Michael Charewicz: 2021 candidate for Des Plaines mayor
Three candidates for one seat
City: Des Plaines
Occupation: Business owner, Accurate Auto Clinic, Inc.
Civic involvement: Des Plaines 8th Ward Alderman, 2011-2019; Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce, past president; Automotive Service Association, past president; Des Plaines History Center board member; Izaak Walton League; Automotive Advisory Board at Triton College and Elk Grove High School
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. In my view, the mayor's role in confronting the pandemic is to provide balanced, common sense leadership that accounts for both health and safety concerns and our local businesses. I would work with the city council and other local, state and federal partners to obtain the best advice, data and assistance possible. Furthermore, the mayor has a responsibility to provide clear communication to residents about what they city is doing, why we are doing it and how residents can stay safe and get vaccinated. There seems to be a lot of confusion among residents right now about where to get their vaccination.
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 city of Des Plaines did a good job of continuing most city services, especially public works. The city also did a good job following health and safety guidelines to help keep our residents safe during the worst of the pandemic. Recently, however, we can do a better job communicating with residents about where to get vaccinated.
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 city should put a plan in place to address future health crises. This should include communication channels to inform Des Plaines residents and plans for assisting our businesses and community organizations. We must also build our reserves so we are prepared to deal with the financial impact of a future public health crisis.
Q. What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A. We must hold the line on property taxes and cut wasteful spending. Our area already has some of the highest property taxes in the country. We cannot in good conscience ask for more from Des Plaines taxpayers, especially in the middle of the global pandemic. We must cut spending while ensuring we still provide high quality city services to our residents. While serving as alderman, I was chairman of the Finance Committee for two years and had a good working relationship with the Des Plaines Finance director. I would again rely on her advice to guide my decision making. My experience as a small-business owner would also help in this area as I have been making tough financial decisions for more than 40 years.
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. We should keep the momentum we have built over the last 10 years as we have been able to complete many important projects in Des Plaines. Raising River Road with increased sewer capacity with relieved flooding was a project we undertook when I served as alderman. I'm also proud to have supported a sanitary sewer in the 8th Ward that relieved flooding in both the 4th and 8th Wards. We should also continue to make downtown Des Plaines an attractive place to start and grow a business. I will work collaboratively with the city council and finance department to determine the specific priority of future projects due to budget constraints caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
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 agree with the stance the council has taken on permitting recreational marijuana sales in Des Plaines. Cultivation centers and/or dispensaries within the city limits would increase tax revenues and be consistent with what other communities in our area are doing.
Q. What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A.I want to better connect Des Plaines residents to their city government. I want to bring back an "open door" policy back to the mayor's office by returning all phone calls and emails mostly done by me. As a Des Plaines alderman, I held monthly ward meetings to give residents an avenue to discuss any issues or ideas with me, and I provided updates about the work we were doing on the city council. I'd like to expand this as mayor and hold regular town hall meetings that would be accessible to all Des Plaines residents both in-person and online.
Q. What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A. I have the most real-world experience. I've been a small-business owner in Des Plaines for more than 40 years. I'm the only candidate who knows what it means to have to employees and their families relying on my decision making. My business experience combined with my eight years as a Des Plaines alderman has prepared me and given me the necessary insights to effectively lead our community on day one. I've also been active in Des Plaines as a past president of the Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce, a board member at the Des Plaines History Center, Izaak Walton League member and have volunteered for various other community organizations, including being given the "Excellence in Leadership Award" from the Center of Concern in 2018. I will use all of this experience to serve Des Plaines residents by providing common sense, stable leadership.