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: Marybelle Mandel
Previous Political Experience: Current trustee
Previous/Current Community Involvement: Responding to residents with problems, getting food to those in need
Occupation: Trustee investor
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:
RESPONSE: It must be noted that as a Village Trustee and Member of the “Opposition Party” on the Board, I have been sounding the alarm of VIP (and now United Party) Administrations’ financial mismanagement for years:
- In 2019 we exposed them on the DEBT issue and the FAILURE to Pay PENSIONS issue.
- The Illinois Appellate Court (Case # 2016 Il. App. (1st Dist.) No. 1-152687) in 2016 ruled against the VIP Admin. finding they illegally “failed” to pay anything into the pensions for over six years, as required by law.
- Based upon 2016 information [3rd party source] “CLEARGOV.com ranked North Riverside as the 3rd worst Village in Illinois out of over 1369 cities and towns with a per capita debt ratio of $7,861 per person.
- Since then, the debt has more than doubled. (believed now to be over $180 million)
- Yet the current administration 1) refuses to balance its annual budgets; 2) continues deficit spending; 3) has no plan for debt reduction; and 4) continues to reward its United Party cronies with salaries and benefits per their “Friends and Family Plan.”
- Only a “Forensic Audit” will assist in unraveling the financial quagmire that the VIP/United Party has placed the Village in. Once a third party can sort out what they did, and sort out true revenue and expenses; then we can move forward.
Every election cycle – they LIE, denying the debt and denying the deficits. Then after the election they admit they are broke (with operating deficits) as admitted to the Landmark in the opening backdrop material for this questionnaire. Yes, this is the backdrop for all of the remaining issues and programs discussed below.
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?
In-House paramedics has long been the proposal of the opposition party.
Background: Let’s not forget that it was always the position of the VIP/UNITEDs to continue with PSI. They waged a 5-year war against the Firefighters from 2014 through 2019. They lost at every turn and cost the taxpayers an estimated million in attorney fees. During this same period, we were promoting bringing paramedic services in-house, using the Silver Spanner program and saving the citizens of North Riverside an estimated $100,000 per year.
Proposal: There appears to be no reason why these annual savings will not hold up; even after the expense of employing an additional three (not six) firefighters with their salary, benefits and pension costs. It is also my understanding that the Administration botched grant applications that were available to help pay for new firefighters over a three-year period. We must look into these grants once again. If the program is properly implemented, there will be a cost savings to the Village. These savings must be documented and earmarked for very specific uses, and not just absorbed into the general fund where, as history tells us, they will be mismanaged by the current administration.
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?
Background: If you follow the news; red-light cameras remain controversial for a number of reasons; and continue to be both a blessing and a curse on all communities that use them. Relying on this elusive revenue source is a mistake to begin with.
Proposal: Making up for loss of revenue is ALWAYS a multi-pronged approach. The current Administration has never properly approached the budgeting process. All they have ever done is spend and mis-manage. All budgetary line items must be researched and scrutinized. We should look for budget SAVINGS FIRST, before we automatically look for increased revenues.
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?
Background: We were told that MFT funds and CDBG funds were going to pay for the majority of this project. We all also remember the HERMANEK WATER ADMINISTRATION FEE that was quietly added to all water bills several years ago. We were also told that this fee would go toward the water main improvement.
Proposal: LIES again. It is doubtful that the Covid 19 pandemic had anything to do with the project halting. Inquiring minds guess that the Administration ran out of money and is broke. A full audit of the project is required to determine WHY it stopped and HOW to complete it. If the project must be completed for the water system to properly function; then it will have to be funded through cost-saving measures elsewhere in the budget.
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?
Background: We are aware that a new round of dispensary licenses (approx. 55) will be issued by the State through a lottery process in the near future. All applicants must meet social equity criteria. So, there is currently no way of knowing if any such applicant has been selected in the lottery that would desire to locate in North Riverside. Licenses are limited.
Proposal: I am neither a proponent or opponent of legal adult-use cannabis facilities. That is a State licensing matter. Should any applicant be approved for a North Riverside location; it should be only in a commercially zoned area, away from schools and children. Further, any estimated revenues from such an operation should be thoroughly analyzed and discussed through the budgetary process. Use of these funds could be earmarked for special and needed programs and projects. These additional revenues must not be absorbed into the general fund where, as history tells us, they will be mismanaged by the current administration.
*** At this moment the Village is working on a site in a commercial area that may be used***
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?
Background: Currently, in addition to the limit of 10 freestanding gaming parlors in the Village, licenses are also available to restaurants, liquor establishments and other retail outlets such as convenience/gas stores.
Proposal: I do not believe that expansion is warranted. With these types of revenue sources, you reach a saturation point. There is only so much discretionary $$$$ to go around. Additional outlets in our small Village will not generate substantial additional revenue; but will most likely just move it around. Also, the vast majority of residents that have expressed an opinion to me have indicated that what we have is “enough.”
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?
Background: This issue emerges every few years in our community. It is said that by establishing North Riverside as a Home Rule Community, there would be greater opportunity to increase revenue through fees and taxes that are not currently available to out local government. Without home rule, you must rely on those sources that are either authorized by state statute or are citizen authorized through a referendum.
Proposal: I say NO to establishing Home Rule in North Riverside. While I am aware of some benefits to being a home rule community; I also know that we cannot trust the current decades long administration of the VIP, and now United Party. They have already mismanaged and bungled our finances for many years and we are the laughing stock of the western suburbs. Why should we, as citizens, trust these people with new taxing and fees powers. They can’t competently handle the responsibilities that they have. It is best to demand transparency and accountability from this Administration then to blindly trust them to do the right thing with new powers.
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?
Background: As noted above (in the General Section) the current VIP/UNITED Party
Administration has already screwed this up miserably. 1) The Illinois Appellate Court (Case # 2016 Il. App. (1st Dist.) No. 1-152687) in 2016 ruled against the VIP Administration; finding they illegally “failed” to fund the pensions for over six years, as required by law. 2) After they screwed it up, they have still failed to establish a plan to get back on track; and 3) They still can’t balance a budget so that they might have a surplus to address the issue.
Proposal: WHY should the citizens support higher taxes (through a referendum) so that we can bail out the VIP and UNITED PARTY incompetence and illegal pension funding activity? WHY don’t we force the VIP/UNITED Party cronies to give up their cushy jobs and exorbitant salaries and benefits for their failures and negligence. The taxpayers have been bailing them out for way too long. New taxes must ALWAYS be the last resort.
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?
Background: Once Again – THEY LIED. (Your VIP / UNITED PART Administration). In 2020, while the Village was languishing in debt, with a deplorable bond rating, and heading headlong toward bankruptcy, your Administration spent $600,000 of your money to purchase the abandoned church and demolish it. There was NO feasibility study, NO Plan and NO PUBLIC INPUT. Then they LIED and stated that they got a State Grant to fund the project. Three years later and they still can’t substantiate that claim. WHY? Because they lied.
Proposal: If they had any competence and they had $600,000 laying around; why didn’t thy pay down some of the pension debt. It’s three years later and we still have NO PLAN. I am open to citizen input and professional analysis to determine if a realistic approach for public uses of the property can be achieved. Otherwise, perhaps it is time to try to recover the funds that we lost from this lunacy? Have the property appraised and seek bids from developers for a residential development that would put the property back on the tax rolls.