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.
Joanne R. Johnson
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?
My husband is a judge in the 19th Judicial Circuit of Illinois. (Judicial Ethics rules prohibit using his title in my campaign.)
Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism with a minor in Business
Nonprofit Public Relations and Marketing Communications – 20 years
Previous or Current Elected or Appointed Office
Buffalo Grove Village Trustee, 6 years; Planning and Zoning Commissioner, 5 years
The single most pressing issue facing our (board, district, etc.) is _______, and this is what I intend to do about it.
The greatest long-term issue facing Buffalo Grove is our need to maximize services while minimizing the tax impact on our residents. This is made more difficult by uncertain state funding, including failed pension reforms. The State continues to pile on unfunded mandates, while reducing the revenue that is constitutionally due to the village. We are being fiscally squeezed by the State of Illinois. To address that issue, we need to broaden our revenue base. With greater revenue, we will not be as reliant on the State. How do we do this? We need to develop viable economic corridors and continue to develop our industrial district which has been a great source of revenue for us and has helped to sustain us through the coronavirus.
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?
The goal is to live in a society that treats every person with dignity, but we’re not there yet. Black Lives Matter is a viable movement and has my respect. There were two peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstrations held in Buffalo Grove last year, and the organizers complimented our Police Department at the end of each one. Why? The Buffalo Grove Police were present, but not intrusive. The protesters felt safe, but free to voice their opinions and exercise their First Amendment rights. It was a proud moment for Buffalo Grove. We always want to make sure that the marketplace of ideas is open and free for all opinions.
Do you think the current board has done enough to support racial equality, and if not, what specifically should be done to do so?
I believe the board has enacted policy that supports racial equality. Our Police Department is an example. We have had an affirmative action recruiting plan in place since 1986 and the plan has been updated every three years; most recently in January, 2020. This plan specifically directs that minorities and women be hired in equitable proportion to the service area. The Police Department also has a Bias-Based Policing Policy in place that is reviewed annually. As part of the policy, officers are required to complete a racial profiling data sheet on every vehicle and pedestrian stop conducted. The data is analyzed every year and reviewed for trends. The most recent annual review of 2018 data showed that the estimated minority driving population in Buffalo Grove is 33% and traffic stop data conducted by officers indicated that 33.3% of all stops involved minority drivers. I think that statistic shows enforcement in proportion to demographics, and proves that we are making strides towards racial equality. Of course, we can always do better, but we are trying to get there and do our best.
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?
The response to the coronavirus has been frustrating due to the inconsistency of the messaging. As far as business restrictions are concerned, I believe we should follow the science and the direction of our State and County Health Departments. In Illinois, local mask mandates are redundant, as we have a statewide mask mandate.
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?
If we could start the vaccine distribution over, I think it would be wise for the Illinois Department of Public Health to coordinate and control the distribution of the coronavirus vaccine. Buffalo Grove straddles two counties and it’s confusing for our residents to figure out how to gain access to a vaccine. The County Health Departments are responsible for getting the vaccine to specific distribution sites, but our senior staff has learned that plans for the rollout change daily from both counties – Lake and Cook. Most municipalities, like Buffalo Grove, do not have a clinically licensed Health Department, therefore they cannot distribute the vaccine directly, however we are able to offer facilities in which to distribute the vaccine and we can help to communicate vaccine rollout news to the community, particularly to seniors who are homebound or without computers.
What are the critical differences between you and the other candidates seeking this post?
Let me speak to my work ethic and the way I function on the dais. I feel that I fully prepare for every meeting by reading all the materials, doing my own research, and asking relevant questions. I know that I am the most vocal member of the board. I always state my position on votes that are controversial, divisive or especially important. Sometimes, the voice in the room doesn’t always represent the larger majority in the village. I want my constituents to know the reason I am voting the way I am.
If you are a challenger, in what way has the current board or officeholder failed the community (or district or constituency)
I’m an incumbent.
Describe the other issues that define your campaign platform
My platform focuses on three main issues: responsible fiscal management, continued economic development, and infrastructure modernization. However, there is much more that I am working on to better our community. For example, I am a member of a newer committee focusing on Community Engagement. A while back, we noticed that fewer members of the community were joining our commissions and committees than in prior years. The Community Engagement Committee seeks to encourage greater volunteer involvement, so more people have an idea of how the Village actually works and have a stake in its success. We are also striving to make these same groups more demographically representative of our community. Personally, I have worked on a plan to engage Community Champions, people who are leaders in the community and may not even know it. The Village would like to involve these people to get a better feel for the pulse of the community.
The voters might also like to know that my service to the community continues outside of my role on the board. I am a proud member of the Board of Directors of GiveNKind, a nonprofit organization that accepts standard donations, such as gently used clothing and household items, but also collects bulk resources from corporate donors, such as product overruns and obsolete products. GiveNKind collects these items before they wind up in landfills or incinerators and re-directs them to other philanthropic organizations with known needs. This benefits everyone by keeping items out of landfills and matching those products with nonprofits.
What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you can handle this job?
First and foremost, I have been doing this job for six years. However, I grew up and served for 30 years in the rank and file of Buffalo Grove. For instance, I was a room mom, I was on PTO Board, I was on the high school band board, and I was on the 50th Anniversary Committee for Buffalo Grove. Next, I served on the Buffalo Grove Days Committee, and was then appointed to the Planning and Zoning Commission where I served for five years, prior to my service on the Village Board. Needless to say, I have a lot of experience working among and serving the residents of Buffalo Grove. Plus, I think I have been a straight-forward and honest leader. As I have stated, I always explain my position prior to voting on particularly important votes. I do this because I think I owe it to the voters. The people that have worked alongside me know that I am a hard worker and that I will continue to work hard for the residents of Buffalo Grove.
If you win this position, what accomplishment would make your term in office as a success?
The Buffalo Grove Village Board must continue to manage fiscal affairs in a responsible manner. Village of Buffalo Grove taxes have consistently been less than 10% of the residents’ total tax bills. In fact, we have an official policy that prohibits us from going over 10% of your tax bill. This year, Buffalo Grove had NO TAX INCREASE at all, despite economic pressures due to the pandemic. We also have a AAA bond rating that affords us low debt rates. Secondly, we need to continue addressing economic development with resident input so that we can broaden our tax base and improve the quality of life for our residents. Buffalo Grove is a 60-plus year old village with aging infrastructure to match. We must continue to invest in the modernization of our streets, sewers and watermains to prevent emergency repairs that are inconvenient and costly.
Why should voters trust you?
I think my record of service speaks for itself. I have always approached issues with the best interest of the Village in mind, even when the decision may not have been popular. I make informed decisions, and I let people know the basis for those decisions. For the many years that I have served the Village of Buffalo Grove, I have consistently given my best effort.
What are your views on fiscal policy, government spending and the use of taxpayer dollars in the office you are seeking?
I consider myself to be conservative when it comes to fiscal policy. The State of Illinois is in a precarious financial position and is squeezing every last dollar from municipalities because of failed pension reforms and unfunded mandates. However, our village is in sound financial shape due to years of conservative financial planning. We have significant financial reserves and a AAA bond rating. As a Trustee up for reelection, I am proud of that. I believe I am a good steward of the taxpayers’ dollars.
Is there any reason you would not serve your full term of office, other than those of health or family?
The best advice ever shared with me was:
Be honest. I was born on Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, so my grandpa showered me with books about “Honest Abe”; first, the primary readers, then eventually full biographies. I learned from my grandpa, my parents and Lincoln that telling the truth is always the best plan.
What else would you like voters to know about yourself and your positions?
The voters should look at my six-year record on the board. I have always stated my position verbally before important, controversial or divisive votes. I am a straight shooter and I am honest. I believe my record speaks to that.