JULIANNE M. BONWIT
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?
Giving voice to those who feel they have no voice within local government is my main motivation. I experienced this myself as a member of the elementary District 91 Citizen Advisory Council. Parents asked about installing a stop sign in front of the entrance to the Preschool at Garfield Elementary school. It seemed like a logical and simple request. However, D91 officials directed me to the Village since it was an issue outside school. They shared that this issue was raised in the past with Village officials and was told nothing further could be done. I created a petition, and collected 120 signatures from parents. When I brought the petition to the Village Council meeting I was again told I wasn’t talking to the right people, I would need to have the Safety and Traffic Commission discuss the request so they could make recommendations. A simple request from concerned parents once again appeared to be problematic.
Navigating local government should not be so challenging. My professional background as a social worker for over a decade, assisting families through complicated life challenges, provides a unique perspective to the Commission. The ability to actively listen to concerns, collaborate and come up with solutions are all skills social workers use everyday. As a mother of two small children, I’ve honed my abilities to organize and multi-task, and engage with the community around us.
2. What are Forest Park’s greatest strengths? What are its greatest challenges? What is your vision for Forest Park?
Forest Park’s greatest strengths is its people. We have a mix of life long Forest Parkers who provide a rich history and sense of community; we have first time home-owners, many with children attending local public schools; we have renters who love the easy access to the Blue Line, Green Line, and I-290; we have medical students in residency at local hospitals, teachers working in our schools, servers working in our restaurants, artists, musicians and writers all creating works to be enjoyed within our neighborhoods and well beyond our borders. I love that I can call another parent to pick up my 7 yr old when my 4 year old is still napping. I love that I can call my neighbor when I am in the middle of a recipe, realize I am missing an important ingredient and he’ll bring it over. I love that my children’s network of friends include families from a variety of nationalities, ethnicities, languages and cultures.
The budget as well as simply navigating and accessing local government are two of Forest Park’s biggest challenges.
My vision for Forest Park is to have an inclusive, citizen-centric approach to local government while providing fiscally responsible and environmentally sustainable leadership.
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?
Transparency in government means providing information to all residents (homeowners and renters) in an open, inclusive and honest way.
I would have the Village agenda available in a timely manner, available online and in Village Hall with any necessary items attached that may be reviewed during the meeting.
I would request sign in and contact information from residents and guests to meetings in order to follow up with them regarding their concerns. A simple survey could be sent to attendees asking if they felt they had been provided with the necessary information during the meeting and given time to share their concerns.
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?
I will request that one Village Commissioner greet residents and guests to Village Council meetings, pointing them in the right direction, making sure they know how to submit public comment, and welcoming them into the Chamber.
All residents and guests that make public comment should be thanked during the meeting and provided with contact information for who they can follow up with directly regarding any concerns they bring forward.
I will attend as many local events as I can sponsored by the Village, D91 and D209 School functions, Park District events, Library functions, Historical Society and Chamber of Commerce events.
5. In what ways have you sought to better know and understand the experiences, concerns, and needs of residents outside your demographic group?
I organize, host and attend playdates with families both at my house, in their homes and at various parks throughout the Village.
I attend many events at the Forest Park Library that introduce me not only to other residents but provides some education around culturally sensitive-topics. Most recently, I attended “Black Girls Shine Story Time”. I also collaborate with the library to provide story times for the D91 preschool program to focus on Indigenous People as an alternative to Columbus Day.
I have assistant coached youth t-ball and continue to coach soccer, meeting and getting to know a wide variety of people.
I attend Diversity Commision meetings, listening to the various ways they are trying to reach out to the different groups in our community
I have attended meetings and events by PASO - West Suburban Action Project, to better understand immigrant rights and how to support and be an ally to my neighbors and friends that may be living in fear.
I actively participate in D91’s Parent Teacher Organizations.
I host a monthly brown bag lunch assembly for Housing Forward shelter program.
I attended Des Plaines History Center Indigenous People Day program with Ojibwe Storyteller and Lyricist, Kim Sigafus.
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?
It’s difficult to know the full extent of the Village financial situation simply as a resident. I am prepared to do research with an unredacted budget, making sure to do a full review of both the revenues and expenditures within it. I would love to have the budget meetings on a day and at a time more convenient for people. The budget should be available online and as a hard copy at Village Hall and at the Library so residents don’t have to submit a Freedom of Information Act request to see it. A clear economic plan needs to be developed and provided to the public.
7. What should the Village Commission's role be with respect to economic development and attracting new business to Forest Park?
The Village Commission needs to be an active partner with the Chamber of Commerce and all local businesses. The Mayor and Village Commission can review the recommendations laid out clearly in the last Comprehensive Plan in 2014 and update recommendations as necessary. They can put into action recommendations. Tools that were identified in this plan were: updates to existing zoning codes, business and community participation, Village staff resources and TIF funds (pg 144 Village of Forest Park Comprehensive Plan)
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?
Hosting a Town Hall that reviews both what has been done so far regarding the Altenheim as well as what is contained in the original purchase agreement. All stakeholders must be invited to this town halls in order to have open and honest dialogue about what are viable options considering the limited finances available to the Village.
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?
Forest Park has evolved and that is a great thing for the people who make their home here. Our village has an enhanced vitality and appeal to people who are looking for an inclusive and friendly community, close to the city. One of my main goals as a Commissioner would be to strengthen the bonds between all residents, from those who have lived here their whole lives to those who are new to the village. Creating and encouraging community-wide projects such as the recent Kindness Week with District 91 and the Circle Bridge mural project are perfect examples. I would propose a yearly contest to generate other inspirational ideas.
A twice a year, structured, community-wide clean up with neighborhood captains could be another cross-community action to unify and beautify our village.
We need to start a yearly community-wide volunteer recruitment program. This would include recruitment for Village-chartered Boards and Commissions such as the Recreation Board, Diversity Commission and Safety and Traffic Commission. In addition, community-based, nonprofit and volunteer service organizations could be invited to participate.
Finally, I would propose we work with our Historical Society to explore opportunities for cultural and commercial development. For example, many local towns offer historical tours, as ours does during the Halloween season with the Historical Society’s cemetery tours. Let’s tap into our rich history year-round and make Forest Park an educational and cultural destination.
10. Do you believe Village Commissioners have a role to play in relation to District 91 and District 209? Why or why not?
Forest Park, like any village or town, has a duty to support their local schools. As a Village Commissioner and mother of two young children who currently attend D91 schools, I would collaborate with both D91 and D209 in any way I could. One easy way to do this is to make sure there is a representative from the Village who attends D91’s Citizen Advisory Council monthly meetings and reports back to the Mayor and other Commissioners.
As a Commissioner, I would also show support by attending as many academic, athletic and extracurricular events at all the schools. At least one Commissioner should attend science fairs, spelling bees, basketball games, band concerts, etc.
I would love to re-establish a Youth Advisory Board for the Village and have representatives from both Proviso East, Proviso Math and Science Academy and the Forest Park Middle School on this Board.
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 should be given autonomy in identifying and addressing issues of concern from Village residents. The Commission could be allowed to collaborate with the Police Department when hate speech, or acts of vandalism or crime, which are motivated by hatred based on race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, occur in the Village. The commission could help craft thoughtful yet swift responses. As a Village Commissioner, I would actively promote participation at Diversity Commission monthly meetings as well as any events they may sponsor. The Commission can help implement and educate other Village entities in what best practices are for ensuring a safe and nurturing environment. District 91 School Board set a great example by identifying a need within the District to pursue a more equitable approach to education, including how and who they hire. They sought out a program, The National Equity Project, to help guide them. The Diversity Commission could help the Village identify programs that assist municipalities in the same way.
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?
Forest Park can have a significant impact on climate change. The Commission can ensure that the re-establishment of the Environmental Control Commission has some autonomy and a budget and includes a wide array of people from the community that have been working on these issues. I personally think that Forest Park should implement a Climate Action Plan but would defer to the Environmental Control Commission to make specific recommendations.
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?
Before even forming an opinion, it’s important that we all understand the difference between various forms of government and what our options as a Village are. One of my main priorities as a Commissioner would be to listen to the needs and concerns of my constituents. If the form of government is a concern to many in our community, then it would be my job to put in the work to find out what our options are, lay them out in a clear and concise way through public forums, and have an open dialogue about what is best for Forest Park. After that kind of thorough process, we would be in a better position to decide how to go forward.
14. Please list the three largest donors to your campaign by dollar amount contributed.
Mark Boroughf, $1600
Motion Picture Studio Mechanics, Local no. 476, $500
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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.]
Forest Park Forward (campaign website)
Forest Park Forward (campaign Facebook page)
A citizen advocate speaks (Forest Park Review 3/26/19)
Different ideas but shared goals (Forest Park Review 3/26/19)
An opportunity to change directions (Forest Park Review 3/26/19)
What do commissioners do? (Forest Park Review 3/26/19)
Beautiful additions and painful losses (Forest Park Review 3/19/19)
Survey Responses: Julianne Bonwit (Forest Park Review 3/1/19)
A real opportunity for Forest Park (Forest Park Review 2/12/19)
Commissioner hopefuls form slate around Hoskins (Forest Park Review 11/6/18)
Forest Park Forward campaign disclosures (Illinois State Board of Elections)
Forest Park Forward 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)