Adam R. Shores: candidate for Grayslake village trustee
Four candidates are running for three 4-year seats.
Occupation: Vice President of State Government and Political Relations, American Property Casualty Insurance Association
Civic involvement: Grayslake Heritage Center Foundation Board; Grayslake Economic Development Commission; Exchange Club of Grayslake; Grayslake Historical Society
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: It's important that people have confidence in their local leaders, both in good times and in difficult times like a pandemic. I've worked to be a voice of reassurance and encouragement to people in Grayslake that we can get through this by working together. Perhaps the best things we can do to confront the pandemic are to promote state and federal safety guidelines while also supporting our local businesses -- the lifeblood of our community. I've done this in a number of ways. I have actively encouraged our residents to buy local whenever possible, and I have supported a series of economic relief efforts to help our area businesses. We are only able to do this because of our position of financial strength that we have achieved through smart budgeting and planning to prepare for circumstances like these.
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: The pandemic has caused all of us to adjust to a new way of doing things and Village government is no exception. At its core, the responsibility of local government is to provide critical services like water, reliable roads, and police protection during good times and bad. The good news for Grayslake is that with smart planning and budgeting, we have built in several contingency plans to account for unforeseen setbacks. Our fiscal defenses that I've worked to implement, like our low operating costs and our debt-free status, have helped us weather the pandemic. COVID-19 hasn't interrupted our agenda to provide good government to our citizens and while we may have had to adjust our approach through things like socially distant activities and online virtual meetings, we're still getting the job done for Grayslake. In fact, we have seen an uptick in participation from our residents through our online meetings, which has helped foster a greater engagement that I will push for once we've moved past the confines of the pandemic.
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 think the most important thing Grayslake leaders can do is be a conduit of information to citizens and a facilitator of resources for people who need them. We have a community notification system for things like water boil orders and other emergencies, and I'd like to see us better leverage tools like that to keep residents informed with up-to-date information in a future health crisis. Social media is also an important tool in communicating with residents, whether in a crisis or not, and I want to work on ways to improve our outreach and connection to residents through various platforms. As leaders in the Village, we work hard to maintain strong partnerships with other government agencies and organizations in our community and that has helped us take the lead in facilitating solutions to operational challenges. For example, the Lake County Fairgrounds is a vaccination site and was considered as a possible temporary medical facility early on in the pandemic. Our ability as a Village Board to lean into our existing partnerships and help coordinate with other agencies on planning for use of facilities within the Village like the fairgrounds is critical.
Q: What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A: There's no doubt that the pandemic has taken its toll on all of us. While most people probably look to the federal and state government to handle the response to the virus, there is a clear role for local leaders to step in and work for their residents. And that's exactly what we've done. One major example of this is the Dine-in Restaurant Incentive Grant Program, which was a reduction in sales taxes that I voted to provide to our local restaurants. To date, we have provided more than $180,000 in cash payments to eligible restaurants that equal about 30 percent of their 2019 sales taxes to the Village to be used for mortgage or rent payments, payroll, or operating supplies. In addition, we have also deferred payment of liquor license fees and local business license renewals. For our hardest hit residents, we have waived late fees and shut-off notices for delinquent water bills to help people who are struggling with the impact of the pandemic. Thanks to the decisions my colleagues and I have made, we are in a position of financial strength to do these things and be there for people when they need us most.
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: Traffic on Highway 120 is one of the biggest infrastructure challenges we face. This is exacerbated by the multiple railroad crossings that intersect our town that Grayslake residents have come to know all too well. One of our most problematic spots is the intersection of Highways 120 and 83. Thankfully, due to the work of Sen. Melinda Bush, there is $30 million in state funding for an underpass at this intersection, meaning that getting stopped by a train there will no longer be an issue. As this project unfolds, it will be important for us to work with the state on other opportunities to ease the traffic congestion along this corridor. As for other projects, I don't necessarily think the pandemic should hinder our progress. An investment in infrastructure during difficult times can help spur economic growth. Because of our financial strength as a Village, we should continue to move forward on projects we have already planned and budgeted for like the Haryan Farms Outfall Project and continued improvements to our well system. Projects like these help us move forward and foster growth in the community.
Q: Do you plan to address businesses that don't adhere to the governor's order to close or restrict business?
A: The effects of the pandemic have been far reaching with perhaps no one bearing that burden more than small business owners. We've seen how these entrepreneurs have had to quickly adjust business models and strategy just to survive. I've supported the Village's efforts to help these businesses through our tax incentive programs, special accommodations for outdoor dining and through promotional campaigns encouraging people to shop local. I will also continue to encourage our local restaurants to adhere to state and county guidelines on safe business operations. We have utilized local policing efforts to address questions about violations of those guidelines and encourage people to contact the Lake County Health Department to look into specific concerns. 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: In 2019, I voted to support the Village's plan to defer action on this issue for one year to give ourselves the benefit of time to gather more information on the impact of recreational marijuana sales on other communities that decided to move forward with such sales. We are still in the midst of the vetting process as our Planning and Zoning Board has been reviewing the issue, including a plan to allow limited sales in certain areas zoned for retail in town. However, a public hearing on the topic was postponed due to the onset of the pandemic. As an elected official, citizen input is a key part of my decision-making process and it is important to hear additional feedback from the public on this issue before moving forward.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A: Community service and engagement is very important to me, and one thing I'm very proud of is the Community Involvement Grant Program that I authored and got enacted in 2019. We've been working to promote this program and I believe it can have a lot of impact on the benefit of our town. The program offers public support for Grayslake-based nonprofit organizations with Village-sponsored grants, which are used to enhance the mission of each organization and add to the overall well-being of the community. The idea for the program is to form stronger ties between the Village and its residents by demonstrating our commitment to groups that add to our quality of life and provide a positive impact on the community. Participating groups are eligible for up to $2,000 in an annual grant to support a program or project that demonstrates added value to the Village and its residents. To me, this shows how we can work together to support local efforts that celebrate the things that make Grayslake the special place it is.