Brent Joseph Burval: 2021 candidate for Barrington Hills village board
Six candidates for three seats
City: Barrington Hills
Occupation: Technology entrepreneur at Burval, LLC
Civic involvement: I regularly attend and speak at village meetings, and regularly engage with fellow residents, including past and current village leaders, regarding village issues.
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: Our village is almost exclusively residential, we have the relatively unique luxury of making public health a priority without greatly impacting local economy, as such we can and should err on the side of caution, I see little or no downside in doing so. Given Barrington Hills is a small community without a full-time health department, if elected I will advocate that our community follow county (Cook, McHenry, Lake, and Kane), state, and federal recommendations. I would also seek input from our volunteer-based Board of Health. At the same time, I believe the village should encourage residents to safely patronize local businesses.
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: Absolutely not. Despite objections by some, including incumbent trustees Jacobsen and Zubak, all monthly village board meetings after June, 2020 have been in-person at the our village hall, not virtual, at times conflicting with applicable county recommendations (Cook), and remote speaking is unavailable (I requested this be changed on behalf of an elderly resident, the request was denied). The meetings I have attended as a member of the public during the pandemic have been held in a relatively small often overcrowded room, with many village representatives unmasked, making recommended social distancing impossible. In speaking with several residents, I have learned that many, some under strict doctor's orders, have not attended meetings due to COVID-19 concerns. Input from constituents is essential to running a democracy. Residents have a right to speak at these public meetings without risking their lives. If elected I would insist we enable remote two-way participation for all of our public meetings. Meanwhile our village's Zoning Board of Appeals, which typically meets in the same meeting room, has been meeting virtually in 2021 and makes remote speaking available.
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 cannot predict the future but we can protect ourselves by ensuring that we have systems in place to distribute accurate safeguards/guidelines to the public quickly and effectively. Our village already has an excellent alert system (https://vbh-il.bbcportal.com) which allows village officials to distribute information via email, phone, and text. The village maintains a website with news section and electronic newsletter signup form, and a Facebook page. Ensuring all of these platforms are utilized to the greatest extent possible when important information is available is paramount to public health. Several residents have indicated to me that they would like to see printed newsletters published on a more regular basis as well, I support this if financially practical and provided we can offer a means to opt-out of such paper mailings to save money and reduce waste.
Q: What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A: Cutting our snow plowing budget is obviously not in the cards. Levity aside, our current village leaders, including incumbent trustees Jacobsen and Zubak, have done an excellent job cutting spending in recent years. Any additional opportunities to cut spending without eliminating essential services should certainly be considered. I have found some of the village code definitions and strings to be somewhat ambiguous, clarifying text would provide many benefits, including reducing long-term legal expenses. I'd also like to scrap the recently-approved plans to purchase and install security cameras at village borders. Another way to reduce taxpayer burden is by generating revenue from outside sources, for example, by adding red light cameras at major intersections (supported by many residents in past polling). Some school districts in Illinois are refunding property tax dollars to taxpayers as online learning has lowered utility and maintenance bills, I'd like the village to encourage the two school districts that serve our community to consider doing the same if possible.
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: I earned a civil engineering degree and the state of our villagewide drainage issues concern me, especially as we continue to see rising precipitation levels over time. The majority of our community consists of independently developed parcels, and many properties were previously farmed and served by agricultural drain tiles that have aged or completely failed. Additionally, many of our roadside drainage ditches are choked by vegetation which slows drainage and can reduce the longevity of roads. Taking a comprehensive look at drainage in our village and developing a long-term plan that provides a high benefit-to-cost ratio while preserving the aesthetics of our scenic village roadways would be a good start. Implementation could be phased, with less expensive efforts being undertaken sooner, and more expensive efforts being undertaken when the economy improves. Elevated railroad corridors may be contributing to drainage problems and cost sharing opportunities may exist.
Q: Do you plan to address businesses that don't adhere to the governor's order to close or restrict business?
A: Our village is almost exclusively residential so the likelihood of this scenario is slim. Nevertheless, executive orders are law, and typically include enforcement guidance, and I believe laws should be followed. If one feels a law is unfair I believe they should work to change the law, not break 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: Our village board voted against allowing recreational marijuana sales, which I believe was and is the right decision for our community.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A: Better government from the ground up. We all deserve unbiased representatives who win offices based on merits, not marketing spends, who represent all constituents not just donors. With this goal in mind I propose that the village of Barrington Hills self-impose low campaign spending limits going forward. And I believe doing so would have added benefits including lowering political temperatures and building a greater sense of community. The current campaign spending limit for a city council run in New York City is $190,000 in a primary election, and the city has over 8 million residents. This equates to a spending limit of less than $0.03 per resident. Applied simply ignoring fixed costs, to Barrington Hills' roughly 4,100 residents, $0.03 per resident would equate to a trustee position spending limit of less than $125. A $125 limit may not be practical, but in contrast, my understanding is that in recent years some village trustee candidates have spent roughly 100 times this amount in a single campaign. I pledge to spend no more than $500 and to run a clean, self-funded, zero-waste campaign. If elected, I will represent all constituents, with balance, without bias.