Below are candidate-submitted answers to a biographical survey Riverside-Brookfield Landmark sent out to all candidates running in this year’s elections.
Previous political experience:
- Candidate for Village Trustee in 2013, 2015
- Candidate for Village President 2017
Previous community experience:
- Community activist in the area of working to slow down traffic by getting residents signs that read “Drive Like You Kids Live Here”. Working on traffic solutions.
- Offering help to Seniors by getting their medicine and taking them shopping.
- Helping out battered and abused women by getting them clothing and food.
- Picking up donations and bringing them to the church.
- Volunteer at the V.A. serving dinner to the Veterans.
Occupation: Commercial and residential property owner-manager and real estate investor
Education: High School Diploma 1986.
What is the present state of the village of North Riverside’s financial situation? What is being done and what can be done to ensure its long-term viability and make it more resistant to downturns in sales tax revenues?
North Riverside’s financial situation is a major concern, as the village now carries $58 million in debt. This debt is a result of years of expensive litigation in the current administration’s fruitless fight to break the firefighter’s union, bloated administrative costs, inflated no-bid contracts and steadily decreasing mall and other retail sales tax income.
Long-term viability will require a commitment to fiscal responsibility, targeted efforts to encourage local business development, and a comprehensive plan for business and the community that leverages North Riverside’s assets and meets the needs of residents.
North Riverside firefighters have been working without a contract since April 30, 2014. What is the realistic long-term solution for the North Riverside Fire Department? How do you think your preferred model can be accomplished given the experience of the past five years?
The fight between the current administration and our firefighters has been tremendously damaging both financially and within the community. The courts have made it clear the village must negotiate a fair contract with the firefighters’ union. The spending of Our tax dollars on a frivolous law suit could have been saved and used towards the pensions and in reserves for our egregious water bills that are spiraling out of control. New leadership and effective partnerships will be needed to institute cost-saving measures that maintain the integrity of the department and meet the needs of residents. Innovative ideas, such as dual training that would allow firefighters to also work as paramedics, also should be explored to eliminate the need for costly private contracts.
North Riverside historically has asked homeowners to pay very little in property taxes to support village services. With pension obligations continuing to grow and the state of retail sales on uncertain ground, how would you continue to keep property taxes low? Do residents need to start paying more to fund obligations such as pensions? Why or why not?
Long-term financial planning has never been a priority of the current administration and village budget projections indicate residents will suffer because of it. It’s long past time to develop and implement a long-range plan that addresses administrative bloat and inefficiencies and identifies and leverages all potential revenue streams.
This village has a lot to offer in retail, but with a lack of oversight, much of the potential for sales tax revenue has been either left untapped or has slipped away. An emphasis on relationship-building with our local businesses will help us proactively address business needs and prevent the loss of our larger stores, such as Tony’s Finer Foods. A business development task force made up of local officials, business owners, residents and other professionals would help grow those relationships and network aggressively to recruit and retain business. Formation of a local chamber of commerce would create another layer of partnership of businesses and professionals working together to build a healthy economy and improve the quality of life in North Riverside.
Only with an aggressive and professional approach will we be able to compete in this ever-changing economic marketplace. Strong leadership will strengthen and stabilize sales tax revenue and allow us to strike a fair and reasonable balance between user fees, license revenues, ordinance fines and property taxes to appropriately fund a budget that meets the needs of residents without putting a strain on their pocketbooks.
Would the village benefit from a comprehensive planning process, perhaps as part of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning a la Riverside and Brookfield? If not, why not?
Yes. The Village of North Riverside absolutely would benefit from a CMAP partnership, especially in the area of economic development.
What are the other important issues facing North Riverside in the next four years? How should those be addressed?
Transparency is a big issue. The current administration offers little in the way of transparency. This is apparent at even the most basic level of North Riverside government with the consistent lack of meeting materials provided to residents ahead of Village Board meetings. Constituents are regularly in the dark about how decisions are being made. I believe in openness, accountability and honesty. I recognize elected officials have an obligation to foster the sharing of information via open and transparent government. Increased information sharing leads to stronger citizen engagement and together we can find solutions to the challenges ahead. This all can be achieved with hard work and dedication.