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 Village Clerk protects the interests of residents in maintaining open government as the keeper of records, and provides customer service and outreach to the community as full-time staff. I want to be able to serve the community, full-time, in gathering information for and from the community to inform decisions at Village Hall. I have been the Chair of the Liquor Control Review Board for the last 4 years, Executive Director of a local not-for-profit for 13 years, Co-Chair of the Addiction Recovery Team, Chair of the Education Committee for West Garfield Park Community Stakeholders, and former Co-Chair of the Arts Roundtable. I want to use my skills as the candidate who has walked individuals, business owners, and organizations through a bureaucratic process to improve customer service and access to information. I want to use my knowledge of the community as a single mother, experience in business, Director of a local notforprofit and work in coalition building between our local governments to connect residents with resources and help facilitate productive conversations for collaborative decision making between our governmental bodies and community agencies.
Would you describe yourself as an agent of social change? Why or why not?
Yes, definitely. I have a long history of working and volunteering in our community to improve access to information and resources. I believe the best solutions come from community involvement and shared decision making. I am willing to take on difficult conversations and have a history of doing so. I know our community systems and how to get things done. I have advocated for ordinance changes, written proclamations, and led strategic planning initiatives for community level change. I am currently the Strategic Prevention Framework – Partnership for Success grant coordinator tasked to lead a multi sector community coalition through a strategic planning process to reduce underage drinking and drug use in Oak Park and River Forest. We have stakeholders representing every governmental body in Oak Park and River Forest, the faith-based community, business, media, parents, youth, youth-serving organizations, and social service agencies with attention to cultural competency in identifying and recruiting stakeholders to accurately represent our community demographics both culturally and with regard to socioeconomics. I am restorative justice trained and have volunteered in a number of settings from on the Westside to in our schools facilitating restorative justice conversation and as a community organizer.
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?
I would engage community members from every sector of our community to be involved on commissions and committees. I will convene committees designed to gather information from the community on topics of concern. I will actively work to increase participation in decision making that accurately represents our community demographics.
As a volunteer Co-Chair of the Education Committee for West Garfield Park Community Stakeholders, a federally funded coalition to reduce underage drinking and drug use on the Westside of Chicago, I recognized that the work I was doing should be done by women living in the community. My approach was to find and empower women from West Garfield Park to become leaders on the committee through leading restorative justice conversations. I have built trust within otherwise marginalized groups in our community and surrounding communities. I would engage every sector of our community to develop systems that serve all residents with the understanding that currently some groups don’t feel as if government works for them.
I will bring a level of cultural competency to Village Hall decision making that is currently lacking, in cooperation with existing agencies, to identify how we can best use funds allocated for affordable housing in Oak Park.
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?
The Village of Oak Park has money from developers designated to support affordable housing. I will use the Village Clerks office to work with community members, agencies and governmental bodies to propose culturally competent options for using that funding. I will make the Village Clerks office a place where you can get information about scholarships, programs, and resources available to residents through our governmental bodies and social service agencies. As Executive Director of an Oak Park not-for-profit for 13 years I gained firsthand knowledge of a majority of the services offered through community not-forprofit organizations. I participated with the Oak Park River Forest Community Foundation Roundtable and am a graduate of the Dominican University Community Leadership Program. I currently work at Oak Park Township and participate with the Community Mental Health Board Youth & Family Consortium. I am the person that many come to when they need help or want to find out how to do something. I know how to help someone navigate our community systems of care. I have experience finding alternative funding sources as a grant writer. I brought the State level grant dollars that fund my current job at Oak Park Township to our community.
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 has a wonderful pro-bono lawyer network that can be tapped into to help develop law advocacy programs. I would work to create linkage between people looking and/or needing legal help with those networks and identify need for creating new services. I would also spread that knowledge to community members, governmental partners and community stakeholders that can help share information further. I would work to understand this need for all ages; youth, families, and seniors. I would work with Department Heads at Village Hall to help identify need and resources for training for Police and Village employees on responding to inquiries from the Federal Government, so that we can protect the rights of our residents.
How can the different taxing bodies in Oak Park coordinate planning and spending to manage the overall tax burden on residents?
I am a community impact strategic planner, trained by the Illinois Department of Human Services and the Center for Prevention Research and Development (CPRD) with the University of Illinois. I plan to use my skills in facilitating data-driven, shared decision making to identify shared goals and indicators to track progress so that we can maximize our potential as a community to collaborate, share resources and save money. The goal would be to set standards for developing budgets that make responsible decisions with long-term goals.
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?
No, I do not support the Albion project. I was married in Austin Gardens 24 years ago and my daughter-in-law lives in the Sanctuary Building adjacent to Austin Gardens. I am concerned with the lack of community involvement in decision making that has become the way things get done in Oak Park. As Village Clerk I will engage community members to bring their concerns and needs to Village government. I would do that by sending letters to neighbors of proposed new development to form committees to provide needed input, feedback and review of community projects that would otherwise directly affect their quality of life.
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?
I enjoy walking to work when I can, drive a hybrid, recycle properly, and conserve energy at home. I can’t claim to be as environmentally friendly as a close neighbor and friend who raises chickens and bees, grows berries and composts everything but I do shop every day at Sugar Beet. The Village of Oak Park has negotiated with Waste Management to add recycling of computers, batteries and paint on demand for no extra charge to residents. This program, “At your Door” started on January 1, 2017. As Village Clerk, I would be active in sharing this and other useful information with the community. I would engage as many networks in the community to spread awareness of all services to our residents. I would work with and empower the contribution the Environment & Energy Commission makes to developing of these programs and more. I would use my knowledge and relationships with community partners and organizations to link serves and collaborate for greater sustainability or programs and services.
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?
I volunteered as the Co-Chair of the Education Committee with the West Garfield Park Community Stakeholders group to reduce underage drinking, drug use and violence in 2014-15. My efforts included facilitating restorative justice conversations and parent cafes using the Strengthening Families model which includes communication skills, anger management, resiliency, and empowering shared leadership amongst community members. Oak Park has a community policing program that does help build relationships between officers and community members. I know that we also have 21 officers of 118 trained in Crisis Management, more than any neighboring community. I would work to engage community members to be community leaders in working with the police and community organizations, such as Suburban Unity Alliance, to collaborate and grow efforts to reach out to neighboring communities with high crime and despair to build relationships and expand services.
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?
If elected Village Clerk I would use the Clerk’s office to improve customer service to business owners. As Chair of the Liquor Board I have worked with the Village Clerks office to do that for new restaurant business. I would work with entrepreneurs and community members to attract the types of businesses Oak Parkers are looking for; unique, privately owned, creative, quality services that have a personal touch and good customer service. I am an advocate of small business, including high demand tech start-ups, and utilizing local developers who have invested in Oak Park. I believe there is more to gain in supporting small business than in attracting corporations that won’t be as invested in giving back to the community and working with community organizations to support the causes we care about.
Please list the three largest donors to your campaign by dollar amount contributed.
Frances Sullivan $500
Dr. Louis B. Scannicchio $300
MaryJo Schuler $300
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