Richard G. Hamen: Candidate Profile
Prospect Heights Alderman, Ward 1
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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: Prospect Heights
Office sought: Prospect Heights Alderman, Ward 1
Family: 1 Daughter
Education: Harper College
Civic involvement: Freemason; Volunteer
Elected offices held: Alderman 1st Ward Prospect Heights 2007-Present
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: Yes, Drivers License.
Key Issue 1
The # 1 issue in Ward 1 is flooding. In 2007 and 2008 I was out there with you sandbagging River Road to protect our homes. During my first campaign I promised action on resolving this flooding isssue and I'm proud to report that during my 1st term in office we have seen unprecedented accomplishments.
Levy 37 contruction was begun and is almost completed. When Levy 37 is completed and accredited through FEMA then FEMA will designate this area as 'Food Zone X'. In my talks with FEMA this will mean that flood insurance will no longer be required. For the individual condo owner that is required to have flood insurance through their mortgage this will mean hundreds of dollars a year in savings. Each condo association will save hundreds of thousands of dollars and will help the associations meet their budget shortfalls without cutting services to their residents or raising the assessments on the owners. I helped approve a request for a grant that the Mayor brought forward. This grant will help pay for much of this work that is being done and will save the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Much work has been done within SSA5. This is the essential storm water management system that carries the storm water to the Des Plaines River and away from our homes. In years past this system had been ignored and was not funtioning properly. As I promised during my first campaign I made this a priority. We have put a check valve in the system to prevent water from backing up into the system from the river. Repairs have been made to pipes and sewers, The Willow Falls detention pond was dredged to accomodate more water which really helped in the spring of 2010 when all the snow melted and the detention ponds nearly reached capacity. We are going to dredge the ponds at Willow Woods. I want to work with Willow Heights to solve the flooding issue in their parking lots. The front parking lot floods easily because it was designed many years ago to retain water. I want to correct this so that Willow Heights residents do not have to worry about damage to their cars or having to walk through several inches of water to get to their cars. I believe that once a solution is reached to solve the fooding in the front parking lot at Willow Heights this will ease the burden of their sidewalks and courtyards flooding.
During my second term as your alderman I promise that I will keep this issue a priority and will work to maitain, repair, and improve the systems that protect our homes from flooding.
Key Issue 2
Declining revenues from the state has forced the city to make some tough choices. We need to work on bringing business to the city. The developer that owns the property where Dominicks used to be came to the city and requested that a deal be made to entice Meiers to come here. I helped approve an agreement that would share sales tax with the developer. This is what that developer asked for and he received it. The trouble is that the developer was still receiving rent payments from Dominicks and had no real incentive to move quickly so Meiers grew impatient and moved on. The developer did not hold up his end of the bargain and the city lost out. I am in favor of sales tax sharing agreements to entice business here to the city. In 2007 I was involved in talks with the Chicago Blackhawks to build a training facility and a community center here on the East Side at the old arena property. I was also involved in talks with United about moving to the old HSBC property when they announced they were moving from Elk Grove. While neither of these panned out I remain committed to exploring our options and bringing business to the city. Finding a tenant for the property where Dominicks used to be and redeveloping Palwaukee Plaza should be priorities so as raise revenue for the city through business. This plan will help ease the burden of the taxpayers.
During my second term as your alderman I promise that I will continue to work diligently on agreements with businesses to come to the city. This will bring jobs for the residents in Ward 1 as well as bring increased revenue for the city to provide services.
Key Issue 3
Where do you stand on Prospect Heights water ? Should all the city be on lake water; if so, how quickly and by what process? If not, explain your reasoning.
Answer 1: Here in the first Ward we are already on lake water. It is provided by Illinois American. In 2010 I went and testified against the Illinois American request for a rate increase. Here in the first ward we pay some of the highest rates for water in the area. In my view it is because Illinois American is a corporation that cares more about profit than service. Illinois American admitted that they were neglilgent and irresponsible in their business practices and that is why they were requesting a rate increase. It is my desire to drive Illinois American out of the area and connect the first ward to the city water system which will save us thousands of dollars, provide higher quality water, and provide much better service. I helped approve a water main extension near Wolf and Camp McDonald roads and I hope to use this to one day connect the first ward to the city municipal water system.
In 2007 I worked with residents of SSA6 to help reach a solution to improve their water supply. Many residents wanted to connect to lake water and many residents wanted to keep their wells. I helped draft an agreement that allows for a homeowner to connect to lake water and keep their well if they wish. I felt that it was absolutely essential to allow the homeowner the freedom to shoose as they wished, not as how the city told them. Today residents of SSA6 are either happily drinking lake water from the tap or happily drinking well water from the tap as they choose to do for themselves. I will support resident requests to connect to lake water so long as it does not infringe on a homeowners right to keep their well if they so choose.
During my second term as your alderman I promise to work with Illinois American to find ways to reduce our water rates, improve the quality of the water, and provide better service. If they will not then I will continue to actively find ways to remove them as a service provider and connect to the city municipal water system.
Should Prospect Heights actively try to raise more revenue to run the city, and if so, how? Could the current budget be cut? Where?
Answer 2: The city should actively work with he business community to raise revenue. Through increased business and sales we can meet our budget obligations and maintain a reasonable level of service to the community. During my first term as your alderman I worked with the mayor to identify and remove frivilous items from the budget such as magazine subscriptions for staff, personal vehicles for staff, club memberships for staff, etc. I felt that it was irresponsible to grant these priviledges to staff and cut services to residents. While I am not one to tell a person what they deserve to be paid here in Prospect Heights we simply cannot afford to be paying incredulously high salaries and granting lavish benefits. When our previous city administrator retired we went out to hire a new one and I am happy to say that we found a new city administrator that does a fantastic that we can afford. When the previous police chief decided to retire after many years of merriorious service we were fortunate to find a highly qualified gentleman for Chief of Police that we can afford.
I was in favor of the furloughs for city employees. These allowed the city to maintain a reasonable level of service to the community and allowed everyone to have a job. I was disapointed when despite our local police unions request to maintain the furloughs the union bosses and their lawyers fought the city and resulted in the layoffs of 6 highly dedicated officers. I supported the furloughs so that everyone could keep a job in these tough times but union bosses that are not even in Prospect Heights decided to play politics with their memberships lives. These same union bosses simply wanted to make their political statement for their own benefit without even regarding their own memberships well being. This aggregious act should in no way reflect poorly on our police officers who remain very professional, highly dedicated, and motivated to serve and protect our communities. I hope to sit down with union leadership and reach an agreement that makes sense for everyone and gives these officers their jobs back.
During my second term as your alderman I promise to maintain a budget that is responsible and reflective of our needs that is within our means. I will continue to work with state and federal representatives to achieve grants and funding and I will continue my work with the business community to bring jobs and revenue to the city.
Are you satisfied with the level of staffing in the police department? If not, describe what level of staffing the city should work toward.
Answer 3: I am not satisfied with the level of staffing in the police department. I was disapointed when despite our local police unions request to maintain the furloughs the union bosses and their lawyers fought the city and resulted in the layoffs of 6 highly dedicated officers. I supported the furloughs so that everyone could keep a job in these tough times but union bosses that are not even in Prospect Heights decided to play politics with their memberships lives. These same union bosses simply wanted to make their political statement for their own benefit without even regarding their own memberships well being. This aggregious act should in no way reflect poorly on our police officers who remain very professional, highly dedicated, and motivated to serve and protect our communities. I hope to sit down with union leadership and reach an agreement that makes sense for everyone and gives these officers their jobs back.
During my second term as your alderman I promise to continue to find ways to increase the level of staffing of our police department. I will always maintain an line of open communication with our local police union as well as their union leadership to resolve this situation.
The political culture in Prospect Hts. is poisonous. How do you, as an elected official, balance the needs and desires of people whose point of view is opposite your own? Or is that impossible?
Answer 4: I do not believe that the political culture in Prospect Heights is poisonous. Everyone has a view on what they want to see for the city. I have made it a point to sit down and talk with everyone. Sometimes we agree and sometimes we don't but the conversation is always professional and courteous. I would like to point out that although the alderman from the second ward is outright hostile and disrespectful to anyone that disagrees with him the working relationship of the council remains professional and dedicated to all of the people of Prospect Heights. As representatives of the people we should listen to what it is that they have to say and act on what it is that they want from their city. During my first term as your alderman I have always listened to what a person has to say and I always will. In my view there is nothing that we could possibly disagree on that cannot be resolved by open communication and a solution that makes sense for everyone reached.
During my second term as your alderman I promise to continue listening to everyones point of view and representing you and your desires for the direction of our city.
What should the city do for economic development? Should it focus on commercial or industrial? What is the best use of the land formerly meant to hold the arena?
Answer 5: The city should focus on commercial development. This is where a large portion of our revenues comes from. In 2007 I discussed with the Chicago Blackhawks the opportunity to build a training facility and community center on the old arena property. The mayor at that time and several council members were in favor of a 63 dock warehouse instead. I was against this as it would have brought no revenue directly to the city but it would have brought much more traffic and polution. Nothing was ever built because the developer pulled out after allegations of patronage arose and they noticed a lack of community support for smog, heavy traffic, noise, and reduced property values. The city has finally resolved lawsuits brought on by previous administrations including my opponent because of this arena property. I believe that a commercial development for this property would be best because it will bring jobs and revenue and will help increase the value of the properties in the community around it.
During my second term as your alderman I promise to continue working with the business community and the Mayor to bring a commercial development to the old arena property that will bring jobs, revenue, and increased property values.
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