Janis Jasper: 2021 candidate for Algonquin village trustee
Four candidates running for three, 4-year terms.
Occupation: Retired teacher
Civic involvement: Village of Algonquin trustee, 4 years
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. As a village trustee, my number one priority during the pandemic has been to keep everyone safe. That means from the virus itself and from getting sick, but also means protecting livelihoods. I have been completely supportive of the guidance from our state health officials and we have attempted to address any concerns about following state and federal guidelines. We have also helped businesses to obtain grants and modified village ordinances.
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. Our village closed village hall to walk in services and immediately transitioned to the staff working from home and offering online/phone-in services. We have not yet fully opened in-person services, but the work of the village for our residents and businesses has continued and as far as I know, there have been no complaints or concerns about this new way to obtain village services. The yearly village resident survey was conducted at its usual time in the fall right during the midst of the pandemic and the one thing that stood out to me was that there was very little difference regarding resident satisfaction with village services from the past few years to 2020. I have taken that to mean that the residents have been satisfied with the level of service. We also tried to help our restaurants by creating more outdoor dining opportunities during the warmer weather months. I support allowing these same opportunities this year.
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. We need to continue to support and follow the recommendations of our health professionals to get us through the rest of this crisis. Then we need to examine our responses to the various facets of this crisis and use that to be prepared for the next one. At the beginning of the pandemic our staff developed a resiliency plan to serve as a financial guideline. This can certainly be used as a template for future emergencies.
Q. What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A. We have delayed the planned increase in our water and sewer rates for a year. These increases were begun back in 2016 in order to pay for the necessary updates and reconstruction of our water treatment facilities and water and sewer lines. We also extended help to residents to pay their water bills. Our staff immediately looked at the budget and cut back on items that were not immediately necessary until we could get a better indication of the effect of the pandemic on village revenues. We are currently in the middle of developing next year's budget and we are taking a careful look at our revenues versus expenditures as we come out of the pandemic restrictions. Most likely we will be re-prioritizing our projects for the coming year. Fortunately the Village's solid financial situation before the pandemic have helped to ease some of the negative effects the pandemic will have on our revenues.
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. Just before COVID, the Board commissioned an extensive study of the village's park and recreation holdings and programs with an eye to creating a master plan of where to go next. We have seen a draft of the plan so far with the final plan being due in a few months. Some of these projects are exciting to contemplate, but may have to be delayed as we now take a look at the funding sources for these projects and at the other needs of the village. We are in the process of upgrading our water and sewer infrastructure and I consider completing that a top priority.
Q. Do you plan to address businesses that don't adhere to the governor's order to close or restrict business?
A. In general I have been very pleased and appreciative of the way Algonquin businesses have adhered to the governor's orders regarding closures, social distancing and mask wearing, We will continue to monitor compliance and I am very much in favor of using village and county resources to enforce compliance.
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. Rather than take an immediate vote on this issue to deny sales, I would have liked to have heard more from the community, one way or the other, about this. Personally, I am open to the possibility of recreational marijuana sales, but for me, this is definitely an issue where I would want to get more input from the community. My vote to not ban sales was based on that premise -- I needed more information.
Q. What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A. The pandemic has shown us that we can make our meetings more available to the public without much expense (thank you Zoom and dialing-in!) I will advocate for continuing to offer our meetings in this format even after the Board can return to in-person meetings. I would also like to hold occasional Zoom meetings myself in order to reach out to our residents and business owners.