When North Riverside village trustee candidate Jose Del Angel moved to North Riverside about 12 years ago, getting into the politics of the town wasn’t particularly on his mind.
But after leaving the family-owned security firm where he’d worked for eight years and joining the North Riverside Police Department in 2014 as one of its public service aides – he simultaneously served as a community service officer for the Riverside Police Department – that interest grew.
“I was a little more closer to situations that involved the village,” Del Angel said during a formal candidate interview with the Landmark on Jan. 26 at the North Riverside Village Commons.
Del Angel is one of seven candidates running to fill three trustee seats on the village board in the April 4 Consolidated Election. It’s the first run for office for the emergency dispatcher for West Central Consolidated Communications (WC3), which serves Riverside, Brookfield, North Riverside and McCook.
He is the only candidate running as an independent.
“As a PSA I got to work with the community, and I got to meet a lot of residents in the neighborhood, and I got to experience and hear feedback from them,” Del Angel said. “And I enjoyed helping them when they would come to me for help or with any questions.”
The 45-year-old married father of three girls, two at Riverside-Brookfield High School and one in college, said that as his interest in local government grew, so did his interest in contributing to it.
“This probably not me per se, but as a resident in general, my deep concern for the future of North Riverside is keeping our property taxes low and generating more revenue for this village in order to keep our property taxes low,” Del Angel said.
That property tax-revenue equation has been at the heart of local government policy over the past 15 years in North Riverside, which saw firsthand how volatile sales tax revenues can be during a national economic crisis.
Beginning around 2009, after the departure of former Mayor Richard Scheck after 20 years in that job, North Riverside leaders began phasing out village employee benefits, such as lifetime health insurance and moving to more affordable employee health insurance plans.
They also eliminated some jobs, like the building department director, a job that remains unfilled to this day.
At the same time, local officials also began rolling back benefits that had been extended to residents under Scheck, like subsidized trash hauling and water service and free vehicle stickers.
While those actions helped, the village still struggles to balance its budget annually, due in large part to a permanent police and fire pension obligation that had grown to a combined $4.2 million as of 2022.
Meanwhile, more than 25 years of property tax levy freezes has resulted in North Riverside collecting about $600,000 annually to help fund its $22 million budget.
Asked whether increasing property taxes was something he’d consider supporting, Del Angel said he preferred local government leaders focusing on revenue generation.
“If we ever at any time have to go to the residents and ask them to raise their property taxes, that I think that at that time we will admit that we failed as a government or a board,” Del Angel said.
Del Angel, however, said he would support placing the question on the ballot regarding making North Riverside a home rule community, a status typically only conferred on municipalities of greater than 25,000 people.
Home rule gives local governments more flexibility when it comes to raising property taxes and imposing things like real estate transfer taxes on home sales. That kind of power makes many people leery of home rule, but it’s a question worth putting to residents, Del Angel said.
“At the end of the day, I think the residents are the ones who should have the most input as far as home rule is concerned,” Del Angel said. “I think if the residents are in favor of it, if they trust an elected official enough to have home rule, then why not?”
To help encourage greater sales tax revenue, Del Angel said he would support exploring creating tax increment financing districts, as municipalities like Berwyn and Brookfield have done, to encourage commercial redevelopment.
He pointed to Berwyn’s redevelopment of Cermak Road between Harlem and Home avenues as well as the renovation of the Cermak Plaza, as models.
“I think [TIFs] are good for a community,” he said.
Del Angel said the village should also consider programs to help commercial property owners beautify their buildings along Cermak Road to attract new business.
Long term, Del Angel said he would like North Riverside government to encourage bigger thinking when it comes to redevelopment, suggesting, as the ad hoc North Riverside Economic Development Commission had in 2019, the area in and around the North Riverside Park Mall could be turned into an entertainment and restaurant district, like Rosemont.
“That’s not something that can be done in the next couple of years, that’s maybe a generation down the line,” Del Angel said. “With the property that’s there at the mall, with the proper management and the proper government leaders working hand in hand together, that could be achieved, or something very similar.”
In terms of reining in the cost of running village government without sacrificing services, Del Angel suggested bringing waste hauling services in house, perhaps leasing trucks and having public works employees provide that service instead of paying a third party about $600,000 annually to do it.
Del Angel said he had researched the issue but could not provide the Landmark with numbers at this time.
“That way all revenues that come into the village that goes to garbage [collection] goes right back to the village,” said Del Angel, who said such an arrangement might mean hiring more public works employees, though he wasn’t sure that would be necessary. “I don’t know, possibly, the village isn’t that big. Maybe one or two more employees but you’d have to weigh the factor if, is it worth it for us?”
Del Angel said he would also support lifting the limit, right now at 10, on the number of standalone video gambling cafes allowed in North Riverside in order to increase that source of tax revenue.
“As long as they’re kept in non-residential areas, main streets, business districts,” Del Angel said.
He also said the village could do more to address directly residents’ concerns about public safety and that as a trustee he would like to serve as a “bridge” between the police department and residents.
Del Angel floated the idea of convening regular “roll call” meetings involving police and residents to discuss public safety issues and expanding village communication of public safety matters on social media and other platforms.
“We need to be a little more hands on with our public,” Del Angel said.