RYAN R. RUSS
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 am motivated to seek this office for the people that paved the way and went before me in public service – I want to keep Forest Park moving forward, not just talk about it! I am a good listener and communicator and have seen the village go through many changes in my lifetime - I want us to come together as a community.
2. What are Forest Park’s greatest strengths? What are its greatest challenges? What is your vision for Forest Park?
History is one of greatest strengths and the divide we experienced over the video gaming vote seems to be the biggest immediate challenge. Forest Park and its citizens must be #1 and elected officials must remain true to the population as a whole. The hard feelings over the gaming issue need to end with this election – time to move on.
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 is such a “buzz word” today. Our local government needs to be as open as it can be without jeopardizing security or violating privacy guidelines. Likewise, residents need to understand the use of “closed” council sessions and respect them while attending the open ones. As I gather information, it seems to me that this council has done a good job in being open and above board.
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?
Elected officials need to be accessible, relatable and communicative – period!
5. In what ways have you sought to better know and understand the experiences, concerns, and needs of residents outside your demographic group?
I know many people in Forest Park. I talk to them and they talk to me. I’ve worked with the schools, the park, and the community center. My demographics are a bit unusual – I’m a 42 year old divorced father of two young boys, I’m biracial, raised by my mom and Iranian father. I was raised on the 500 block of Hannah in the 80’s during a much less diverse time in our village, my childhood friends remain my friends today. I want to see our children walking, running and riding around the village as freely and safely as we did.
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?
Obviously our financial deficits must be reversed. I would want to seek out funding sources through grants and programs that might be available to us through state and federal funding. As I learn more about our financial history, I realize the importance of discovering creative ways to remedy the budget.
7. What should the Village Commission's role be with respect to economic development and attracting new business to Forest Park?
Continuing the strong bond with the chamber as we explore new partnerships and sponsorships is essential in building economic development. Council members need to promote our village and have solid relationships with the current business owners while being open to new commerce.
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?
The utilization of the Altenheim property will be a process. The space needs to be used for the benefit of as much of the village as is possible. I am currently looking at the history of this issue. This property has particular meaning for me as I spent many childhood hours there when my mom was Director of Nursing.
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?
These bad feelings need to be repaired if we are to grow as a village. Talk, respect and then move forward. The topic cannot be revisited or revised without compromise and solution.
10. Do you believe Village Commissioners have a role to play in relation to District 91 and District 209? Why or why not?
Commissioners need to have an understanding of school district issues insomuch as our schools are a huge factor in attracting new residents to our community.
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’s role could be to open the lines of communication among our villagers and providing opportunities for various factions of the village to exchange and discuss information. Communication!
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?
There are a number of green options we could use to lessen our carbon footprint and ones that will be important in our future. I am working to learn more about those possibilities.
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?
I believe it has worked and is still working for Forest Park. Again, communication is the key. The village, the schools, the library, the park and the chamber all need to share and discuss future plans for the village to best serve Forest Park going forward. Everyone plays a role.
14. Please list the three largest donors to your campaign by dollar amount contributed.
Full disclosure of contributions can be found on the Board of Elections website after the first fiscal quarter.
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[The above answers were supplied on 2/22/19. 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.]
Council candidate is fine following float fall (Forest Park Review 3/5/19)
Survey Responses: Ryan Russ (Forest Park Review 3/1/19)
Park district employee runs for commissioner (Forest Park Review 12/11/18)
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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)