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 commissioner candidates debate the issues.
The Forest Park Review is partnering with the Chamber of Commerce to host a commissioner candidates forum at 6:30 p.m. on March 21 at Forest Park Middle School, 925 Beloit Ave.
Previous political experience: Forest Park Traffic & Safety Committee – Chairman Forest Park Cultural Park Committee — Member
Previous community experience: Kiwanis Peanut Day Drive – Volunteer Forest Park Little League – Board Member
Occupation: Group Safety Manager, Granite Construction Company
Education: Bachelor of Science, Northern Illinois University
1. What is the present state of the village of Forest Park’s financial situation? What is being done and what should the village board’s role be in promoting economic development? 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 recent Village financial audit verified what some of us already knew. The village is facing a 1.6-million- dollar deficit. The Village board has a duty to be actively pursuing new sustainable steams of revenue, while at the same time improving the current ones we have. Economic growth and development begin with making sure the village is business friendly. By streamlining processes & improving service levels, the village can begin to consistently attract investments. Aside from that, we must make sure our fees are competitive and that the economic development department has the tools in place to foster growth (incentives, out reach/marketing programs, job training etc.) Additionally, the Village must continue its efforts in working with the Chamber of Commerce and participate at all levels.
2. 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?
As a member of the Cultural Park Committee, I have firsthand knowledge on the timeline and details of the various plans presented to the village council. Last year the Cultural Committee presented several options for the village council to consider regarding the Altenheim property. The next step is for the Village to provide feedback on the recommendations. Once feedback has been received a path forward can be determined. The village council recently made a formal recommendation to host a town hall meeting to obtain feedback and solicit opinions on this very issue. I support that idea. The needs of the community must be heard and understood. Additionally, the needs of the Village and the financial burden the property places on the budget must also be considered.
3. 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?
I am PRO Revenue for the Village of Forest Park. The growth and prosperity of Forest Park should be a priority for all the residents. The debate and ultimate decision regarding video gaming certainly divided the town. Now that the decision has been made, it is time for us to move forward together. I would like to be the driving force behind unifying the community again. It is ok to disagree on issues, if the debates are professional, factual and put Forest Park first. This is critical to our success, especially when important issues are presented to the village council for review and consideration. If everyone tried to walk in each other’s shoes, we could then find some common ground. Buying local whenever possible and patronizing those businesses that have lost revenue would be a great start. With a united front, Forest Park can continue to grow and prosper as the great little Village we all know and love.
4. Flooding continues to be an issue in the village. How can this problem be addressed? And paid for?
Flooding is an area of concern facing Forest Park with potential improvements costing millions of dollars. My 17 years of professional experience with infrastructure projects and improvements, provide me the experience and knowledge to handle this issue. Here are some of my ideas;
• Implement a thorough well documented storm water maintenance program (sewer jetting & catch basin maintenance and cleaning)
• Research and utilize sustainable construction methods on public projects, and infrastructure improvements (Sewer lining, combined sewer and storm separation, retention pond construction where possible, pervious concrete, pavers, rain gardens, rain barrels etc)
• Educate residents on construction methods & specific projects that can help alleviate flooding. (Home and business flood control/prevention systems are a good option.)
• Continue to actively pursue all grant opportunities for stormwater infrastructure improvements. Forest Park has done a good job in securing a $1M grant from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District but needs to consistently exhaust all resources.
• Pursue an opportunity to host a town hall meeting once the soon to be released sewer study is available. This would provide an opportunity for the residents to fully understand the improvements needed and the challenges for funding.
5. What is Forest Park’s role as it concerns Proviso Township District 209 High Schools, if any?
Forest Park’s role as it pertains to Proviso Township District 209 high school is support, guidance, oversight, and involvement. When Proviso East High School grows, Forest Park Grows. Our property values increase, athletic programs improve, and the overall ability to invest in the youth of this community will improve. Ultimately more people will want to live, play, invest, and raise their families in Forest Park as a result. Essentially, Forest Park must be an active partner in both District 209 and District 91.
6. 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?
Transparency is the only way to have a respected Village Council and informed residents. A Commissioner must hear the voices of the residents and be able to give explanations for the reasoning behind Village Council decisions. There are always ways to improve transparency and resident engagement. Implementing all or some of these are just a few;
• Adopt a formal social media policy and improve usage by departments
• Create a robust “mobile friendly” website that promotes resident engagement
• Host regularly scheduled coffees with the Council located within the community
7. If you had to write a mission and vision for Forest Park, what would they be?
Mission Statement – To provide a safe, economically healthy and culturally diverse community where our success is driven by our ability to work together.
Vision – Striving to be a leader in community relationships, cultural growth, education excellence and financial security.
8. Should Forest Park remain a commissioner form of government or change to a village manager form?
I understand completely the concerns raised about the commission form of government and the problems it can sometimes face. Ultimately it would require a ballot initiative to change. Many people do not realize that in 2000 the Village Council created the Village Administrator position essentially creating the Council manager form of Government. My review of the current code indicates very clearly that the Administrator is responsible for every asset of the day to day activities that occur within the Village. I am sure there may be some shortcomings to this unique model and I will have to review exactly how it works within Forest Park prior to coming to any informed position.
9. What issues should the Diversity Task Force be charged to pursue?
Forest Park has always been a community of people with varying backgrounds and social & economic status. Consequently, this is what makes our Village strong and we need to celebrate this. The Diversity Task Force should be the Village resource on diversity issues. The Diversity Commission, which meets monthly, is charged with discussing, documenting and delivering their findings & recommendations to the Village council so necessary action can be taken. The Village Council must support their efforts to enrich the social and intellectual life of all residents through educational and social programs. Through regular participation in Village Council meetings we can improve awareness and promote the understanding and acceptance of all people in our great Village.
10. What other issues do you feel will be important for the next village board to address? How should they be addressed?
For the Village Council to run efficiently and productively the elected officials must be able to work together as a united front. We must also be able to think outside the box when exploring new ideas. I will consistently push the Village Council to be an innovator in its operations. A few items that are worthy of consideration moving forward are;
• A detailed examination of all fees and fines to determine where opportunities for improvement exist.
• Investigate new technologies resulting in increased efficiencies
• Partnering with neighboring jurisdictions to maximize buying power and share resources