Laura Dias: Candidate for Grayslake Village Board
Four candidates are running for three 4-year seats.
Occupation: Small Business Owner, Faver Dias Group LLC
Civic involvement: Member of Strong Towns, Member of Sierra Club, Member and former board secretary of Prairie Circle Unitarian Universalist Church, Founder of the Nature Walk Collaborative 501(c)3, Volunteer citizenship class teacher at HACES, Northwestern Memorial Hospital NICU Parent Support Specialist, West Iowa Condo Association President
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: Trustees should provide leadership both by example and by enforcement of local and state guidelines. The Village should follow the advice of experts, epidemiologists, scientists and public health departments during any public health crisis. It is important to engage, listen, and consider resident feedback but when it is an emergency public health crisis, trustees should adhere and follow the science presented by the health departments.
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: As a member of the Grayslake Economic Development Commission, I supported the 3 financial relief packages to the Grayslake restaurant community. I think the Village could also have alleviated the burden of Grayslake residents by temporarily suspending late fees on water and trash. I would like to have seen the Village serve as a communication hub in coordination with the Lake County Health Department by providing information to residents regarding testing and vaccine information. The Village could also have supported communication efforts to seniors by proactively informing them of the Vaccine hotline for those without internet when trying to book vaccine appointments.
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: Public meetings should continue to be streamed online so there is not a disruption in access to Village meetings by residents. As we are slowly coming out of the pandemic there should be a coordinated intergovernmental assessment of what went well during the pandemic response in Grayslake and what practices and procedures could be put into place when public health crises occur. The Village should also host a town hall meeting, and actively solicit resident feedback regarding their pandemic experience and what could be improved. We should use this opportunity to ensure there is a framework in place to use when another public health crisis occurs.
Q: What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A: As a small-business owner, I applaud the efforts of the current Village Board focusing on cutting expenditures. However, even though the Village only represents 4-5% of the property tax bill, residents are saddled with a heavy overall property tax. At this point, the Village should be advocating at the state level for the state of Illinois to do its share of funding public schools so the burden is not solely on the local taxpayers. I am proud to say that I spent time as a citizen advocating for the Evidence Based Funding formula overhaul for school funding reform. We need to continue efforts like this that solve the structural issues that drive high property taxes.
I believe there are solutions to our property tax problem that don't require sacrificing service to residents or our ability to provide excellent public schools.
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: Infrastructure projects where residents' quality of life in their own home is being affected due to water supply issues or recurrent flooding should be prioritized. While we should follow engineering standards, we must consider people's lived experience when prioritizing projects.
Stormwater management projects should be prioritized due to increased rains from climate change which is projected to continue. Drainage systems need to be updated to meet the increased demand. We also need to make sure we are using best practices such as the expansion of native plants ensure the preservation of wetlands.
Infrastructure projects can be funded from the revenue from the landfill.
Green infrastructure such as solar panels on Village owned buildings should be prioritized. Grants are often available to offset the initial cost. The school districts are already seeing a positive return on their investment. Solar panels will reduce operational expenditures as well as reduce our carbon footprint.
During uncertain economic times, updates to Gelatin park and other plans like this could be postponed.
Q: Do you plan to address businesses that don't adhere to the governor's order to close or restrict business?
A: As a small-business owner, I understand how hard this past year has been. Businesses had to adapt and innovate quickly in incredibly challenging circumstances and in completely uncharted waters. However, businesses should follow the health department guidelines and should be addressed if not. I would propose a warning letter sent on the first violation to ensure they have the most up to date information. If the business still does not comply a call should be made to the Lake County Health Department, and as a final resort law enforcement should be called to comply. After multiple documented violations, those businesses not complying should become ineligible for any Village financial relief packages.
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: When the Village prohibited the use of recreational cannabis sales they shut down an opportunity for expanding the commercial tax base in Grayslake and reducing the burden on residential property taxes. I would support the opening of a cannabis dispensary in which a minority owned cannabis dispensary is recruited. The Village could place parameters on its location and even create a tax on the sale of cannabis products. There are Vape stores operating in Grayslake that sell to anyone over 18 so the Village has already opened the door to smoking/tobacco like products.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A: New ideas are something that set me apart from the other candidates. As a new voice on the Village Board, I will bring a new perspective and new ideas. From livestreaming Village meetings so more people can easily attend, to an online tracking tool where residents can submit data for recurring water disruptions, to a Grayslake neighbors night out, one of my top priorities would be implementing a corps of volunteers during heavy snow falls. As I have been meeting with residents, some seniors and people with physical challenges in our community struggle with getting to their mailboxes during heavy snowfall due to the snowplow build up or cannot take care of snow removal themselves. The volunteer corps would be composed of residents in our community who want to help their neighbors as well high school students who would like to volunteer for service hours for their resumes. We can connect the plethora of residents in our community who have giving hearts to provide services to those most in need.