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Note: Answers provided have not been edited for grammar, misspellings or typos. In some instances, candidate claims that could not be immediately verified have been omitted.
City: Des Plaines
Website: Candidate did not respond.
Office sought: Mount Prospect parks
Family: Married to my wonderful wife Alison who is a school teacher in East Maine School District 63. We are expecting our first child in early June 2011.
Occupation: Administrative Division, Des Plaines Police Department. I have been an employee of the Des Plaines Police Department for just under 11 years.
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Management, Benedictine University, 2009
Civic involvement: Fundraising member for the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Illinois.
Committee Member of Boy Scout Troop # 160
Co-Chairman of St. Zachary Parish Augustfest and involved in other programs at St. Zachary Parish.
Committee Chairman - Mt. Prospect Park District Recreation Committee
Committee Chairman - Mt. Prospect Park District Future Directions Committee
Committee Member - Mt. Prospect Park District Conservatory Committee
Elected offices held: Mt Prospect Park District Commissioner 2001-Present (held the position of Commissioner, Secretary, and I am currently the Vice-President).
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: NO
Key Issue 1
My number one campaign issue is to continue to run a park district that is fiscally responsible. The current Mt. Prospect Park District Board has made it a priority over the ten years I have been on the board to be conservative with our budgeting. While many government bodies are laying off employees, raising taxes, and cutting services, the Mt. Prospect Park District has not. In fact, 2010 marked the 10th year in a row that the Mt. Prospect Park District has received the Government Finance Officers Association Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting. During my time on the board the park district has also earned and kept a double AA bond rating, which has allowed us to save thousands of dollars a year in interest rates alone. Also, we have been able to accomplish major capital improvement projects without raising taxes once! In the current economy it's important to continue to be conservative with budgeting and look at every budget item to see where and how we can continue to save money.
Key Issue 2
One of the fundamentals of park districts is to provide quality open space and safe playgrounds in our 30 local and community parks. The Mt. Prospect Park District has some amazing local parks, and hundreds of residents use the parks throughout the summer for baseball, softball, soccer, football, walking, and of course for their children to play on the playgrounds. Over the past few years we have redesigned and updated many parks including Friendship Park, Beau Drive Park, Prospect Meadows Park, Sunset Park, Melas Park, and more. This may not sound like a major task, but construction, groundwork, and the replacement of playground equipment is a large capital project. The current board has made it a policy to involve residents who live around the park we are updating by creating a resident design committee. Neighborhoods around the park are flyered, and the residents who respond actually design the playground equipment that will be used. This has allowed the local residents who use the park and playground to have ownership in their new park. If re-elected I will continue to make sure the redesigning and updating of parks stays a priority.
Key Issue 3
Before I became a park district commissioner in 2001, the board at the time promised the community and the local veterans that we would have the Lions Park maintenance facility torn down and the area around the Veteran's Memorial Bandshell at Lions Memorial Park would be a place to gather and remember all of those who have served our country. It is ten years later, and we are finally at the stage of taking down the Lions maintenance garage and creating an amazing memorial garden and fountain area. The Mt. Prospect Parks Foundation has taken on the task of raising funds to help cover the cost of this project. If re-elected the completion of this project will be a major priority. We owe it to the veterans who live in the park district and surrounding area to have a fitting tribute that will be there for many years to come. It is also a priority to me that this project joins the list of past major capital projects and is completed without raising taxes on the residents.
What programs aren't paying for themselves? Would you keep, eliminate or change them? How and why?
Anyone who has ever looked at a park district brochure knows that we offer an amazing amount of programs. These programs are reviewed by staff quarterly to make sure that they meet the needs of the residents and are financially reasonable for the district to offer. Many of the classes and programs are self-funded by the use of user fees. Even though the economy has affected the park district just like every other government agency, business, and individual in the community, I don't see any need to make major changes in the programs we are currently offering.
One of the consistent revenue increases year after year is the revenue from programs. There are many reasons for the increase, and one of them is the fact that our staff stays on top of the situation by adding and eliminating programs as needed. This allows the park district to provide the best opportunities for the residents. In 2009 the district saw in increase in program revenue of just over $79,000. In 2010 there was another increase in program revenue of over $131,000. These numbers alone show that the district keeps on top of the programs we offer, and will continue to do so well into the future.
Is there any additional open space the park district needs to acquire? Please describe.
The Mt. Prospect Park District is located in a heavily populated area, and the district is land locked by homes and business developments. Even though this is the case, it's still important that the district keeps an eye out and considers opportunities as they arise. During my time on the board we were presented with a few opportunities to purchase property and additional open space, and while a majority of it was not useful to the district we were able to purchase the final piece of property at Friendship Park. This purchase not only gave us the remainder of the land to complete the park, but it also gave us a building that will be used in the future to supplement the Friendship Park Conservatory. Even though we will continue to keep an eye out for open space, if re-elected I will make sure we focus more on the maintenance and updating of facilities and parks the district already owns. Many of our facilities are coming into the age where roofs and other equipment are going to need to be replaced, and some of these repairs can cost a lot of money. For example, the roof at Rec Plex is 20 years old and will soon need to be replaced. Due to this size of the facility the estimated cost of this project will be over one and a half million dollars. These projects need to be accomplished before they build up, and we are caught with millions of dollars in repairs and no money to complete all the needed updates. If re-elected I will promise to keep an eye out for open space in the park district. I will also focus on the updating of the current facilities, and make sure there is a proper schedule in place so those repairs are done over time without any increase in taxes to the residents.
Are there any unmet recreational needs? If yes, what are they and how would you propose paying for them? Or, should they wait until the economy improves?
I feel the Mt. Prospect Park District has at least one program or class that would appeal to a majority of the residents. Of course there are always going to be some unmet recreational needs. One of the largest that has been discussed in the past is the creation of a dog park. Some park districts do not allow dogs to be in their parks at all, but in the Mt. Prospect Park District dogs are allowed as long as they are on a leash. Many residents would still like a location where they can go and allow their dogs to socialize and run without a leash. I feel this is a worthwhile project, but in these economic times it would be important to fund this project through the use of a grant or private sponsorships.
Another area that needs to have more programming and recreational needs addressed is the senior citizens. As the baby boomer generation continues to age, there is a larger amount of the population that is looking for more recreational opportunities. I would like to see more facilitated day trips to locations around the area, and I think the district could start offering more classes for the residents to get involved in. These programs would not cause a burden on the district because the residents would pay a fee to participate in them. It would also be a good idea to offer lectures and seminars on issues that are of particular interest to the residents. Finally, the greenhouse at the Friendship Park Conservatory offers a great facility and opportunity to use additional volunteers to help plant and care for flowers. I would like to see that program increased and get more residents involved in giving back to the community and the park district.
There are also a number of recreational needs for the teenage to young adult age group that could be accomplished with little cost. We offer some day trips throughout the year to locations like Great America and other places that are enjoyed by that age group. I would like to see those offerings increased and get more publicity about these trips and our Friday teen night at Rec Plex by working with the schools to get the information into the parents hands. Another recreational idea for this age group would be the creation of a frisbee-golf course. This would have a very minimal cost to implement and it would be just one more opportunity our district can offer to the residents without a cost to participate.
The Mt. Prospect Park District is lucky to have a very qualified and dedicated staff that are always reviewing the recreational offerings in the district, and are constantly changing things to offer more recreational programs and a better quality program to the residents.
Would you support sharing/pooling resources (i.e. printing, vehicles) with other local governments (school districts, village, etc.)? If so, what areas would you consider combining or merging to save money or improve efficiency?
As a member of the current Mt. Prospect Park District board we have always thought sharing and pooling resources was not only in our best interest, but in the best interest of the residents too. The district already is very active on sharing resources with many other government agencies. Currently, we share the use of facilities in School District 214, 59, and 57. This has given us the opportunity to use their facilities for programs like basketball. In turn many of the schools in the district have playgrounds that are owned and maintained by the park district.
Another way the district is sharing/pooling resources is by the partnership we have with the River Trails Park District and the Prospect Heights Park District. Through this partnership all programs and most facilities offered by the three park districts are available to anyone living within the three park district boundaries. A resident of one of those three districts will be considered a resident in the other two park districts, allowing them to enroll in classes and programs at resident rates. By accomplishing this partnership the Mt. Prospect Park District has expanded the choices of programs and facilities to the residents without increasing any costs.
The park district also has a great relationship with the Village of Mt. Prospect and the Public Works Department. During events like the mid-summer block party and other functions the park district has been requested to jump in and help out to make sure things run smoothly. In turn the park district has also asked the village for help in times of need.
Even with all of those examples there are always more ways to save money and increase sharing/pooling of resources. One major example is all government bodies including school districts, library district, village, and park districts get together when ordering office supplies and cleaning supplies. Many times companies will give price discounts depending on the quantity ordered. If local governments got together they would be able to place one order and could see substantial decreases in those budgeted line items. I will always be open to sitting down with the other government agencies and figuring out if there would be other resources we could pool together to help save money. Sharing/Pooling resources are a win/win for the different government agencies, and have the ability to significantly lower costs to each agency.
If you are a newcomer, what prompted you to run for the park board? If you're an incumbent, list your accomplishments or key initiatives in which you played a leadership role.
One of the great accomplishments of the Mt. Prospect Park District, and the main reasons why it is an exceptional organization is because of the teamwork. The current board of commissioners works together on all issues we are faced with. While there are times we don't agree, we know that each person on the board is voting on how they feel will be the best direction for the overall district and the residents. Our park district is also lucky because we have an amazing staff that works fantastically with the current board. I will not take credit for the accomplishments of the park district. Everything that has been accomplished during my 10 years has been due to the teamwork and dedication from the staff and entire board of commissioners. Some of the accomplishments that I'm most proud of over the last few years are listed below.
• The first accomplishment is the opening of the new park district maintenance facility. This has allowed all of our maintenance resources to be located under one roof. It has streamlined our organization and created less down time driving to multiple facilities picking up equipment. This project has also allowed for us to remove the old facility and finally complete the Veteran's Memorial Bandshell with the creation of a memorial garden area.
• The second is the construction and opening of Meadows Pool. This facility is our only flat-water outdoor pool. Since the opening of this facility we continue to see usage and revenue increase. In 2010 we saw in increase of over $25,000. This pool is a fantastic facility and was built without an increase in taxes to the residents.
• The third is the construction and opening of Central Community Center. This facility is not only the home of the administrative offices for the park district, but it also houses an in-line skate rink, fitness center, and basketball courts. This facility continues to gain popularity in the district. In 2010 we saw in increase of 7 percent for Central Community Center programs, and a 6 percent increase for the facility fees paid. Once again, this project was completed without an increase in taxes to the residents.
• The partnership with the River Trails Park District and Prospect Heights Park District is another accomplishment that I am proud of. This agreement allows residents from all three districts to use most facilities and all programs without having to pay non-resident rates. This program has not only brought more money into our district by increasing the pool of people who want to take our classes, but it has also given our residents more options for their recreational needs.
• Finally, the project I am most proud of is the redesigning and updating of local parks. Since I have been on the board a large number of parks have been redesigned and many playgrounds have been replaced. These include our largest and most expensive playground located at Friendship Park, Prospect Meadows Park, Sunset Park, Beau Drive Park, Melas Park, and Hill Street Nature Center (Hill Street was completed with the help of a grant). These parks are the life and blood of the district, and many times the first thing people think of when the park district is brought up in conversation. I look forward to working on continuing to update outdated parks in the future.