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?
I am motivated by my understanding and experience in the process of service to the community on municipal and not-for-profit boards, committees and commissions over the last 25 years. I have been involved as a president and chairman of boards of 14, with over 30 employees, and budgets amounting in excess of $25,000.00. I have been involved in services to the elderly, mobility impaired and economically disadvantaged. I have worked for affordable housing and diversity in employment successfully. My experience in the Village, working with elected and appointed officials, volunteers, finance, union and non-union employees and citizens had given me the confidence that I can serve as Clerk.
Would you describe yourself as an agent of social change? Why or why not?
This is a popular question that I would like to respond to this way—I wish to change the way the Clerk’s office interacts with the Public, the Village Manager, the Mayor and the Board of Trustees. I wish to make everyone aware of what the Clerk does, how its done, why its done, what we are doing to improve the delivery of services, and why it matters to each and every resident. I believe that is the standard by which the performance should be measured. Perhaps this is Social Change. Perhaps this is fulfillment of the obligation of office. I would say I am an agent of social change to improve the human condition.
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?
Ever since my first participation in the local election over 25 years ago I have been directly involved in diversity. Condo ownership vs apartments. Sexual Orientation. Access to public buildings and apartments. Heal related issues such as HIV. Income discrimination. Age discrimination. Housing discrimination. I would engage all in Oak Park to assist in finding solutions to particular issues. As Chair of the Fire and Police Commission, I am aware of the perception of public safety in and around all the areas in and bordering the Village. Neighborhood policing is important because it represents direct contact with residents. I would pursue this kind of initiative by being present in all of Oak Park. I would engage residents, schools, hospitals, businesses and partner agencies to assist. This is something that I found successful in the Residence Corporation and Housing Authority. People working with people. That is what has worked for me.
We have programs, organizations, individuals and the will to reduce barriers to entry and to maintain diversity among all groups. We have the will and the resources. I would work with these groups to evolve more efficient and effective ways to meet the goals of diversity. We have strong housing related organizations. That is a start and a good partner. Development of business in Oak Park will also will help be creating the demand for skilled and unskilled labor. As a direct approach I would review the budget of the Clerk to find 10% savings in expenses, while looking for better and more effective and efficient ways for delivery of services.
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?
This is something that I have a great deal of familiarity with on the ground level through my work as a volunteer with the Oak Park Housing Authority which manages Mills Park Tower and other programs supported by local, county, state and federal programs. This is not my first instance of encountering budget contractions and how to work through these challenges with the help of public-private partnerships and inter-agency cooperation agreements. As the President of the Board of Directors of the Oak Park Residence Corporation I worked my entire time on the board to provide safe and affordable housing and to reduce economic and physical barriers to independent living. As a board member of CSLD, a not for profit organization engaged in delivering services to children with autism issues we sought and found solutions to funding that would make the services accessible to those who had no insurance. As a board member of HSI we struggled with county and city budget social services cuts. We found answers. We created partnerships. We identified things we could accomplish and accomplished those tasks to deliver services, shelter and assistance to those in most dire need. The role of the Village is to use its human resources to find solutions. The role of the Clerk is to use all of the personal contacts, experience and knowledge to assist.
I have had experience with the elimination of CDBG funding as a partner agency. Carl Swenson had made it clear that there would be no more allocation of CDBG funding for housing. As President of the Board of Directors of the Residence Corporation and its affiliated corporations, we had to fill a $250,000 budget hole left by that removal. We
considered layoffs. Reduction in services. We considered begging not to be cut entirely. What we found was that we had a way to utilize our existing relationships and expertise to refinance our mortgage debt to eliminate nearly $250,000 in interest expense. This was no TARP loan or easy matter. We issued bonds as a qualified not for profit. This was new. This was different and never done before. But we did it. We need to critically assess
the situation and to call on our leaders and residents with particular skills to address the needs. That is how we will as a community find solutions to these challenges.
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?
Immigration policies are unclear. We need to respect the privacy of the individual. I am sympathetic to disparate treatment. I have family members interred in relocation camps in Arizona because of their Japanese ancestry, although each and every one is and was a citizen of the United States. I have relatives of Japanese descent that served in Italy during WW2. I am familiar with some kinds of disparate treatment, legal and illegal. It is my position that Oak Park should respect human rights and defend the United States and the Illinois Constitution in all interaction with the public. Period.
How can the different taxing bodies in Oak Park coordinate planning and spending to manage the overall tax burden on residents?
Taxing bodies need to collaborate and to cease the expensive defense of their historical domains. I have been directly involved in discussions in the past between the Park District and the Village regarding this, and it was clear that there was a movement by one past Village President to dismantle the Park District. This was not helpful. Township authorities have long been regarded as duplicating many services of other local agencies. Executive Directors and Presidents of these boards must talk to each other now. The Elected Officials must insist on the ability to get these issues on agendas. Voters must select candidates based on their willingness to take on these tough inter agency discussions.
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?
The Village bears the responsibility to make the community aware of the cost, benefits and changes expected as a result of this development. An entire slate of candidates was elected on a similar dispute over the Whiteco project. We need collaboration and consensus. Whiteco was particularly onerous because it created a discussion that was
not in the best interests of the community. We need better communication. Whether the development proceeds should be determined on a consensus brought about by political leadership.
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?
Consciousness of the environmental impact is a constant consideration. From an awareness of consumption to waste, it is important to all of us. Repurposing and reuse as well as recycling is a focus in my home and in my office. We are conscious of the equipment and materials that we use and work to avoid landfills. In addition one initiative that I would implement in the Office of the Clerk, is review of the equipment and materials used by the Office. I would seek to reduce paper waste and evaluate the existing electronic equipment for its suitability and efficiency.
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?
This is something that I am acutely aware of as a Fire and Police Commissioner. Tall buildings now create a need for further training of our Fire and Paramedics as well as police. We need to take these new communities into account also. Further as a member of the Residence Corporation, one of our primary concerns with safe and affordable housing. We acquired and managed buildings to improve neighborhoods as well as the rental building. We created relationships with neighboring steak-holders outside the Village to help address issues that spilled over east and west of Austin Blvd. We collaborated with neighboring police, churches and community groups. We work with neighboring communities through the people that are there. There is not legislation that can accomplish this. It takes a will to make the relationships. It takes time to build trust on both sides to overcome stereotypes, some of which are held against us as the Village of Oak Park. We do not have all the answers, but we hold some of the keys to solutions. Relationships between people. That is how it needs to be approached.
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?
A well run government, welcoming public officials and knowledgeable staff is how to attract development. Regarding funding incubator projects, I would partner up with private tech sector business that would profit through the development of talent and seek private-public sector funding to create jobs and training. I would ask partner agencies to set up outreach initiatives to attract entrepreneurs and to provide assistance to wade through the miles of red tape.
Please list the three largest donors to your campaign by dollar amount contributed.
Me. Me. Me. $1,500.00.