Below are candidate-submitted answers to a biographical survey the Forest Park Review sent out to all commissioner candidates running in this year’s elections. Candidates full, unedited responses are printed.
Don’t miss your chance to hear candidates debate the issues.
The Review is partnering with the Chamber of Commerce to host a commissioner candidate forum at 6:30 p.m. on March 21 at Forest Park Middle School, 925 Beloit Ave.
Previous political experience: This is my first run for office. I have always been a politically engaged citizen who votes, calls my representatives, and participates in political events.
Previous community experience: I volunteered for 3 years with Let Forest Park Vote. I am a member of the Historical Society of Forest Park
Occupation: Buyer and Set Decorator on TV shows, commercials and movies
Education: I received my BA from Columbia College Chicago where I studied photography.
1. What is the present state of the Village of Forest Park’s financial situation?
The financial state of the Village is a matter of concern. Presently there is approximately a $2 million dollar deficit.
2. What is being done and what should the Village board’s role be in promoting economic development?
As a resident, it’s been difficult for me to see what the board is doing or has done to address economic development. I feel the Village council should reach out to a variety of prospective businesses and sectors, work closely with the Chamber of Commerce, and have a continual dialogue with existing businesses and residents to learn what is and isn’t working here in Forest Park.
3. What are the best tools for doing so and what else can the Village board to help recruit new businesses and maintain the ones already here?
The Chamber is a Village asset that works well, but I feel the partnership could do more. The events hosted throughout the year are great ways to engage the residents and bring in visitors. We need to see a fresh marketing approach that reaches outside of the Village. Residents alone cannot sustain our local businesses. We need to encourage people to come discover, enjoy, and make Forest Park a destination they visit throughout the year. Updating our website, refreshing the Village of Forest Park App, and deploying a new marketing campaign can help us reach a wider swath of potential visitors. The commercial architecture and eclectic, independent businesses give Forest Park an undeniable charm that sets us apart from other towns. We can embrace and celebrate our uniqueness as we recruit new businesses. Another avenue for bringing money into the Village is through film production. I have heard from some location managers that getting a timely response from the Village to obtain a film permit can be difficult. Inviting film crews into town brings in immediate dollars. Film crews bring in revenue not just from film permit fees to the Village, but they spend money in nearby stores. They have many different departments with different needs. Production may need to run to the hardware store, the set decorating department can easily spend thousands of dollars at stores such as FP Emporium, Studio 8, and Schauer Hardware. Crews buy lunches at nearby restaurants. Craft service may need to purchase 2nd meal for the entire crew (which is often pizza or Portillo’s). Film production has a lot of moving parts and those parts all spend money. We should become more film friendly and the Village should have a competitive film permit fee. A thriving business community keeps existing businesses bustling and shows prospective businesses that Forest Park is the place to be!
4. A representative from the National Park Service has spent the last year interviewing residents and designing a plan for how to develop the Village-owned Altenheim property. How should the Village board now proceed?
The Village has received some really great feedback from many in the community regarding the Altenheim property. It is a big project and not one to rush into without doing our due diligence. It has been sitting there for decades and it would be a shame to rush something through now just to say “we did it.” Let’s start by making certain we address traffic and parking issues; flood abatement plans; discussions and written agreements with PACE and CTA. We must be sure that any necessary discussions with neighboring towns are taking place. Let’s see 2 or 3 solid plans drawn up that incorporate the community’s ideas and concerns along with the limitations of the sales contract. We should host several town halls about each plan, and we must include a comprehensive breakdown of costs, financial grants and assistance, infrastructure impact, community impact, and outside stakeholder partnerships and commitments. After considering input from the community, we should then decide which plan is best suited for the space. I think we are really close, but I don’t think the tough questions and issues have been successfully answered by any one plan yet.
5. Video gaming was the talk of the town over the past year. Did you have a stance on this issue? The debate seems to have divided the town. How do you think the Village should move forward and heal?
Forest Park is moving forward; we are healing. We may have a ways to go, but I am seeing it already in the folks out there who are talking to each other and are discussing new ideas for our Village. I really feel that first step toward healing was securing the vote and finally exercising that right on Nov 6. We had record turnout in our Village. Every single one of us, regardless of our stance, had our voices heard. I think video gambling was not right for Forest Park. The three years of dismissiveness, voter suppression, and divisive rhetoric really motivated me to work to get our vote back. Moving forward, our future leaders must work to keep our town from dividing over issues. We must listen to each other and work together to find the common ground.
6. Flooding continues to be an issue in the Village. How can this problem be addressed? And paid for?
I’ve been reading what information I can find on the Village website related to flooding. I have found an infrastructure plan and sewer separation evaluation. Both suggest ways to relieve our stressed combined sewer system, improve alleys to incorporate green paver technology, and expanding the sizes of the system’s pipes. It appears some work has been completed and more is still scheduled to update, repair, and mitigate the over burdening of the system from floodwaters. I would love an updated report that shows the finished repairs and how they have handled any recent capacity stressors. I would like to see that the work we have completed is performing to our expectations. If anything is falling short we can then make any adjustments to our plans. Available funding should be analyzed to ensure proper disbursement. We can also look to include available grants. I would like to see expansion of our green areas and our “Urban Forest.” The Illinois Urban and Community State Forestry Program assists communities in developing and expanding their urban forest. They provide a “Tree City USA Community” designation. I think this is something that not only suits Forest Park in name, but planting more trees increases soil permeability, which can assist in addressing urban flooding concerns.
7. What is Forest Park’s role as it concerns Proviso Township District 209 High Schools, if any?
There are a few things Forest Park can do in relation to D209 schools. We need to keep an open dialogue with the schools and the Board. As a Village, we only win when our schools are doing well. We have a better quality of life, higher property values, and better education for our children. Forest Park needs to recognize and celebrate our kids and their schools. We should be celebrating academic and sporting successes locally. This support strengthens community ties and helps engage young families, from preschool through high school. I would love to see Village Hall partner with 209 to form an internship program.
8. Transparency has been repeatedly noted by candidates and residents as an issue with the Village. Do you believe Forest Park has a transparency problem? If so, how would you address it?
There is definitely a lack of transparency in the Village. One example is how difficult it is to get a copy of the Village budget. Right now we must obtain a copy through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. We should make the budget available on line. We should have the budget meeting in the evening so more residents can attend, if they choose. I am personally interested making sure the residents have easy access to the public information they are entitled to.
9. If you had to write a mission and vision for Forest Park, what would they be?
I want us to continue to be proud of our Big City Access and Small Town Charm. We will embrace forward thinking initiatives, and unite in working toward a successful, sustainable future. Forest Park continues to lure city and neighboring town transplants because of our charm, stellar location, vibrant business community, and welcoming neighbors. I want to keep Forest Park charming, eclectic, and independent. We must keep the future in mind. I want us to find that balance, of embracing and promoting our small town charm while utilizing smart technology, community outreach, and green infrastructure.
10. Should Forest Park remain a commissioner form of government or change to a Village manager form?
I know there has been talk that Forest Park should consider changing its form of government. I fully embrace having this discussion, if this is the desire of the people of Forest Park. I would suggest having some town halls, informational sessions for the public to attend, and also information printed in the Review. Following this public consideration, if the people decide they want this change, it should then be put to a vote.
11. What issues should the Diversity Task Force be charged to pursue?
First and foremost, as a commissioner, I would like to hear from the Diversity Commission. They have ideas, observations, and suggestions that I think would be a great first step moving toward a more inclusive, welcoming Village. Secondly, I would like to make certain that the Diversity Commission feels empowered to take action. Residents should feel represented and free to participate. I would love to see the Diversity Commission create some outreach programs to get our residents more involved.
12. What other issues do you feel will be important for the next Village board to address? How should they be addressed?
I want to see Forest Park working toward becoming an environmentally sustainable Village. It’s surprising that we aren’t doing more. I would like to see the newly recharged Sustainability Commission really get the support they need from the Village council. We can request an environmental impact assessment of our local government and the Village as a whole. We, along with the Sustainability Commission, can work on better educating the residents about recycling, composting, and the benefits of reducing the waste before it’s created. This works well in conjunction with my ideas of updating the Village website and refreshing the Village of Forest Park app. The Village should do its best to make information accessible, welcome the community to participate, and embrace a respectful responsiveness to questions, concerns, and ideas.