Pete Connolly: Candidate Profile
DuPage Forest Preserve District 6
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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.
Office sought: DuPage Forest Preserve District 6
Family: Married, one son and two grandchildren
Occupation: Retired - Commericial banking 34 years
Education: Bachelor of Science in Finance,Wright State University,1969
Civic involvement: Board Member and Finance Committee member - The Conservation Foundation. Volunteer - Wayne Area Conservancy Volunteer - Wayne Historical Preservation Society Past President - Northwest Surburban Association of Commerence and Industry Past member - various chambers and business organizations.
Elected offices held: Current Village of Wayne Trustee(18 years, elected 5 times)
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No
Key Issue 1
It's key that the Forest Preserve District holds true to its original mission of 'protecting and preserving the flora, fauna and scenic beauty for the education, pleasure and recreation of the public'. This was the mission when the District was founded nearly 100 years ago and continues to be as important today as it was then. The District must remain a good steward of our 25,000 acres of open space. Those of us wishing to serve in a leadership position with the District must be committed to doing what's right for the long-term benefit of our open space and environment. Sometimes these decisions might not be popular in the short-term, but they are the right decisions to make in keeping true to the District's mission. I believe that open space is one of our most valuable assets, and its preservation through the time we devote and the taxes we pay, is one of the best investments we can make for our children, grandchildren and future generations. I'm committed to the District's mission and have a history of conservation involvement and in supporting open space and currently serve on the Board of The Conservation Foundation, one of the regions oldest and largest private conservation foundations.
Key Issue 2
In these tough economic times, leadership must be committed to making sure that the Forest Preserve District is vigilant in controlling its spending and that the District is maximizing the value of services for the taxpayer dollars it receives.
The District has a flattening revenue stream due to the slowdown in development in the County and lower returns on investments -- at the same time we have more residents using the preserves and the District services.
Board members must set the right priorities, be actively involved in the budgeting process and make sure that short-term fixes don't unnecessarily have negative effects on desired long-term goals.
I believe my 40 years of financial background, including over 3 decades of analyzing a wide variety of companies and helping them grow and create jobs will be beneficial to the District.
Key Issue 3
The Forest Preserve must remain accountable and responsive to the needs and concerns of its taxpayers. I believe the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County has grown to be one of the premier forest preserve districts in the state and is an acknowledged leader in open space preservation and environmental best practices. However, I have read several newspaper articles and attended District Board meetings where people have complained about information flow and transparency. The District is currently taking steps to enhance its website to address these issues and I'm committed to continuing this process so that all taxpayers are informed. I am also committed to the residents of District Six to be open and responsive to their concerns if I am fortunate enough to be elected as their representative.
Do you support continuing the effort to acquire County Lakes Golf Club in Naperville? Why or why not?
It would seem prudent that after pursuing this property since 1999 that the District needs to at least obtain a new appraisal to determine the current market value in order to make an informed decision regarding which direction it wants to go. If the current market value is reasonably close to the $10.7 million that has been set aside for the acquisition, and if the primary justification for the acquisition is based on the need for open space in this section of the County or storm water detention, I would be in favor of moving forward with the acquisition. The decision however should not be based on a desire to own and operate another golf course. If the current market value is significantly higher than the $10.7 million, I would want to reevaluate the property. The funds that have been set aside are bond proceeds that must be used for land acquisition. Therefore, would this property be the best use of these land acquisition funds'
My understanding is that the majority of Country Lakes property cannot be developed and the need for storm water detention still exists. If this is the case, other similar size properties in the District might carry significantly higher costs making this the most efficient use of these funds.
Should the district be in the golf course business' If so, please explain the benefit. If not, please detail why. Should the district consider selling any of its holdings'
I am not opposed to the Forest Preserve District continuing to operate its three existing golf courses.
Some of the primary reasons for acquiring these three courses were to preserve open space, to assist the County and surrounding municipalities with Flood Control issues and storm water detention. These reasons are still valid today. In addition, by continuing their use as existing golf courses, the District has been able to continue to provide reasonably priced outdoor recreation for the tax payers in the District.
Historically, until the fire at Oak Meadows, the three courses, on a combined basis, have been operated profitably and therefore, the golf courses have been a generator of positive cash flow for the District as well as fulfilling their other mission of open space, flood control and storm water detention. For the last couple of years they have generated large operating losses but have not been a cash drain on the District due to insurance recoveries related to the fire.
If the operation of the golf courses can return to generating positive cash flow for the District or if the negative cash flow is less than the cost of maintaining these properties as open space, then I would be in favor of continuing to offer this recreation to our taxpayers.
As to the District selling any of its holdings, the taxpayers of the Forest Preserve District have demonstrated their desire for open space by approving several land acquisition referendums; therefore it's hard to see a scenario where I would support this action. Open space is a rare commodity, we are blessed with 25,000 acres under Forest Preserve supervision here in DuPage County and investing in its care and preservation is one of the best things we can do for our children and future generations.
Comment on the forest preserve's current land acquisition policy: Too aggressive? Too passive? Just right?
I feel the current land acquisition policy is very appropriate for where the Forest Preserve and DuPage County are at this time. There have been three major acquisitions with individual purchase prices in excess of $10 million since 2005 with the last one in 2009; these purchases added an additional 519 acres of open space to the District at a cost of $59 million. In 2010 and 2011, of the 17 acquisitions, only one had a cost in excess of $2 million. Most of these smaller acquisitions contain either floodplains or wetlands or provide a connection or link between preserves or trails. I believe these smaller strategic acquisitions should be the focus going forward.
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