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?
The single largest motivating factor for my candidacy for Village Trustee is my love for Oak Park. Oak Park is a community of values that are engrained in who I am. I want to do my part in ensuring that Oak Park values drive Village policy. These values include diversity, sustainability, commitment to small businesses, architectural excellence and citizen involvement in government.
I am also motivated to do everything that I can to slow the rate of levy growth in this community. I believe that levy growth that dramatically exceeds the rate of inflation is harmful to many of Oak Park’s values. Fiscal responsibility, governmental collaboration and sensible revenue growth are the tools that the Village Board has at its disposal to make a positive impact on slowing the rate of levy increases.
I believe I am uniquely suited to lend my voice to the topic of development throughout Oak Park. The Village of Oak Park must develop new strategies for attracting development in all of its business districts and in land that is privately owned. My background in small-scale development will allow me to help in this effort. Additionally, I am fully committed and have the time available to fully engage the work load required of Village Trustee.
Would you describe yourself as an agent of social change? Why or why not?
I believe I am a person that has shown a commitment to making Oak Park a better place throughout my adult life. Currently, I serve as an officer on the Mann School PTO and am very involved in providing educational opportunities to our students beyond what is provided by District 97. I also serve on the Historic Preservation Committee where I have tried to be a voice for homeowners who are seeking to responsibly update historic homes for modern day needs. I also have extensive experience coaching youth sports in Oak Park. My approach in coaching has always been to instill confidence and a sense of pride in the kids so that they can apply those positive emotions to other areas of their lives. Professionally, I have renovated dozens of homes throughout Oak Park. In each instance, I transformed a deteriorated structure in to a revitalized home on the block in which it sits. I have formed positive relationships with the blocks on which I’ve renovated homes and with the buyers to whom I’ve sold. Finally, I am a landlord that provides housing to many diverse families that add to the fabric of Oak Park. I believe they would all of my tenants would attest that I treat them with the utmost respect and ensure that their needs are properly met in their homes in Oak Park.
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?
In order for Oak Park to truly thrive, all 50,000 plus residents must be fully engaged and feel that they are a part of the community. This effort starts with properly welcoming people that move in to our Village via some sort of welcome kit and an opt in for continual communication with the Village. The Village should continually to ensure that all of its residents are being engaged via the multiple forms of communication available.
I believe the single largest threat to Oak Park’s economic diversity is the rising tax burden. Therefore, any effort to control the rising tax burden is the biggest tool to preserving economic diversity. The Village should continue to look for opportunities to provide affordable housing via the Affordable Housing Fund, new development that provides affordable and incentives to landlords that provide affordable housing.
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 Oak Park should be a national leader in areas that relate to our community values. We have recently done this with our Welcoming Village Ordinance and have shown this with our long-standing commitment to integration. These efforts should continue in multiple areas, including our innovative approach to early childhood education and showing an increased commitment to generating power from solar energy.
The loss of Community Development Block Grant funding is a looming crisis for Oak Park. These funds help provide affordable housing and assistance to small business, amongst many other worthy causes. Oak Park must be proactive in advocating for the continuation of these funds and develop strategies for how to deal with the potential loss of funding. I believe it also highlights the need to engage the hundreds of not for profit organizations in our community. These organizations do amazing work in social services and the Village should be a partner in many of these efforts.
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?
Oak Park should be proud of the Welcoming Village Ordinance that was recently passed. I believe it sets the framework for our Village’s approach to protecting residents in the coming years. Village officials must be constantly vigilant in ensuring that our residents are treated equally and with respect. Equity is a goal that we should always strive to more fully achieve.
How can the different taxing bodies in Oak Park coordinate planning and spending to manage the overall tax burden on residents?
In 2012, Oak Park's six taxing bodies formed the IGOV assembly in which the goal was to collaborate more meaningfully. I feel there is opportunity to strengthen the resolve of this forum to work together to reduce the rate of levy increases. There are three specific areas for collaboration.
1. Operating Expenses: At the end of every year, taxing bodies should evaluate how their operating expenses have increased compared to inflation. The goal should be to correspond to inflation. If levies have increased at a rate higher than inflation, strategies to be closer to inflation should be discussed.
2. Capital Improvement Expenses: At the beginning of each year, each taxing body should present any significant capital improvement expenses for the coming year. Input should be solicited from other taxing bodies if the expenditures are going to exceed a certain level (e.g. 10% of recent year levy).
3. Referendum Questions: Taxing bodies considering a referendum should seek input on the referendum being proposed. The five taxing bodies not proposing the referendum question should provide input and publicly state whether they are in favor of the final proposal. I believe that this will encourage a comprehensive analysis and result in questions that are most likely to pass and be understood by voters.
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 a strong believer that community needs and values should drive development in Oak Park. Our downtown has had nearly 800 small luxury apartments approved for development across three buildings. I personally feel Oak Park has saturated the market with small luxury apartments and there is no longer a need for that type of housing in our downtown. Additionally, less than 200 of these new units have been occupied. Therefore, we do not know what the impact of these new units in such a concentrated area will be on traffic, schools and other Village services. Therefore, I feel it is prudent to slow down the pace of development in our downtown district. On top of this, there is a potential negative impact on Austin Gardens if a building were to go beyond zoning at this site, an alarming wind tunnel that has been created by the new development at Lake and Forest Avenue and I have seen near universal opposition to more large scale development at this site. Therefore, I have not found any reason to support the Albion project as proposed.
I believe diversity of thought is needed as Oak Park continues to recruit development. Additionally, the process should become more transparent and the voices of citizens should be listened to and concerns adequately addressed before the approval process unfolds. Community appetite for development must be considered as development decisions are made.
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?
Environmental stewardship is one of the main values of Oak Park and continual efforts should be made to make Oak Park more sustainable. I believe one of the biggest opportunities for Oak Park is in solar energy. There are opportunities for larger scale solar projects with other taxing bodies and municipalities. I also believe that there solar projects that could be done in conjunction with the reconstruction of the Eisenhower Expressway.
Converting more street lighting to LED lights, reevaluating the tree planting policy and a more sophisticated recycling program are other opportunities to become a more sustainable community.
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?
Nearly all Oak Park residents that I have met that have been victim to a crime are very impressed with the response by our police department. Our officers are quick to respond and thorough in their investigation of crime in our Village. The Village Board needs to set policy that ensures that our police officers are working in a healthy environment so that they can perform their duties with a high degree of job satisfaction. Constant attention and evaluation needs to take place to ensure that areas in our Village with a higher likelihood of crime are sufficiently patrolled to deter criminal activity. Furthermore, staffing levels and deployments must be regularly analyzed to ensure that the police force is operating with maximum efficiency.
I also feel that it is useful to have a hiring policy that promotes the hiring of Oak Park residents and encourages our police officers to live in our community. Oak Park is a unique village and I feel that it is beneficial to have a police force that reflects the values of our residents and understands the unique attributes of our Village.
I think there are also opportunities for the Village to promote east Oak Park. There is too often a stigma attached to real estate that is east of Ridgeland. The perception that east Oak Park is more dangerous or less desirable than west Oak Park is not only untrue, but also damaging to our Village. Promoting and celebrating neighborhoods and businesses on the east side of Oak Park would help alleviate these inaccurate perceptions that are too often perpetuated.
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 believe community needs and values should drive development in Oak Park. Development that is purely driven by maximum return on investment is usually more to the benefit of the developer, rather than the community. Furthermore, existing attributes should be considered as development is recruited. Finally, an urban planning perspective should be employed as business districts are revitalized.
Madison Street is a prime opportunity to begin using this approach to development. The needs of the neighborhoods on both sides of Madison Street should be assessed and development should be recruited that would fill these needs. In addition to filling these needs in existing parcels of land, special attention should be paid to creating spaces that would actually attract people.
Please list the three largest donors to your campaign by dollar amount contributed.
Illinois Association of Realtors: $700
Resident on Forest Avenue: $300
Resident on Harvey: $250
Candidate Profile (Wednesday Journal)
Candidate Profile (SUA)
What I stand for (Wednesday Journal)
Oak Park developer to run for board of trustees (Wednesday Journal)
Dan Moroney to seek trustee seat on Oak Park Village Board (Oak Leaves)
Journal missed on Boutet and Moroney (Wednesday Journal)
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