candidate for 2019 River Forest VILLAGE TRUSTEE
1. What motivates you to seek this office? What skills, experiences, and perspectives would you bring to the Board of Trustees, and why would those contributions be valuable to the Village of River Forest?
I am driven by empowering those that are marginalized and who don’t always get a chance to have their voices heard, even in issues that most affect them. I've had the opportunity to collaborate with countless organizations as co-lead of Indivisible Oak Park Area. We've worked to bring understanding and awareness to issues such as healthcare, immigration rights, women's rights, sensible gun legislation and disability rights.
I will bring 13 years of expertise in Investment Banking and several years in Real Estate mergers and acquisitions. I also have experience helping corporate clients, like Starbucks, build their stores and comply with zoning codes in neighborhoods like River Forest.
As a woman of color, someone whose family lives off of a moderate income and lives in a smaller townhome, I can represent a voice in the River Forest community not already on the Village Board that can impact the big and small decisions in front of us in the upcoming years.
2. What steps will you take to improve and expand community engagement with the Village and the Board? What is your view on how local elected officials should communicate with and respond to constituents?
Connecting with residents more often, in more channels and with more transparency will help all residents feel engaged and informed. Here are some thoughts on how we could do that:
The Board and Commission meetings and materials need to be more accessible to the public. While audio playback of the meetings is available a few days after the meetings, it’s important for residents to have access to meetings in real-time.
We should offer live streaming of Board and Commission meetings, via Facebook or another medium (such as cable access). When Board and Commission agendas are posted online, I would like to see these pushed out more proactively via email to people who sign up for the Village e-newsletter.
I think providing more informal but scheduled opportunities for residents to meet with Trustees is important and would benefit all. This could be accomplished by scheduling Trustee “office hours” at which 2 Trustees are available to chat with residents or having “coffees” with residents at different locations. It’s important for Trustees to be accessible to the community and to hear from residents who they don’t typically interact with.
Notification to members of the community in relation to development in their area needs to be clearer and more actionable.
3. In what ways have you sought to better know and understand the concerns and needs of residents outside your demographic group (specifically the demographic groups of race, religion, ability, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status)?
I have so much gratitude for those who share their concerns, needs and stories with me whether it is in a meeting, group or one-to-one setting because it takes strength to be that vulnerable and share honestly. It is my privilege to seek out opportunities to hear the voices of those outside my demographic group.
As a co-lead of Indivisible Oak Park Area, I have an amazing opportunity to be connected to people who are working day in and day out on important issues facing those who are most marginalized and also help make an impact on current issues facing us nationally, statewide and locally.
This activism has provided a unique opportunity for me to work with and fight for a myriad of people and issues such as:
LGBTQIA+: When I heard pride flags were being stolen from people’s homes in River Forest, I attended a panel discussion on how to support transgender youth in schools. I tapped into a group of area parents who were for gender inclusive rights at the high school and coordinated two educational sessions for parents and the community to learn about the issue as well.
Welcoming Village Resolution: Two years ago, I became involved with a group of community members who wanted to make clear that River Forest was a welcoming village. In order to better understand the issues we worked with a local immigrant rights group to understand the importance of the resolution and the effects on the community when policies weren’t in place to help undocumented immigrants.
Equity in Voting: I coordinated a local town hall meeting to hear from ACLU experts on infringement of voting rights across the country, I took those learnings and helped with voter registration in Cook Country by participating in registration drives at Cook County jail and coordinated voter registration drives at Dominican University.
Healthcare: After hearing from medical professionals and low-income agencies that Affordable Care Act (ACA) budget for outreach had shrunk and that volunteer support was needed, I helped to coordinate phone banks to help with the process of ACA enrollment.
Disability rights: I have been very fortunate to meet with local advocates and learn more about their specific needs around affordable housing and the importance of providing better wages to direct support professionals who provide essential care to the disabled.
4. What is your position on the extent to which the Village should include accessibility features, both for existing structures ( e.g. , Metra, sidewalks) and future developments?
The Village is about to make a recommendation on the first draft of the Comprehensive Plan, so the most immediate way we could address this is to include strong accessibility language in the Village’s Comprehensive Plan that serves as a guide for land use and development policies for the next 10-15 years.
The Village currently reviews projects for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines and Illinois Accessibility Code, so another important way the Village and Village Trustees can broaden inclusion of accessibility for our structures would be for Village Trustees to approve the proposed amendment to the Planned Development Ordinance and establish accessibility as one of the standards of review. Per the 2/6/2019 memo from our River Forest Village Administrator, this would require an amendment to Section 10-19-3(K) to read as follows:
“The design of the proposed use or combination of uses promotes a safe and comfortable pedestrian environment for pedestrians and individuals with disabilities.”
5. What steps should the Village take to comply with the Illinois Affordable Housing Planning and Appeal Act?
According to the Affordable Housing Planning and Appeal Act: 2018 Non-Exempt Local Government Handbook dated December 28, 2018, River Forest is currently not in compliance with the minimum 10% affordable housing stock required to adhere to the Act. Presently, River Forest is at 9.0%.
Per the report, the Village can choose one of the three goals to increase the affordable housing stock:
“Requiring a minimum of 15% of all new development or redevelopment within the local government that would be defined as affordable housing in this Act;
Requiring a minimum of a 3% percentage point increase in the overall percentage of affordable housing within its jurisdiction, as defined in Section 20 of this Act; or
Requiring a minimum of 10% of affordable housing within its jurisdiction.”
I believe that having a housing stock that is affordable to those with a moderate income is important to any town, including River Forest. We are stronger when we are more inclusive of all socioeconomic status. If you look at the above goals, requiring new development to include affordable housing stock is the path with the most immediate impact on the 9.0% figure. An affordable housing stock also values many seniors in our community who want to age-in-place in the community where they built up their lives and who may require housing that is less expensive.
6. Please list up to three steps that you would advocate the Village take to improve safety and mobility for pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers?
The safety of residents and those who come into our community is the most important role of a Village Board Trustee and I take that very seriously. We are a small community and by working together we can ensure everyone feels safe and supported.
The Village Board is reviewing adoption of recommendations to install nearly 70 new stop signs. I am in full support of having right of way signage at most intersections in River Forest, especially in residential areas to avoid accidents. This will go a long way to making our Village safer for bikers, pedestrians and drivers.
In addition, a comprehensive bike plan that connects residents to our parks and open spaces, commercial areas, public buildings and neighborhoods would be a welcome addition to our community. We have great local resources like the Forest Preserves Des Plaines River Trail that we should take advantage of.
7. In what ways do you think the Village Board effectively represents River Forest residents? In what ways do you think the Village Board could improve in its representation of River Forest residents?
From my experience and from listening to residents, I’ve learned that there are positive aspects to the communications between the village and residents and there are ways that it can be improved.
The village has a fantastic website where it’s easy to find pertinent information. It has significantly improved over the last few years and provides real value to the community.
The village has a robust digital outreach program that provides important alerts and messages to the community.
What can be improved:
Notification to members of the community in relation to developments in their area need to be clearer, especially around their specific options to communicate their support or opposition.
The Board and Commission meetings and materials need to be more accessible to the public. While audio playback of the meetings is available a few days after the meetings, it’s important for residents to have access to what is happening at meetings in real-time.
We should offer live streaming of Board and Commission meetings, whether that is through Facebook or another medium (such as cable access). When Board and Commission agendas are posted online, I would like to see these pushed out via email to people who sign up for Village information (e-newsletter).
In addition to regular Village meetings, I think providing more informal but scheduled opportunities for residents to meet with some Trustees is important and would benefit both parties. This could be accomplished by scheduling Trustee “office hours” 1-2x/month at which 2 Trustees are available to chat with residents. It’s important for Trustees to be accessible to the community and for the Trustees to hear from residents who they don’t typically interact with.
8. How will you balance the need to raise revenue for the Village with other interests of the Village?
As Village Trustee we need to be able to utilize every possible source to generate revenue for village projects and services, grow our small businesses and bring in new businesses like commercial, retail and restaurants to enhance our community. However, I understand the value of listening to residents and taking their needs or suggestions into consideration too. I believe River Forest is stronger when we have a diverse housing base, and as such, believe that development and enhancement can happen without permanently displacing moderate income residents. Our village works when businesses and residential areas work to support each other.
9. What impact can a municipality such as River Forest have on climate change, and how will you prioritize that work among other issues? Do you think River Forest should implement a Climate Action Plan, and if so, what specific elements should it include?
River Forest is in a position to be able to focus village efforts around environmentalism and stand as a model for other municipalities to do the same. For such a small community, we are lucky to have so many residents who are passionate about climate issues and lend their expertise to the Village. For instance, our Sustainability Commission that has been at work for the past two years has helped provide our village with a comprehensive recycling and compost program to most residents. The experts on the Commission will no doubt be able to chaperone the Village to further reduction of waste to landfill and reduce overall energy consumption.
We also have an opportunity to make a positive impact on climate change by closely looking at the partnerships the village develops and who we seek to bring into the community. For instance, are they choosing sustainable options, are they buying local (items grown or raised within a 150-mile radius of River Forest), or do they have any previous environmental infractions?
Equally important to the Village’s environmentalism efforts, we must make sure that we are employing the tenants of environmental justice, as indicated by the EPA’s office on the matter, where we affirm that we seek to decrease the environmental burdens on vulnerable populations and provide equal access to the decision-making process.
In terms of a Climate Action Plan “CAP”, the River Forest Sustainability Commission sets annual goals for itself. A specific CAP would be beneficial to the village as it could provide benchmarks and goals for us in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. I believe the first step in determining how to lower our greenhouse gas emissions is to first understand the amounts of CO2 produced. A first key step to this will be procuring software recommended by the Commission to track this information.
Along with other core values maintained in our River Forest Comprehensive Plan, sustainability efforts should be a high priority for our village as stewards of the land for future generations.
10. Please list the three largest donors to your campaign by dollar amount contributed.
I am not able to self-fund my campaign, so I am relying on community members to support me in this election. The three largest donations have been $3000, $1000 and $300.
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[The above answers were supplied on 2/27/19. 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.]
Erika Bachner for River Forest (candidate Facebook page)
Wednesday Journal endorsement (WJ 3/19/19)
Bachner and Brennan for River Forest trustee (WJ 3/19/19)
Candidate Profile (WJ 3/14/19)
Bachner and Brennan for River Forest trustee (WJ 3/13/19)
Bachner has leadership skills (WJ 3/12/19)
Bachner for River Forest trustee (WJ 2/26/19)
Indivisible rep runs for River Forest trustee (WJ 2/5/19)
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River Forest Village Board candidates speak on TIF districts, economic development (Forest Leaves 3/4/19)
2019 River Forest Village Board Candidate Forum Video (YouTube 3/2/19)
River Forest candidates face contested elections in April races (Forest Leaves 12/18/18)