Laura Alicia Rodriguez: 2021 candidate for Wheeling village board
Six candidates for three seats
Occupation: Business owner
Civic involvement: Support local nonprofit organizations, park and school district, providing also nonprofit services for the community.
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 village trustee, my priorities are clear, look out for the health of our residents and help our local economy thrive. We must keep our community informed about not only the guidelines stipulated by federal and state government but also helping them keep our economy moving while fighting the pandemic. The creation of a community task force, village staff and community members working alongside business owners will actively pursue all state and federal COVID-19 grants, to help our small businesses come back stronger than ever.
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: In the beginning, local governments didn't know much about what to expect or what to do, but soon many neighboring towns took the initiative to work with the federal government and secure help for their residents, while Wheeling waited until late December to revamp the restaurant grant program ... nine months after business shutdowns began in March. While other communities made difficult budget decisions to cut costs, the current village board thought it prudent to give a 7% raise to the village manager in contrast to the many community businesses and residents suffering extreme economic hardship due to the pandemic. This is not leadership, as a business owner and resident I was beyond upset, that's why I decided to run. Enough is enough.
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: COVID-19 taught us a lesson. We most be prepared in the event we face a similar scenario in the future. We will work to create protocols that will help us respond to these events in the most efficient way. Securing COVID-19 vaccines, creating a fast channel of communication with federal and state agencies to secure health and financial help for our community, making our first responder and at risk population our priority. Wheeling residents will not be left on their own again. Enough is enough.
Q: What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A: Wheeling is facing a budget crisis, sometimes unpopular decisions are made by village leadership during unprecedented times. We will assess all options as long as they do not have a negative impact on the core services to Wheeling's residents.
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 as a group believe that we must continue and expand the Flood Plan Mitigation Program, paid for with grants and stormwater fees, to remove existing homeowner's properties from the flood plan, in order to reduce insurance costs and increasing their property values. During trying times, anything we can do to help residents save money and increase equity in their properties is essential. Regarding cuts, all capital improvement projects will be thoroughly vetted out to determine if they are feasible.
Q: Do you plan to address businesses that don't adhere to the governor's order to close or restrict business?
A: We will encourage our businesses to follow precautionary measures, but we will not police them.
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. I believe the revenue generated from sales will help the community, we can use those resources and invest in the community.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A; Working on a strategic plan to bring business back to Wheeling, making our village business and entrepreneur friendly, we need an active Chamber of Commerce and Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to make this a reality. I want Wheeling to become the next Austin, Texas. I want successful existing and new businesses thrive in Wheeling, this will not only help ease the burden on our residents, who's tax levy has been doubled over the last decade. Community collaboration with residents and local business owners is the key to get Wheeling thriving. Si se puede!