Arjun Nair: 2021 candidate for Aurora city council, 10th Ward
Voters have a choice for Aurora alderman in Wards 4, 7 and 10 and for the at-large seat in the April 6 election. In the 4th Ward, incumbent William Donnell is facing John Bell. In the 7th Ward, incumbent Scheketa Hart-Burns is being challenged by Saul Fultz. In the 10th Ward, Shweta Baid and Arjun Nair are running to fill a seat being vacated. And Raymond Hull, Brooke Shanley and Ron Woerman are running for the open at-large seat. All are 4-year terms.
Civic involvement: I have been a community activist for many years, have been involved in many political campaigns, and have also interned for Sen. Durbin in his Chicago office.
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 to remind everyone that we are a community. That, whatever disagreements we may have, we do have to look out for one another. Obviously no solution will make everyone happy, but we can try to keep everyone safe and also try to make sure that people's interests are still looked out for.
My number one priority is keeping people safe from the pandemic. But, it is still important to ensure that people's livelihoods are intact and that any measures put in place are not overly draconian. The city needs to help businesses build COVID safe infrastructure, so that they may safely stay open without endangering the public.
However, I also acknowledge the dangers of involving law enforcement in the matter in how they may, or may not, enforce regulations.
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: While the city was able to work with Hesed House to get some people off the streets and into shelters, but it should have been done sooner. Additionally, money could have been used for temporary housing. No one should be on the streets even in normal circumstances. The fact that it still happens now is despicable.
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: The key is to build relations with the county and state health departments, as well as federal ones, so proper methods to use in any number of crises can be understood. Additionally, the city should have a stock of PPE to use, and the infrastructure to distribute that PPE when necessary. This infrastructure should exist at the city level and at the individual ward level.
Q: What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A: The City of Aurora does not need to keep spending money and providing TIFs on developments that do not serve to bring any real benefits to the every day lives of people. Developers should not be getting handouts while the people are suffering.
Additionally, the desperation caused by the pandemic has led to a rise in crime. Rather than throwing more money at the police department, I would put money into helping people's material conditions and preventing crime in the first place.
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: The most important infrastructure project right now is ensuring that all of our roads are well-maintained, regardless of which neighborhoods they serve. However, other projects I do feel that are important to the city are municipalized utilities and municipal fiber optics, in addition to a continued focus on improving biking infrastructure.
Q: Do you plan to address businesses that don't adhere to the governor's order to close or restrict business?
A: Should restrictions tighten again, I would want to work with business owners to ensure that they can provide COVID safe infrastructure. However, if a business does refuse to comply, they will not be eligible for CRFs.
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: I believe that recreational cannabis should be allowed to be sold in cities and that the funds from the cannabis taxes should be spent directly into improving the community, and especially for helping out community members who were wrongfully prosecuted for cannabis usage, as well as youth services.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A: One idea I have that has been discussed in several places, but not in Aurora, is participatory budgeting. I want the people to have a more direct say in how their money is spent, rather than just calling me up and telling me whether or not they are in favor of this spending.