Joseph H. Byrnes
CANDIDATE FOR FOREST PARK COMMISSIONER
1. What motivates you to seek this office? What skills, experiences, and perspectives would you bring to the Commission, and why would those contributions be valuable to the Village of Forest Park?
I care about Forest Park. I served on the Police Department from 1974 to 1999, retiring as Deputy Chief. I was a Park District Commissioner from 2001 thru 2007. During those years improvements were made to the Police Department and to the Park District with a 5 year plan. I want to move the Village forward with my experience. I am a good communicator, good listener, work well with others, and willing to work to betterment of our already great community.
2. What are Forest Park’s greatest strengths? What are its greatest challenges? What is your vision for Forest Park?
The strengths are the willingness of people to come together , the Park District, our closeness to public transportation, and the community in general. Another strength is our variety of eating establishments and our business district. The budget, economic development and inclusion are the biggest challenges. My vision is a balanced budget within 4 years, a resolution of the Altenheim property, and transparent Village hall are 3 of my visions.
3. What does transparency in government mean to you? Give one example of an action you would take as Commissioner to reflecting your views on this topic. How would you evaluate the Village’s record on transparency?
Open and accessible Government. Citizens need to know how are governing. Utilizing the village website would be an action I would like to take. We should be listing events, reports from commissions and committees, dates and agendas of these commissions and meetings plus minutes.
4. What steps will you take to enhance community engagement with the Village and the Village Commission? What is your view on how local elected officials should communicate with and respond to constituents?
We have to make our Council Meetings more informational and get more citizen participation. Major decisions should have citizen involvement thru a Town Hall or website information. I plan, if re-elected to have office hours at least once a month for citizens to express their concerns.
5. In what ways have you sought to better know and understand the experiences, concerns, and needs of residents outside your demographic group?
I am a good listener and have met people from all walks of life. Through my life experience I have addressed concerns of many. I learned at a young age to be respectful and inclusive of people from all racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds . I have carried that that respect through my military experience, my police career, and years as a Village and Park Commissioner.
6. What do you believe is the biggest challenge to the Village's financial situation? What specific steps would you take as Commissioner with regard to the Village’s budget shortfall?
We need to bring the deficit down. Less and less money is coming into the Village. We know we can recover monies from delinquent parking tickets with a legitimate collection agency of approximately $400,000. We have to take a hard look at contracts with our vendors. One bid we will be looking at is the Hines V.A. fire protection. There is a potential of an extra $250,000 a year to the Village.
7. What should the Village Commission's role be with respect to economic development and attracting new business to Forest Park?
The Village already gives $25,000 to the Chamber of Commerce for advertisement. We have a Economic Development Committee that we need them to work with new businesses on business plans. We should work with local banks for small business loans. Finally work with owners of storefront properties for affordable rents. An empty storefronts does not bring in money.
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?
This property has been vacant for 18 years. There were 2 instances of sales of the property that fell thru. I have worked for 3 years with a cultural committee on various uses of the property. I further went a got a bid to tear down the dilapidated buildings on that property. This would remove the buildings and asbestos from the property and remediate the land. The bid included all federal, state and local permits. The new council should be continuing to look for grant money to get this project. Finally the council should seek a town hall meeting to discuss the usage of the property.
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?
I voted for video gaming. It was a source of revenue the Village needed. It was voted out with a referendum vote. It should be a dead issue. A few diehards on both sides of the issue keep the pot stirring on social media.I would like to move on and bring people together, which I think most people want. We need to stress the potential of the Village and all need to be on the same page to continue to build a great community.
10. Do you believe Village Commissioners have a role to play in relation to District 91 and District 209? Why or why not?
District 91 and 209 have their own elected officials. The Village role should be supporting these districts in advancement of education. If we don't have a healthy K-12, we can't keep homeowners and renters from moving. Good educational institutions attracts new residents.
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?
The Diversity Commission has a budget. Speaking with Kate Webster I believe an increase to that budget is necessary. I would like to see the Diversity Committee work with real estate companies doing business in Forest Park. They could develop a welcoming package with Village services, Chamber of Commerce business directory and Park District programs.
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?
We are already redoing alleys with green initiative. By communicating via website with the community that could cut down our paper usage. We could go to paper instead of plastic at the village and create a benefit for businesses in town to go green. I also believe our existing green space is important.
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?
The commission form of government has been around for years. I think it would take a committee to fact find the advantages of a change of government form. Any changes should be by a referendum vote.
14. Please list the three largest donors to your campaign by dollar amount contributed.
Nobs Towing $250.00
Mayor Anthony Calderone fund $150.00
George Silva $100
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[The above answers were supplied on 2/20/19. 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.]
Joseph Byrnes Forest Park Village Commissioner (candidate Facebook page)
Survey Responses: Joseph Byrnes (Forest Park Review 3/1/19)
Byrnes does so much more (Forest Park Review 12/11/18)
Byrnes announces re-election run (Forest Park Review 12/4/18)
Friends of Joe Byrnes campaign disclosures (Illinois State Board of Elections)
Friends of Joe Byrnes financials (Illinois Sunshine)
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Commission candidates debate unity, development (Forest Park Review 2/26/19)
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)