How should Mundelein's village board help businesses struggling during pandemic?
As businesses continue struggling with the economic crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, the candidates for seats on Mundelein's village board have different ideas when it comes to helping them.
Seven candidates are running in the April 6 election for three seats with 4-year terms: Willie Davismckennie, Ray Mullen, Angela Trillhaase, Jenny Ross, Sol Cabachuela, Edith Reese and Tim Wilson.
The candidates spoke about helping local businesses and other issues in a joint, online interview with the Daily Herald.
Mundelein officials have taken several steps to aid businesses suffering from lower-than-usual customer counts and sales during the pandemic.
For example, a block of Park Street was closed to traffic last year so restaurants there could have more space for outdoor dining. That will happen again this year.
Additionally, Mayor Steve Lentz issued an executive order giving bars and restaurants permission to sell cocktails with to-go orders.
In October, the village launched a grant program to help restaurateurs pay for tents, heating equipment and other gear needed for outdoor service. The village offers grants to help businesses cover utility bills, too.
The village suspended late payment penalties and disconnections for water bills, too, and waived annual license fees for a variety of businesses, among other steps.
Cabachuela, the village clerk since 2018, touted those grant programs and said the village is doing a good job helping businesses. Still, she said efforts could have been launched "months before."
Cabachuela suggests the village organize a raffle that features gift cards for local businesses as prizes.
Davismckennie, a professional cabinet maker and political newcomer, said more communication is needed with businesses to find out what they need, whether it's help getting paycheck protection loans or announcements that they're open.
"Every business is different," he said.
Mullen, a Realtor and political newcomer, agreed with Davismckennie about improving communication.
"If you want to help somebody, the first thing you do is ask what you can do to help and not make assumptions about what they need," he said.
Reese, a retired attorney making her first bid for public office, said the village needs to be fiscally conservative and not create undue tax burdens for residents and businesses.
However, Reese also said village officials need to collect fines and fees that weren't paid during the pandemic. She said she favors creating staggered collection schedule.
"They're owed," Reese said. "I don't think we should waive them. We need the revenue."
Like some of the other candidates, Ross, a former Fremont Public Library trustee, believes the village needs to improve its communication efforts. She praised officials for how they've tried to help retailers and restaurants during the crisis but said other types of businesses may need different types of support.
Trillhaase, who briefly served on the village board in the 1990s, agreed with Ross about different businesses having different needs. She suggested launching a contest on social media or a weekly podcast to promote local businesses.
Wilson, a former member of the village's economic development commission, believes village hall has done a pretty good job helping businesses during the pandemic but agreed with other candidates that communication could improve.
He put some responsibility on businesses owners, too, saying they need to "voice their concerns as well."
Three incumbents -- Dawn Abernathy, Robin Meier and Ray Semple -- aren't seeking reelection. Abernathy and Meier are running for mayor, while Semple is retiring from elected office.
Davismckennie, Mullen and Trillhaase are running together as part of the Mundelein in Motion slate. The other four board candidates are running independently.