RESPONSES TO THE OPCTA QUESTIONNAIRE
What motivates you to seek this office? How have you participated in public service in the past? What skills, experiences, and perspectives would you bring to the board, and why would those contributions be valuable to the Village of Oak Park?
I am motivated to serve as a trustee because I want to do my part to keep Oak Park a wonderful, diverse, inclusive, educated, and affordable village. Academically I attended DePaul University where I earned a degree in Business.
Professionally I spent 10+ years doing business development, and consulting work in the corporate world. Locally, I served two terms as an Oak Park Board of Health Commissioner. I also sit on the boards of local organizations including the Rescue Foundation, Sugar Beet Schoolhouse, and the North Avenue District. I am also the President of Felony Franks Restaurant, a business that only hires people who have been incarcerated. When you couple my legislative and board experience with my broad business background, I believe that I have the skills and experience to be a great trustee. My commitment to Oak Park and all of its residents is that I will be dedicated to transparency, fiduciary responsibility, and perpetuating the values our predecessors forged for us.
Would you describe yourself as an agent of social change? Why or why not?
I am absolutely an agent of change. My advocacy and leadership for people who have been incarcerated has been publicized all over Chicagoland and beyond. I believe in expanding the rights for all human beings and have a track record of walking the walk. While Oak Park is a wonderful place already, there is much work to be done to ensure the rights of every resident. Oak Park needs to maintain its leadership on social advocacy.
Oak Park has a long history of racial and ethnic as well as economic diversity. How would you engage marginalized communities in the political process? How can we maintain economic diversity in the Village with rising real estate prices and taxes?
We are diverse in Oak Park, but that diversity is more a statistic on paper and not truly reflected in our community. For example, anyone who has attended the last: Day in Our Village, Oaktoberfest, Concerts in the Park would struggle to see the diversity Oak Park has on paper. I believe that diversity 2.0 is a thing called equity. When I walk around Oak Park I have a sense of belonging. I want an Oak Park where all residents feel like our public events are all inclusive. I want a village where every resident feels at home and welcomed. I want a village that hears the voices of everyone and responds to their needs. Property taxes are the single biggest threat to a diverse Oak Park.
No matter what we do to promote inclusiveness and diversity, rapidly increasing taxes is will be counteracting our efforts. As a trustee I plan to maintain a high level of fiscal responsibility so that we can live up to the fiduciary responsibility due to all residents of Oak Park.
With shifting values at the national level, what role do you see for the Village in helping provide access to critical services such as healthcare or housing support? How would you approach a loss of funding from the Community Development Block Grant program?
I believe that we need to watch carefully what happens at the national level. We are a small community with an already stressful tax load. I believe that we need to be fighting at the national level to advocate for the CDBG program. If the program is defunded we would have to assess our priorities as a village and formulate a plan to accomplish our local goals. The first part of that process would be to assess how defunding the CDBG program would impact our residents. Any specific ideas I might have at this point would be putting the cart before the horse in my opinion. In the end we are a community of values, and those values should drive our strategy should there be an impact locally.
Oak Park recently passed a strong Welcoming Village Ordinance clarifying the relationship between Oak Park officials and federal immigration authorities. What else can we do to provide protections for residents? How far should the Village go in responding to injustices at the federal level that reach into our community?
I am delighted by the recent Welcoming ordinance and am an outspoken advocate of protecting the rights of every resident. Further protecting our residents poses both legal and social strategies. With regard to legal strategies, I would defer to experts in what is legal and enforceable. If those ideas expand rights I would certainly endorse such measures. Socially I believe we can build meaningful relationships with people who feel threatened, so that they can feel safer within our community. As far as the village responding to injustices at the federal level- I believe in a proactive strategy rather than a reactive one. Oak Park being ahead of curve on these issues shows leadership and other communities will hopefully act on our leadership to further expand rights.
How can the different taxing bodies in Oak Park coordinate planning and spending to manage the overall tax burden on residents?
Only when the six major taxing bodies in Oak Park begin to meaningfully work together will there be any relief. If taxing bodies work together, efficient use of tax revenues can lead to long term savings. To accomplish this strategy there needs to be something more than just a conversation between districts. Collaboration is one thing, but an incentive or mandate from tax payers will actually drive change.
Do you support the Albion development? What responsibility does the Village have to obtain public input on this project and similar requests for significant zoning variances?
I am opposed to the current Albion development. I believe that we create zoning codes for a reason. This project is asking the village to double the zoning height, in an area where many believe will harm a cherished green space. I believe that the public’s voice should always be at the forefront of decisions that will affect this village for generations to come. I also believe that the process should be crystal clear, with ample public input opportunities, and without sitting trustees meeting with developers outside the established process.
Please describe how environmental stewardship been a value in your own life. How do you envision bringing that perspective to your service with the Village?
I am an outspoken environmentalist and believe Oak Park should be a national leader in composting, solar energy, and all form of sustainability. I have also advocated for expansion of bicycle initiatives. Increased developments in downtown Oak Park has led to massive traffic jams and resulting idling concerns. Expanding environmental standards would be a driving factor in my decision making as a trustee.
Violence is a significant problem in neighboring areas and has taken its toll on our community as well. What should the Village do to improve public safety? How can Oak Park work with neighboring communities to support their efforts?
Oak Park has incredible police and fire professionals, who are well trained. I would defer to the chiefs to seek their opinion on what would be needed in terms to support those departments and their important work maintaining safety. Regarding neighboring communities I don’t think that we can “fix” their problems. However I do believe that we have the responsibility to be good neighbors. I would like to see more bridges being built between community organizations and businesses. I am personally committed to shopping and dining in neighboring communities in an effort to meet new people and support neighboring businesses.
Recent years have seen primarily multi-family and retail developments coming to Oak Park. What ideas do you have for bringing more commercial development to the Village? Would you consider funding an incubator for tech start-ups? How can the Village attract and support entrepreneurs?
I am a fan of incubators. With that said any proposal for funding would have the thoroughly vetted and assessed for efficacy and sustainability. I would not offer a blanket yes or no without weighing the facts. In theory if an incubator could demonstrate efficacy and ROI I would certainly pay close attention.
Please list the three largest donors to your campaign by dollar amount contributed.
Donations are still coming in. It would be premature to list them here because I expect the top spots to change before election day. But so far the largest deposits have been from my mother and father. That should say something!
Village Trustee Endorsement (Wednesday Journal)
Candidate Profile (Wednesday Journal)
Candidate Profile (SUA)
Felony Franks owner to run for Oak Park trustee (Wednesday Journal)
Salzman: Deno Andrews could be a great trustee (Wednesday Journal)
These candidates are tuned in to our communities (Wednesday Journal)
Trustee Candidates talk taxes, development at forum (Wednesday Journal)