staff were also altered to continue to provide services and protect the health of each employee.
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: Even though the Village Board now meets in person, I believe the Village of Carol Stream should continue to allow residents to attend the meetings virtually. This encourages residents to still participate in their government even if they are reluctant to attend an in-person meeting. The pandemic also showed there is a digital divide in our nation. As more residents work and attend school from home, the need for reliable internet access is essential. This may not be a project for Carol Stream, or any municipality alone, but we can begin the discussion and encourage state and federal authorities to consider this issue.
Q: What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A: Early in the pandemic, the Carol Stream Village Board cut over $2 million dollars in projects and purchases. This allowed the Village to continue to provide services and to keep a balanced budget. The Trustees will need to work with staff to consider each expenditure and determine what is necessary. Continued collaboration with other governmental bodies is important ... to provide cost savings to the residents. Securing federal and state grants to fund Village projects is even more important.
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: There are several important infrastructure projects that are ongoing or being considered in Carol Stream. The work on improving the streets is a yearly project. This work is paid for mostly with state Motor Fuel funds. The Klein Creek erosion project is in the early stages of discussion. This project has already received limited grant funding. Staff and Trustees are in discussion on how to pay for the remainder of the project. The Village is known for its extensive bike and walking paths. The bike paths are constructed only when funding is available. The Trustees and staff discuss each infrastructure project to decide if the project is necessary, if it can be deferred and how it will be paid for.
Q. Do you plan to address businesses that don't adhere to the governor's order to close or restrict business?
A. When the Village received concerns from residents, Village staff would contact the local business to remind them of the current restrictions. The DuPage County Health Department was contacted when necessary.
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: I do not agree with the decision. We should have allowed recreational marijuana dispensaries to locate in all business districts ... instead of zoning them so narrowly. This is a legal business in the state of Illinois. The Village looks for opportunities to bring in additional sales tax revenue for the community. Residents lost on receiving the sales taxes this legal business would generate. I also believe that the Village should have allowed cannabis cultivation facilities to locate in the Industrial Park. If a distillery or a brewery wanted to locate in Carol Stream, would they be welcomed? We should encourage all legal businesses to locate in Carol Stream.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A: I would like to make a seasonal lighted Winter Wonderland at the Carol Stream Town Center. Lights would be hung in all the trees and recorded holiday music would be played. The goal is to make this an attraction residents and people from other communities will want to visit. I have talked with Village staff to research costs for purchasing the lights. This does not need to paid for in one year. Each year, if money is available, additional lights and decorations would be purchased.
I would like to see community organizations get involved each year by decorating trees or sponsoring the event. Hopefully, this attraction would bring people to our community to eat and shop in Carol Stream.