Yeena Yoo: 2021 candidate for Elmhurst 6th Ward Alderman
In the April 6, 2021, consolidated election, Peter Ahern, Emily Bastedo, Peter M. Dabertin and Yeena Yoo are vying for a four-year term as Elmhurst 6th Ward Alderman. The Daily Herald asked the candidates several questions about issues facing the city.
Below are Yoo's responses.
In-person early voting with paper ballots is available at DuPage County Fairgrounds Building 5, 2015 Manchester Road, Wheaton. In-person early voting with touch-screen voting begins March 22 at locations throughout the county. Learn more at www.dupageco.org/earlyvoting.
Occupation: Community volunteer, stay-at-home mother, and recovering attorney
Civic involvement: Chair/lead for the Elmhurst group of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense; Communications Co-Chair and board member for the Chicago Wellesley Club; PTA volunteer/member for Jackson Elementary School; Elected Precinct Commiteeperson; Member of New Community Covenant Church in Bronzeville
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: On the specific issue of confronting the pandemic, I would defer to state and federal authorities, especially public health officials who have expert opinions and access to research, rather than depending on my own opinions.
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: Yes, the City of Elmhurst was able to maintain its city services to residents even during the pandemic. The finance department recognized there would be a budget shortfall, and consequently instituted certain measures, including a temporary hiring freeze, cutting programs that were not utilized this past year (such as parade funds), and deferring unnecessary purchases like vehicle replacements.
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 feel inadequate as a layperson to fully answer this question and would defer to public health officials and medical professionals. But I would look into the feasibility of allocating emergency funds specifically for public health purposes in the city budget (e.g. funds for masks for essential workers or costs to disseminate medical information) in the event there is a future crisis.
Q: What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A: Elmhurst has previously suspended the collection of certain fees that pertain to local businesses in Elmhurst, including liquor license fees and business registration fees. Elmhurst had also cut certain programs including parade funding and the Elmhurst trolley which was not used during the pandemic. The city has done a good job of taking a look at our budget, cutting unnecessary items, and pursuing fiscal responsibility while providing relief to local businesses. If I become alderman, I will scrutinize the budget further with my colleagues, as well as the mayor, the city manager, and the city finance department to see what other measures we can take to provide reasonable relief to taxpayers.
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 of my campaign priorities is to continue the work Elmhurst has done in providing stormwater relief to our residents. Two stormwater projects, in particular, are still in progress. The Jackson School project is in phase 2, where the city is improving the storm sewer system serving Jackson Street/Saylor Avenue, and the Collegeview Project, just approved in February, which brings new detention basins in front of York High School. These stormwater projects are funded from the Stormwater Fund, which is funded through General Obligation bonds, as well as our home rule sales tax. In my conversations with Ward 6 residents, they are still concerned about stormwater, and completing these stormwater projects benefit city residents as a whole.
Q: Do you plan to address businesses that don't adhere to the governor's order to close or restrict business?
A: At this time, pursuant to governor's order, restrictions have lifted in our region. It is my understanding that Elmhurst businesses are adhering to state mandates and city ordinances. The role of alderman is to make policy. As such, in the event businesses are acting in a harmful or unsafe manner, I would revisit the issue to establish policies to maintain public health.
Q: Do you agree or disagree with the stance your council has taken on permitting recreational marijuana sales in the community? What would you change about that stance, if you could?
A: In 2019, the city council made a unanimous decision not to permit recreational marijuana sales in our community. According to many alderman, this was because the majority of residents rejected the idea of marijuana sales in town and expressed concerns regarding said sales. However, several surrounding communities have allowed the sale of marijuana, and I would be interested to see any data or studies regarding city revenues based on these sales and any adverse impacts to those communities. It would be important to learn more about the issue and survey Ward 6 residents before making any future policy decision.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A: I believe representation matters in local government. As the only person of color who is running for city council, representing the diversity that I see in my neighborhood is one of the reasons I decided to run for Ward 6 alderman. After the Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020 and the ensuing divided community response, I strongly believe the city can do more to institute DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) measures. While the city has made good first steps, I have proposed stronger programming in the form of racial justice and implicit bias trainings for city elected officials and city staff. I have previously participated in a pilot program on racial reconciliation through my church in Bronzeville, and am currently participating in racial justice trainings with the Wellesley Racial Justice Initiative for the purpose of pursuing DEI advancement in the Chicago Wellesley Club. The importance of DEI and anti-racism work cannot be ignored or minimized.