The April 4 election for three North Riverside trustee seats is Nicholas Tricoci’s first attempt at winning elective office, but he is not a newcomer to municipal politics.
A resident of North Riverside since 2019, the 48-year-old Tricoci grew up and lived in Forest Park for most of his life, and he comes from a family very active in the governance of that village.
His father, John Tricoci Sr., was the longtime president of the Forest Park School District 91 Board of Education. It was during his tenure that the district established its headquarters on Desplaines Avenue and built a new middle school. John Sr. also served as a police and fire commissioner in Forest Park.
Tricoci’s brother, John Jr., also served on the District 91 school board, as did his uncle, Mario Tricoci, who also served as a Forest Park firefighter.
In addition, Tricoci is the cousin of former longtime Forest Park Mayor Tony Calderone during whose tenure Tricoci was a sometimes vocal and confrontational advocate.
Through Calderone, Tricoci got acquainted with former North Riverside Mayor Hubert Hermanek Jr., and Tricoci had another connection to the village’s political scene through North Riverside Trustee Jason Bianco, who also grew up in Forest Park.
Tricoci is now running for trustee as part of a slate put forward by North Riverside United, the party that succeeded VIP after internal dissent caused that longtime establishment party to crumble.
In 2021, North Riverside United swept all three trustee seats and its candidate for mayor, Joseph Mengoni, won in a three-way race against Hermanek and Trustee Marybelle Mandel, who heads up a rival trustee slate in 2023.
Tricoci was a part of the party’s 2021 campaign behind the scenes, created the North Riverside Voter Insight group on Facebook and began video recording village board meetings and posting them there.
Following the election Mengoni named Tricoci to the North Riverside Police Pension Board and the North Riverside Fire Pension Board.
Tricoci is also still embroiled in a lawsuit filed by Mandel last year, accusing him and others of defamation during the 2021 campaign via statements made on social media and elsewhere. Defendants filed motions to dismiss last summer, but there has been no action since last September and the suit will certainly remain pending at the time of the election.
Despite a lawsuit hanging over the campaign, Tricoci was slated to run with North Riverside United in 2023.
Tricoci sat down with the Landmark on Feb. 8 for a one-on-one interview at the North Riverside Village Commons.
“When I first started to watch [village board meetings] … it seemed to me that certain people on the board just wouldn’t give good input or good reasoning for their decisions,” said Tricoci, who was referring specifically to Mandel, who routinely votes against matters up before the board, including paying the village’s bills. She has never voted to approve a North Riverside budget during her only term on the board.
He was also referring to Trustee H. Bob Demopoulos, an ally of Mandel’s who is not running for re-election, but who also has made it a practice to vote against village budgets in the past but who also routinely votes for paying the village’s bills.
“They’re voting no to vote no,” Tricoci said. “You can’t agree to pay bills all year and then at the end of the time when the budget comes up to vote no, because you approved it all year by voting yes [to paying bills].”
Economic redevelopment is perhaps Tricoci’s most pressing concern as a candidate, speaking at length on that topic during the interview.
Tricoci said the village ought to explore creating or help create a North Riverside Chamber of Commerce or even a public/private development corporation, such as the one Berwyn has to heighten its profile beyond the village’s borders.
He suggested exploring the creation of a tax increment financing (TIF) district along Cermak Road west of First Avenue to incentivize redevelopment and also beautify existing commercial properties.
“Now, obviously, not everybody is knowledgeable on a TIF, so maybe we bring in a consultant and have him go over it with the board and describe what TIFs are,” Tricoci said. “We want to modernize Cermak Road a little bit, help those buildings.”
Tricoci said after a TIF district is established and starts generating revenue, that money could be put toward initiatives like a façade-improvement program, offering 50-50 grants to property owners to improve their buildings.
Running a close second on Tricoci’s interests as a trustee candidate is getting village officials to more directly interact with the public, business and commercial property owners and multifamily property owners to help guide their decision making.
Those kinds of listening sessions could be done quarterly, Tricoci suggested.
“We need more involvement, because listening to the diverse opinions will make us have better balanced decisions,” Tricoci said.
With respect to the difficulty the village board has faced and will continue to face in balancing its annual budget, Tricoci said village departments must continue to look at ways to economize, suggesting that the village look into leasing its vehicle fleet instead of purchasing vehicles outright.
He also said village officials needed to review what it is paying large third-party vendors “to make sure we get the best value for our contracts.”
“We have to be held accountable for fiscal decisions,” Tricoci said.
In terms of raising revenue to assist in balancing the budget, Tricoci said both officials and residents need to educate themselves on options and realize that the village collects a total of about $600,000 in property taxes each year. The village’s budget is about $22 million, with $4 million of that being police and fire pension obligations.
With respect to the idea of pursuing home rule, Tricoci said that while many fear it increases the ability of local government to raise property taxes, something he said he does not want to do, it can be used to increase things like video gambling license fees, the places-for-eating tax and entertainment taxes.
“No matter what I say, it’s got to be a group decision,” said Tricoci. “But I think the education … is what people need to hear.”
Another potential revenue generator, which also would be subject to voter approval, is a tax levied specifically to pay pension obligations. Talking about them with residents shouldn’t be avoided, Tricoci said.
“We have to look at every opportunity to make the best-informed decision for our village,” Tricoci said. “These are things we need to talk about. If people shoot it down, people shoot it down.”
Tricoci said the village needs to do a better job of promoting its Neighborhood Services Program, created in the early 1990s as both a kind of welcome wagon for new residents and as a resource for residents who may need assistance but don’t know where to turn.