It is a shame that the two incumbents in this election are two of the three most vital members of the board. It is also a shame that their main challengers are two intelligent, sophisticated and well-versed women bringing up real issues and representing a segment of the population that finds no voice on the current board.
It is a shame because, as one candidate suggested, at least one of the sitting board members who face no challenge this cycle, is simply out of ideas and will flat out admit to it.
On top of that, as our endorsement interviews revealed, we are faced with a board in which long-time Executive Director Dave Novak seems to have every member’s ear and no checks or balances.
It is a shame because this situation makes our decision in this matter that much more difficult. When it comes down to it we would like to see all of these candidates on the board, plus current member Greg Kolinek, and call it a day. But we must choose two.
Thus we view this election as a stepping stone towards creating a more progressive park board that is fiscally responsible and responsive to the needs and wants of our community. We strongly encourage Marcella Wozniak and Roy Sansone to run again in two years, when we can all, hopefully, obtain the park board Forest Park needs to plan its future. Both these candidates have a lot to offer and would be a true asset to the district.
All things considered, however, we have chosen a mix of experience and forward thinking for our endorsements, supporting challenger Cathleen McDermott and incumbent Michael Espinoza.
While we consider land acquisition paramount to the future of this park district, it is first necessary to put the house in order financially, thus we have chosen McDermott, who has pledged herself to obtaining a balanced budget and to carefully creating a reserve for the ailing district.
We hope that through her influence, the board will learn that all moneys they receive are taxpayer money and should be treated as such. Read: no more Reno-gates.
Her experience as a special investigator and businesswoman will give this board an outspoken critic who will always call it like it is.
This outspoken nature, even in the face of harsh criticism, is what impressed us about McDermott. Her ability to unflinchingly speak out saying she will look to support staff, if cuts need to be done, and her promise to
set fiscal restraints on the board’s spending, as well as her desire to bridge the gap between the village’s recreation board and the park district, show us that she is forward thinking and open to trimming some of the fat in our town.
McDermott also brings past park board experience to the table, which should enable her to hit the
ground running, quickly and vociferously enforcing the changes this board needs to wake up and get with the program.
Likewise, in Espinosa, we see an enthusiastic and charismatic voice with extensive experience in finances who can help use the referendum moneys wisely and who will effectively communicate the board’s every move to the public.
Espinosa’s enthusiasm is infectious, which is why he is often at the front during park events, leading the crowd. This makes him an approachable board member, with the ability to stop and listen to all who want to speak up and with the experience to get things done.
His idea for a new recreation center would be a welcome addition and an alternative to finding more park land for the district, one of his long-term goals for the park. His emphasis on creating family-oriented activities also demonstrates he is looking beyond the little leagues and softball tournaments. He is looking to the future, pledging to be an administrator for the board and promising to make the hard decisions that have to be made by creating a long-term plan for park facilities and at least instituting a process for selecting a new director for when Novak finally retires.
In two years, we do sincerely hope Sansone runs again and would be happy to support him. His enthusiasm for children’s sports programs and for this board is also infectious.
His roots in our community truly do run deep and his experience in the maintenance field would prove crucial to a board struggling to maintain old buildings and new projects. By the next cycle, this will be a key issue, as the board will go about implementing the comprehensive capital improvement plan they are currently creating.
Then would also be an excellent time to have Wozniak run again, as her enthusiasm for land acquisition and for thinking outside of the box would find a welcome home in a district with a”hopefully”balanced budget and sound financial policies.
There is not much we can say about Mary Buckley, who did not schedule an interview with us or return our candidate questionnaire, except perhaps that to win an endorsement, the key is to at least show up.