The Riverside-Brookfield Landmark sent questionnaires to each person running for public office in 2023. The Landmark’s questions are in bold and the candidate’s responses are below.
Name: Jose Del Angel
Previous Political Experience: Volunteer for elections in North Riverside and Cicero
Previous/Current Community Involvement: Member, Hispanic Organization of North Riverside; member, St Paul VI Holy Name Society
Occupation: 911 Dispatcher
Education: High school
During the past two annual budget discussions, North Riverside trustees have been faced with steep general operating fund deficits. In 2021-22, federal COVID relief funds offset a projected $1 million deficit, but those funds are not available in 2022-23, a year in which North Riverside projects an approximate $900,000 deficit. Village staff have projected operating budget deficits of more than $2 million annually for the 2023-24 and 2024-25 fiscal years.
With that as a backdrop, how would you as a village trustee approach the following financial issues:
1. With paramedic services coming back in-house and the village poised to hire six additional firefighters/paramedics over the next three years, North Riverside will be adding to its long-term pension burden. How will that additional pension burden be absorbed in future budgets?
The decision to remove the private paramedics was the popular decision, but it may not have been the financially correct one made in the last 40 years. Six more firemen aren’t going to be hired, it will require 9-10 to make up for 6 contract paramedics. The pension costs will be unsustainable and layoffs for recreation and public works are going to happen. Ways to generate more revenues must be found.
2. Red light cameras, which produce more than $1 million in revenue for the village each year, will be removed from the Harlem/Cermak intersection this spring and could be permanently gone if the state does not approve a new application for their installation. Would you support reinstalling red light cameras at Harlem and Cermak once the intersection is improved this year? If not, how do you believe North Riverside can make up for that loss of revenue?
The village should do everything possible to keep red light cameras; the revenue comes mostly from non residents and pays pensions. The loss is devastating, and the elected officials should have, and could have gone to Springfield to try and stop its removal.
3. From 2017-19, the village embarked on a major project to improve its Cermak Road water main west of First Avenue. The project got as far as 11th Avenue before coming to a halt in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Do you believe that it is important for the village to continue this project and, if so, how can the village fund this work, which has cost almost $500,000 for each of the first three phases?
The infrastructure should have been continued because it’s necessary for a proper water system in the west. The infrastructure was aging and needed to be replaced. If it can be restarted we should look for grants to help whatever is in the until now. Homeland security used to offer infrastructure grants in the past. Maybe that is something that can be explored again.
4. If the village were in a position to gain an adult-use cannabis dispensary, would you support such a use in the village? If yes, in what area of the village do you think it should be located? Do you believe that there are any specific village expenses that the village should prioritize using cannabis tax revenues?
The village should do everything in its power to have dispensaries. The revenue is necessary, and non residents will be ones mostly using them if they are placed in the right location. More revenue that comes from non residents the better, that fact keeps our taxes lower.
5. In the absence of a cannabis dispensary, would you support an expansion of video gambling parlors? How would you respond to those who believe video parlors should be limited to the existing 10?
We need all the revenue we can get, especially with the hiring of so many more employees. The revenue from non residents is essential. I believe the capping of existing licenses to 10, hinders the village. Revenue streams like this are important. Important to taxes and fees that go to the village. Important for the business owners that operate these establishments. Placed in the proper location, it would be a win win.
6. Would you support placing a referendum on the ballot asking for the village to become a home rule community? Why or why not? Would you support seeking home rule status for the village?
We need home rule to create more necessary revenue. However, that is a question that should be proposed to the resident. Also responsible officials need to be elected to oversee it properly. Transparency is key for this board to succeed.
7. Would you support placing a referendum on the ballot seeking to impose a tax levy to fund police and/or fire pension obligations? Why or why not? Would you support a pension levy referendum?
The tax levy referendum needs to be voted on up or down. The deficit is unsustainable. I believe we are near crisis mode and need to make decisions as such. The elected officials need to kick it into gear and find ways to plug the leak.
8. The village in 2020 bought the former Presbyterian church property at 24th Street and 8th Ave. How do you believe the village should determine the best use for that property? Should the village keep it? If so, for what purpose? If not, why not?
The property should be eventually be made a recreation center for the residents when it can get the grants to construct it. In the mean time, it should be a temporary site for recreation activities as it is now.