BUFFALO GROVE, IL — Ahead of the April 6 consolidated municipal elections, Buffalo Grove Patch provided questionnaires to all candidates on the ballot. Five candidates are vying for three four-year trustee seats on the Buffalo Grove Village Board on Election Day. They include three incumbents (Joanne Johnson, Lester A. Ottenheiimer, III and Andrew Stein) and
BUFFALO GROVE, IL — Ahead of the April 6 consolidated municipal elections, Buffalo Grove Patch provided questionnaires to all candidates on the ballot.
Five candidates are vying for three four-year trustee seats on the Buffalo Grove Village Board on Election Day. They include three incumbents (Joanne Johnson, Lester A. Ottenheiimer, III and Andrew Stein) and two challengers (Gowri Magati and Mike Terson).
Buffalo Grove Patch is publishing all responses submitted by candidates verbatim.
Age (as of Election Day)
Town/City of Residence
Village board or city council
Party Affiliation (if a partisan race)
Does anyone in your family work in politics or government?
No one in my family works for the unit of government I am running for. I work for the Buffalo Grove Park District, and my wife works for School District 103 in Lincolnshire.
I am a graduate of Buffalo Grove High School, Harper College and Northern Illinois University.
I am the Superintendent of Communications and Marketing at the Buffalo Grove Park District. I have worked there since 2004.
Previous or Current Elected or Appointed Office
I was a Village Trustee from 2011 – 2015.
The single most pressing issue facing our (board, district, etc.) is _______, and this is what I intend to do about it.
Our biggest challenge is that we’ve kicked the can on infrastructure and other expensive line items for so long, that there is no more road to kick it down anymore. In the past decade, we’ve slashed the size of the staff, and cut every nonessential item we could from the budget, to the point that unless we finally start to increase revenue through economic development, we’re going to be faced with more of the things we’ve seen recently (like water bills doubling). So, our biggest challenge is figuring out a way to shift that revenue issue from being such a residential property tax burden, to instead being generated off the backs of nonresidents who come to Buffalo Grove to spend their money. The current rhetoric from elected officials about how they didn’t increase the property tax levy sounds awfully similar to the rhetoric when I was on the Board about how water rates weren’t increased; and, we all know how that has ended up in a very short period of time. What I plan on doing about this is not only increasing economic development, but doing so in a way that attracts the kinds of businesses that will have an impact on our revenue. Currently, we have a revolving door of low sales tax producing businesses in older retail properties that don’t attract the kind of national brands that generate higher revenue streams. If we can change our position in the region, and attract those higher grossing brands, we can shift to a model of bringing people to Buffalo Grove to spend their money, rather than one of us leaving Buffalo Grove to spend ours in places like Deer Park, Vernon Hills, Wheeling and Arlington Heights.
Do you support Black Lives Matter and what are your thoughts on the demonstrations held since the death of George Floyd and the shooting of Jacob Blake?
Black lives absolutely matter! I fully support total equality for everyone, as well as police accountability. I think demonstrations are very appropriate; but, criminal behavior is not. When people use the sheer volume of people found during these demonstrations as a means to break into businesses and destroy property, that has nothing to do with a protest or demonstration, and should not be conflated with that. When I see the unacceptable behavior that takes place around the country, whether it be in the form of police brutality or rioting in its aftermath, it makes me feel so thankful that I am lucky enough to live in a place like Buffalo Grove, where people respect one another, no matter what their race, ethnicity or profession is. As a leader in this community, I would never tolerate any act of racism or discrimination within our local government, or within our community as a whole.
Do you think the current board has done enough to support racial equality, and if not, what specifically should be done to do so?
Yes, I think everyone within our Village government has done a fine job. This is evident when you see how well respected our police department is throughout the community, as well as how proactive and community involved the department is. If our leadership lacked in this regard, that wouldn’t be the case. If the rest of the nation had race relations and a level of racial equality that Buffalo Grove has, our society wouldn’t have these issues.
What are your thoughts on the national and local coronavirus response? Do you favor measures such as limiting operation of non-essential businesses and restricting indoor/outdoor dining? And do you favor a local mask mandate?
I think that we are so far down the rabbit hole of poor leadership from the previous administration, that the challenges to come out of all this are daunting. That being said, I am encouraged by the changes being made with the current administration. At this point, when we know what the risks are, and we know what safety precautions work best, I am not in favor of government shutting down businesses, at least anymore. People can decide for themselves if they are willing to go out into the world; and, I don’t think that forcing businesses to close is the answer, especially when people still find ways to congregate. But, I definitely support a local, state and national mask mandate (while indoors) until we reach a certain level of immunity. That seems logical and reasonable.
What are your thoughts on the state and local coronavirus vaccine distribution, and how do you think local governments should work together to handle vaccine rollout?
Similar to my previous response, I think that is finally moving in the right direction, now that we have a change in leadership at the federal level. I think local governments should continue to do what they are doing by communicating and combining resources to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible. I think that the Village and other agencies in the area have done a great job of communicating information to people, and working together to get people vaccinated.
What are the critical differences between you and the other candidates seeking this post?
Honestly, I don’t think there are a lot of differences between me and Joanne Johnson. We have had a lot of conversations over the years, and seem to have similar goals and philosophies regarding economic development and the direction of the community. I served with the other two current trustees when I was on the Board, and would say I probably align more with Les Ottenheimer. But, the one issue that comes to mind where I differed with both of them would be when Culver’s wanted to put an off-premise sign on the Belmont’s property on Buffalo Grove Road. For me, that was a no-brainer opportunity to approve something that would have had zero negative impact on the community or anyone in particular; yet, both of my opponents voted no, and I was the only yes vote. I will say that in the years since that vote, Les has said to me that if he could do that vote over again, he’d have voted with me to approve the sign. However, Andy Stein is quoted in an article doubling down on his no vote. I think Andy is a great person, who is extremely well intended and cares about the community. However, we seem to have very different visions for the future of the community, as well as how to go about getting there. I do not know much about Gowri Magati; but, one of the things I have been saying for years is that the diversity that Buffalo Grove has is not represented on our Village Board. So, I am very encouraged to see someone running who would represent that diversity.
If you are a challenger, in what way has the current board or officeholder failed the community (or district or constituency)
I don’t think anyone running for reelection has failed the community. I think I bring the most logical and progressive mind set to the table; however, these are all good people who are very well intended. I think Buffalo Grove’s biggest issues are long term issues that are the result of policy makers that were in these roles decades ago.
Describe the other issues that define your campaign platform
My campaign platform is one of progress through economic development, logical decision making, and solid leadership. Gone are the days of elected officials sitting back at Village Hall, waiting for constituents to come to them to communicate issues and ideas. As leaders in the community, we need to take those conversations to people in their neighborhoods, on social media platforms, and other places throughout the community where they feel comfortable having that dialogue. We need to stop looking at ourselves as a bedroom community that is going to just rely on residential property tax in perpetuity to cover costs, and instead look to better leverage the potential of our larger retail corridors. By doing that, we can shift the burden of those costs off the backs of residents, and instead generate more of that revenue from nonresidents who come here to spend their money.
What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you can handle this job?
Aside from the fact that I already successfully did the job, I think that my long time involvement in the community has helped me develop into the kind of leader people trust and can relate to. And, being that my fulltime job is working for the community at a different unit of government, I am dialed into the daily issues and happenings of Buffalo Grove every day. I have also worked in very visible roles for organizations like the Chicago Cubs and Chicago Wolves, and have experience handling high pressure, faced pace situations that involve a lot of people, and are very publicly viewed.
If you win this position, what accomplishment would make your term in office as a success?
What would make my time in office a success would be getting properties like Chase Plaza, Cambridge Commons, and the vacant Bob Rohrman car dealership properties redeveloped, as well as bringing a much needed dining and entertainment district to Buffalo Grove.
Why should voters trust you?
In the world of local politics, I have been accused of being too honest, by not tiptoeing around issues when it might be politically advantageous. An example of this is when the Village Board was discussing the proposal to turn the golf course on Lake Cook Road into a mixed use downtown. While other current elected officials told their constituents that they opposed developing the golf course and opposed tax increment financing, only to later vote in favor of a master plan that included the development of the golf course, and vote to pass a tax increment financing district, I was honest and transparent with people, and told them exactly where I stood on those issues, even when those positions weren’t necessarily popular with some at the time. Not only do people never have to wonder where I stand, but they can count on me being willing to discuss any issue with them, and to listen to what their perspectives and opinions are.
What are your views on fiscal policy, government spending and the use of taxpayer dollars in the office you are seeking?
My view is that our Village government does a great job in this area. In fact, they do such a good job that we have been able to avoid our real problem of how to generate more revenue. But, this is an area that can go south fast; so, it is important to have people in these elected roles that are familiar with how municipal budgets work, and what money goes where and why. This is an area that I understand, and have many years of experience managing.
Is there any reason you would not serve your full term of office, other than those of health or family?
Only if I am elected Village President in 2023.
The best advice ever shared with me was:
The best advice ever shared with me was to treat everyone with an equal amount of respect. It doesn’t matter if it’s the person cleaning the building, or the CEO running the building; they both deserve the same amount of respect.
What else would you like voters to know about yourself and your positions?
In 2019, I recommitted myself to being the kind of leader I think our community wants and needs, and ran for Village President. And, while it was ultimately an unsuccessful bid (falling 150 votes short), there were a lot of successes that came out of that campaign. Within a year, my opponent and critics implemented some of the very economic development strategies on which they campaigned against me. I plan on running for Village President again in 2023, and making up those 150 votes. But, my first step of that plan is to first return to the Village Board as a trustee this year, so I can go into that role with the benefit of being involved in our community’s issues for the two years leading up to 2023, rather than just sitting on the sidelines and waiting to get started on that work. I would like people to know that I will do everything humanly possible to bring economic growth to Buffalo Grove, and I will work hard to lower our tax burden, while improving our quality of life.
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