CANDIDATE FOR FOREST PARK MAYOR
1. What motivates you to seek this office? What skills, experiences, and perspectives would you bring to being Mayor, and why would those contributions be valuable to the Village of Forest Park?
Well I come from a citizen activist background. When I ran for the village council it was to be the voice of the citizen, the voice that wasn't being heard. I think my time on the council was spent doing that, pulling the curtain back on the goings on and engaging the citizens via town halls, participatory budget sessions and just listening. I still believe in all of that, and I would make those things common place in the village. I have business background and understand what it takes to recruit and nurture a small business and I have government experience to be able to execute the vision of the village.
2. What are Forest Park’s greatest strengths? What are its greatest challenges? What is your vision for Forest Park?
Forest Park's greatest strength is its community. We have recently gone through a rough patch with a divide in town over a referendum issue (video gaming) but I doubt don't for one minute that the town will rebound and heal. The greatest challenges are the budget shortfall. We currently, and for some time, have operated in the red borrowing from other funds to meet our bottom line. There are a few areas we need to invest in and Economic Development and new revenue is the top of that list. My vision includes completing the Roosevelt Rd. corridor and bringing a boutique hotel to Forest Park - those are top priorities.
3. What does transparency in government mean to you? Give one example of an action you would take as Mayor reflecting your views on this topic. How would you evaluate the Village’s record on transparency?
Somewhat repeating my answer to question 1, I ran initially with the focus of being the citizen's voice - revealing the behind the scenes actions of village government. Our village's record with transparency is spotty, some positives over the years were recording of the village council meetings, an updated website that provided more info - but not enough. The mayor needs to provide a yearly state of the village address. The village needs to have an official social media presence and the village needs to share more info with the public: from budgets to plans that are on the horizon so residents are aware of the direction our village is headed.
4. What steps will you take to enhance community engagement with the Village and the Mayor’s office? What is your view on how local elected officials should communicate with and respond to constituents?
Please see above (question 3) for part 1.
As for how how elected officials should communicate it should be: open, honest and in public. I think people are sick of things happening 'behind closed doors' - not just locally, but statewide.
5. In what ways have you sought to better know and understand the experiences, concerns, and needs of residents outside your demographic group?
My demographic group may be one thing, but my circle of friends and associates is unbelievably diverse. I feel a great trait of mine is listening and when you're with a group of friends you should be listening as much as your talking. I would hope through that I have been able take in experiences and hear different points of views as well. But it's something that should be constant and fluid.
6. What do you believe is the biggest challenge to the Village's financial situation? What specific steps would you take as Mayor with regard to the Village’s budget shortfall?
We touched on this a bit earlier, and Economic Development is #1 - but there are other areas where you can make up money quickly we have roughly 700k in funds that can be retrieved and should be aggressively pursued.
7. What should the Mayor's role be with respect to economic development and attracting new business to Forest Park?
All in! The mayor should be the cheerleader and lead on attracting business to the village. I look at Mayor Lovero in Berwyn, he walks Madison St. in Forest Park talking to successful owners asking them to move, or at least consider opening another spot in Berwyn. I think that is needed and is a big part of what a Mayor should be doing to recruit new business.
8. The Altenheim property and future development alternatives are topics of much discussion in Forest Park. What should the next step in this process be?
I have already talked with our representatives in Springfield to have them include money in the next Capital Bill for demolition of the existing buildings and excavation of the land to get the property to phase 1 of a green space area in the back portion, near the CTA. My concept for the front includes the aforementioned boutique hotel on Madison St. this would be a property tax boon, a sales tax generator and bring commerce to Madison St.. It also fills a need as the only area hotel (The Carleton) is booked at very high rate.
9. The debate over video gambling dominated the recent midterm election in the Village, and while the issue has been resolved through binding referendum, there are still significant rifts dividing Forest Park. Do you think those rifts can be healed? If so, how? If not, why not?
Yes, I touched on this earlier. Forest Park's greatest strength is its sense of community. I know neighbors that live 2 doors down that used to ask how their kids were doing over the back yard fence, that during the VG debate would get behind their keyboards and type like they wanted to harm each other - it was a very dividing issue. Forest Park does events very well, the weather will soon warm up and we will again see each other at the park on the 4th, at Groovin' in the Grove at Ribfest, we'll remember we are all neighbors we will have genuine conversations and we will begin to forget this divide.
10. Do you believe Forest Park’s Mayor has a role to play in relation to District 91 and District 209? Why or why not?
I always say, yes: Maximum support, minimal interference. For too long Proviso municipalities have dipped into the affairs of the local school districts and the only one it helps is the politicians - the students suffer. Municipalities should not be involved in the affairs of the school districts unless they are being asked to help (need additional police support for extended hours, proclamations, crossing guards, etc.)
11. What do you see as the best role for Forest Park’s Diversity Commission? What challenges do you anticipate with regard to equity and inclusion in the Village, and how will you approach them?
I would like to see the commission be moved to a reporting commission, where items from the council would be given to the commission for their review and recommendation. This would give them power to have a say in everything from village policy to village events.
12. What impact can a municipality such as Forest Park have on climate change, and how will you prioritize that work among other issues? Do you think Forest Park should implement a Climate Action Plan, and if so, what specific elements should it include?
I got the tag of being the 'green' Commissioner when I was on the council, I wear that proudly. I always pushed for, and will still push for projects to be done in a green fashion. I think parking lots and alleys should be done in a permeable fashion, this is green but also aids in our flooding issues in town. I worked to have a green roof on Village Hall when we redid it - I lost that vote as I couldn't get a 2nd on the motion (my opponent could have 2nd it, but did not). I also think we can mandate that new projects meet a certain level of LEED certification. Those to me are easy fixes, we could put things of this nature into a CAP, but more importantly I believe in them 100%.
13. The Forest Park Review recently described the Commissioner form of government as “fully obsolete for an urban suburb of our size.” Do you agree? If so, what steps would you take to improve the governing structures of Forest Park?
In an ideal world, we could easily switch, but it's not that easy. This would be a referendum issue. In this form, you do need an active, dedicated, and all-in mayor. Being mayor is a 24-hour, 7-day a week job. It’s meetings with IDOT at 9am and then being woken out of bed at 3am because of a condo fire and the need to helped displaced seniors. You can delegate basic day-to-day activities, but you have to be ready and available.
14. Please list the three largest donors to your campaign by dollar amount contributed.
• • • • •
[The above answers were supplied on 2/21/19. It may be possible to find more current financial information at the Illinois Sunshine website. Illinois Sunshine is also a useful resource for identifying past contributions by individuals to political candidates and committees in Illinois.]
Chris Harris is still perfectly suited to be our new mayor (Forest Park Review 3/26/19)
I have not changed who I am (Forest Park Review 3/26/19)
Why the secrecy? (Forest Park Review 3/26/19)
Digging out of Forest Park's financial hole (Forest Park Review 3/12/19)
Survey Responses: Chris Harris (Forest Park Review 3/1/19)
Harris runs again, outlines platform (Forest Park Review 1/29/19)
One Forest Park (Forest Park Review 1/15/19)
Forest Park pol to challenge state rep seat (WJ 11/20/15)
Mayoral Endorsement 2015: Chris Harris (Forest Park Review 3/24/15)
Chris Harris 2015 candidate survey (Forest Park Review 3/18/15)
Citizens for Chris Harris campaign disclosures (Illinois State Board of Elections)
Citizens for Chris Harris financials (Illinois Sunshine)
• • • • •
Debate heated as Harris, Hoskins spar at mayoral forum (Forest Park Review 3/22/19)
Harris, Hoskins talk diversity, development at forum (Forest Park Review 3/19/19)
Economic development talk of mayoral forum (Forest Park Review 2/21/19)
No candidates' petitions challenged (Forest Park Review 1/1/19)
A Brief Who's Who in the Commissioner, Mayoral Races (Forest Park Review 12/18/18)