Meet the candidate: Joanne Johnson
This is the first in a series of profiles of the five candidates for the three trustee positions on the Buffalo Grove Village Board. All candidates were sent the same questions. The answers are exactly as they were submitted. Profiles are being presented in alphabetical order. Candidate Gowri Magati’s profile will be posted tomorrow.
How long have you lived in Buffalo Grove?
Please provide brief biographical information
My husband and I moved to Buffalo Grove in 1988 to raise a family. We have two adult children. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism with a minor in Business. I am retired from a career in nonprofit public relations and marketing communications.
Are you affiliated with any political party? If so, to what extent are you being supported by that party?
I am not affiliated with any political party. This is a non-partisan race and I am running as an independent. I have received no financial support from any political party.
What civic activities, if any, have you been involved with?
I have been involved in civic activities my entire life. Specifically, in Buffalo Grove, I have been a community servant for 30 years. I started volunteering as a room mom and worked my up to several positions on my PTO Board. My work wasn’t confined to the schools though, I also volunteered at other local charities. Eventually, I found my way to the Village. I worked on the Village’s 50th Anniversary Committee in which my main assignment was to edit an 88-page history book on Buffalo Grove. It was the first of its kind. Next, I joined the BG Days Committee. Today, I am a proud board member of local nonprofit GiveNKind. I also continue to volunteer at other charities in the area.
Why are you running for the Village Board?
To be blunt, things are going well in Buffalo Grove right now. Our operating reserves have nearly doubled in the last ten years. Sales tax revenue is up 20% in the last five years and 70% in the last 10 years. We were able to implement a $145 million infrastructure modernization plan that will improve our Village’s streets, water and sewer lines with NO IMPACT on property taxes. No more kicking the can down the road! We have a balanced budget and a AAA bond rating. And, this year, we passed a budget with NO property tax increase at all! We have accomplished a great deal and we are on the cusp of great things to come. I want to see these successes continue.
Have you served on a village committee or commission before? If yes, which one and how long did you serve and in what capacity?
I have been a Village Trustee for six years. Prior to that, I was on the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Buffalo Grove Days Committee, each for 5 years. I also served on the Village’s 50th Anniversary Committee for several years. As a Trustee, I have been a liaison to the following Commissions, Boards and Committees: Health Commission, Animal Control Board, Planning and Zoning Board, Emergency Management, Arts Commission, Electrical Commission, and Buffalo Grove Days. I was also proud to serve as the Village’s liaison to the Northwest Municipal Conference’s Legislative Committee which allowed me to represent the Village’s interests at a regional and statewide level.
How well do you think the Village has responded to the pandemic? Please explain your answer.
Not only did Buffalo Grove continue to serve its residents during the early stages of the pandemic, but we improved the delivery of our services to our residents and companies that are doing business within our boundaries. As an example, we built a walk-up window, complete with a doorbell and awning, for people to conduct business without entering the building. This has protected countless people, as well as our staff, from potential COVID exposure. Of course, if someone would prefer to do their business indoors, we have installed plexiglass at our front counter as a barrier to prevent the transmission of COVID. We also retrofitted our Council Chambers with plexiglass and an improved sound system so that we could safely hold board meetings in person and on social media platforms. I have never been prouder of our staff than in the early days of the pandemic. Other municipalities were coming to Buffalo Grove for advice and guidance, because we had control of the situation, and that’s because so many people worked very hard to get there.
What ideas to you have to support businesses in Buffalo Grove that are suffering because of the pandemic?
To lessen the financial burden on struggling businesses, the Village waived liquor license fees by 50% as restaurants have been closed or limited to indoor dining. We have also established a concierge service, where Village representatives meet with individual businesses and work one-on-one with them to address any specific issues and guide them through COVID mitigations. We have also established a new website that will launch mid-March. It will allow Buffalo Grove businesses to promote themselves and provides customers with information, such as outdoor dining or expanded hours. The goal is to assist in business visibility.
Which business development plan do you think should be a priority? Lake-Cook Road corridor, Dundee Road, Milwaukee Avenue or the Prairie View concept? Please explain your priorities.
All of our identified corridors are ready and available for development. Concept plans speed up the process and guide developers in the direction that our residents have chosen. Of the several areas, the Lake Cook Corridor may have a slight advantage over the others, in that there is a Tax Increment Financing District in place that can support development. The “priority” among the areas is in attracting willing developers and matching them with willing property owners.
Do you think the village should continue using Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts to entice economic development?
Tax Increment Financing districts are effective for facilitating development under appropriate circumstances. Our current TIF district for the Lake Cook Corridor supports the redevelopment of underperforming properties along the Village’s Main Street, and works particularly well because it had a minimal effect on tax revenue for local schools and other taxing districts. The Village should consider the use of TIF districts, as well as all other options available, to facilitate development wherever it makes sense.
How do you think the village should encourage redevelopment of existing retail areas that are struggling?
To redevelop, we need three things: 1) A willing property owner who is currently selling or leasing, 2) A viable business, meaning a new, existing or expanding business that is looking to occupy a facility, and 3) A proactive municipality like Buffalo Grove that facilitates and regulates dealings between property owners and viable businesses. Additionally, our economic development staff works with the real estate brokerage community as well as local property owners to attract new businesses as well as to assist efforts to expand or reinvest.
Some of our volunteer groups (commissions, committees) have seen shrinking membership. What would you do to engage the community on a broader scale? Do you think the “Engage BG” initiative is an effective program to get residents involved? What would you do to encourage broader demographic participation?
To address the issue of shrinking volunteerism, we have formed a Community Engagement Committee, of which I am a liaison member to the Board. One of our goals is to broaden the demographic profile of our volunteer list to match that of our community. An initiative of the committee that is ready to launch is that of “Community Champions.” These are people who are involved in their neck of the woods, whether it be as a room mom, band dad or something else. They can be a voice for and to the Village. If they enjoy that role, perhaps they will elevate to a committee or commission. I am excited to see this concept take off and look forward to working with residents from all areas of the community.
Do you think the Village communicates well with residents? If not, how can it be improved?
A resounding yes! Buffalo Grove communicates very well with the community. Our weekly eNews is a terrific place to stay on top of local news. During road construction season, we also have weekly eNews specifically on that topic for the entire community or separate editions for neighborhoods undergoing road construction. We also publish a newsletter several times a year. We have a new and improved website that is easy to navigate and search. Our entire budget and every invoice we pay is available to view on our website. Our best form of communication is our Board meetings. No other taxing body in Buffalo Grove broadcasts their meetings like we do. Our meetings are available on Zoom, Facebook Live, our Website and on cable channels. If a resident wants to avail themselves to Village happenings, I believe it's easy to do.