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updated: 2/10/2012 4:19 PM

Dennis Clark: Candidate Profile

DuPage Forest Preserve District 5 (Democrat)

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  • Dennis Clark, running for DuPage Forest Preserve District 5

      Dennis Clark, running for DuPage Forest Preserve District 5

 

 

 

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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.

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BioKey IssuesQ&A

 

Bio

City: Winfield

Website: http://www.electdennisclark.com

Office sought: DuPage Forest Preserve District 5

Age: 56

Family: The Clark family consists of Dennis and Christine and daughter Alyssa.

Occupation: Principal of Clark Property Consultants, Inc., a firm that specializes in construction monitoring and property due diligence inspections for national banks, regional banks, insurance companies and pension funds.

Education: Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering Master's in Business Administration Illinois Real Estate Managing Brokers License OSHA 30 Safety Training Six Sigma Training Morton Arboretum Certified Woodland Steward Morton Arboretum Certified Naturalist

Civic involvement: Illinois Nature Preserve Commission Village of Winfield Plan Commissioner -- Third Term Village of Winfield Zoning Commissioner Director Illinois Prairie Path (and Life Time Member) West Chicago Prairie Stewardship Group Conservation Foundation Member Morton Arboretum Member and Volunteer DuPage County Forest Preserve Volunteer Local River Monitor Director Winfield United President of West-Win Homeowners' Association (700+ homeowners in unincorporated DuPage County dedicated to preserving a rural lifestyle)

Elected offices held: None

Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No

Candidate's Key Issues

Key Issue 1

Protection of the Forest Preserve Lands and Focus on the Mission Statement.

Although acquisition of open lands has been the foundation of the Forest Preserve, the real challenge will be to protect and transform the land holdings to maintain the ecosystem and still support the diverse interests of DuPage County residents.

The Mission Statement clearly points to the Forest Preserve being a steward of the land.

With the study of urbanization and the environment our knowledge of the broad interdependency of living creatures grows with time.

The Forest Preserve needs to benefit from this increased knowledge and include it in their land management practices.

All plants are not created equal in their ability to thrive and support wildlife and we are replacing native plants with non-native plants at an alarming rate in our developer planned subdivisions.

The Forest Preserve needs to take a more progressive role in education and lead by example by bringing native plants to our Forest Preserves and suburban ecosystems.

The biodiversity that this creates is the key to maintaining a healthy environment for all creatures.

Key Issue 2

Watershed management, quality of the wetlands, and flood control.

Watershed management is essential to create a significant impact on the quality of water entering our rivers, stream and wetland areas at the most economical cost.

Clean water is crucial to a vibrant and sustainable environment.

The Forest Preserve should work more closely and cooperatively with organizations throughout DuPage County to develop logical procedures to improve water quality through monitoring, reporting and improvements.

Wetlands are some of the most productive ecosystems in the world.

They also act like a sponge for pollutants, sediments, organic waste and inorganic nutrients.

The creation of additional wetlands could have a positive impact on the quality of water, biodiversity and flooding relief.

Leadership and cooperation is needed so that watershed management, quality of wetlands and flood control are managed together.

Key Issue 3

No bid contracts, transparency, ethics and taxpayer funded political signs.

The Forest Preserve is substantially supported with property taxes and therefore should have significant accountability to the public.

However, the Forest Preserve routinely enters into no-bid contracts with some contracts exceeding $500,000.

A comparison of those firms that receive these no-bid contracts and a check on the State Election web site for campaign contributions clearly shows a direct link between no-bid contracts and campaign contributions.

This practice results in some Board members personally profiting from these no-bid contracts.

The Forest Preserve Board, led by the President, has fiercely defended this type of pay to play.

This position is supported by the Forest Preserve's general counsel whose own no-bid contract was renewed by the existing Board shortly after the last election.

It should be noted that the general counsel provided $2,500 contributions (the maximum allowed by law) to three of the Forest Preserve candidates in the last election and enjoys a parttime job at the Forest Preserve that pays him about $400,000 annually. In the last 10 years, he has collected over $3.5M in compensation for this part time post.

This practice of accepting contributions from those with whom the Forest Preserve does business, especially on a no-bid basis, simply needs to end!

The Forest Preserve should be a leader in transparency, but has received an ?F? from the Better Government Association.

What could there be to hide at the Forest Preserve?

Rather than sitting down with taxpayers to discuss complaints or explain decisions, positions or actions, taxpayers are forced to submit Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

This only breeds discontent and suspicion and hampers the ability of residents to be part of the process.

This policy of stonewalling and forcing the public to submit FOIA requests takes valuable staff time and has cost the taxpayers tens-of-thousands of dollars each year because of the Board's position of not communicating with the public in an open fashion. The Forest Preserve is also missing the opportunity to gain from the collective wisdom of the public.

The Board should immediately reverse their policy and begin to welcome public participation. The Forest Preserve Ethics Committee has never met since it was formed in 2003.

The makeup of the Committee is such that there would be a conflict of interest.

After sitting through almost three years of Board meetings, participating in an election for an open seat on the Forest Preserve Board and making presentations to the Board, I have observed numerous ethics violations.

The Ethics Committee appointments need to be made by the full Board and not just the President and should consist of a combination of Board members, employees, outside experts and at least one citizen. The Ethics committee should hear complaints and act on violations by the Board and this should start immediately. Almost every major street entrance to a Forest Preserve land holding is identified with a taxpayer funded monument sign that includes the name of the preserve and the name of the President of the Forest Preserve.

The State has outlawed this practice for State agencies. It is time that the DuPage Forest Preserve Board stepped up to end this waste of

money by approving an ordinance that prohibits this type of taxpayer funded electioneering.

Questions & Answers

Do you support continuing the effort to acquire County Lakes Golf Club in Naperville? Why or why not?

This project has been in a legal holding pattern for 17 years. It is time to move forward.

I believe a new dialog should be opened with the property owners; with new representatives from the Forest Preserve.

I disagree with the District's practice of using eminent domain with a below value offer followed by the use of the court system to essentially place the owner in duress.

With this approach, the dialog usually breaks down and others profit as the issue chugs along through the legal system. With the Country Lakes Golf Club case, the Forest Preserve is looking at a new purchase price of $20M rather than the $10M envisioned 17 years ago at the start of the process.

This decision was recently handed down by the Illinois Supreme Court and included a payment of $1.5M to reimburse the owner for legal expenses if the Forest Preserve does not proceed with the purchase.

I understand, at the time of this writing, that the Forest Preserve is appealing this decision.

With that said, I do not support the Forest Preserve plans to operate another golf course and banquet hall.

The current DuPage Forest Preserve owned and managed golf courses are losing about $500,000 annually.

I do support purchasing additional lands; lands that have ecological features of interest to the forest preserve; lands that could benefit from preservation; and lands that could help control flooding and stormwater management for residents.

All land purchases need to be viewed

through this type of lens.

I am sure that, under the right leadership, a team of stakeholders could be assembled to develop a comprehensive land plan that could be in the best interest of all.

I am excited about the wetlands and ponds on the golf course property.

Under the right management, the wetlands could provide a major improvement for the whole watershed and be a summer home or visiting stop over for migrating waterfowl.

There is also a great potential for restoring large swaths of the area to open grasslands to help return the bio-diversity these lands once provided.

These restored grasslands of native plantings could be home to species like meadowlarks, dickcissels, and bobolinks as well as the state-endangered northern harriers and short-eared owls.

This decision of whether or not to acquire the golf club, like all others concerning taxpayer money, needs to be handled in a responsible manner.

There is a duty to the taxpayers, the citizens who are experiencing flooding, the citizens who purchased property next to the golf course, the wildlife and the owners of the property to bring this issue to a close.

Leadership by the Forest Preserve needs to bring people together, to make decisions and to move this project forward.

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'

The three golf courses currently operated by the Forest Preserve are losing about $500,000 annually according to the audited financial statements and the recent golf system operations audit.

Assuming that the accounting is correct, it is clear that this issue should be (and should have been) addressed.

Many municipalities have privatized their golf operations with excellent success.

Kane and Cook County Forest Preserves have been privatized as well as Lake County's banquet/food& beverage operations at most courses.

Since 2003, about nine golf courses in the western Chicago region have been closed.

A number of other private courses are struggling and reports suggest that several private operators have been talking to public sector entities about being acquired.

And just recently, the Lake County Forest Preserve Board received no responses to its published request for proposal to fund, construct and operate a 9-hole golf course at the Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve.

Golfing has gone through dramatic changes in the last 10 years with significant decreases in participation and an accompanying drop off of capital reinvestments.

This has the net effect of deceasing the maintenance and upkeep of all courses. The Forest Preserve's own courses are seeing annualized decreases of 5% or more in revenues and pressure on their capital programs to postponed improvements.

The overriding reason provided to the public for purchase of the three current golf courses and the possible acquisition of the Country Lakes in Naperville is for flood control.

Oak Meadows golf course has been inundated by flooding several times in its history and all courses have been impacted on the average of 10 days per year.

This severely affects revenue.

Discussions at the Forest Preserve are currently focused on realignment of the holes to overcome flooding obstacles and the possibility of a new clubhouse.

This will cost millions of dollars!

Turf grasses absorb less runoff than native landscaping. When managed in a traditional golf course fashion, fertilizers and pesticides flow off easily to nearby waterways negatively impacting the entire watershed.

Stormwater runoff and non-point source pollution from golf courses add nitrogen and phosphorous to water and promote algae growth.

The pesticides used on courses can injure and kill fish and amphibians and pose health hazards to humans.

In DuPage County there is an oversupply of courses along with a declining market. It is time to return these lands to flood plain, wetlands and open savannas in keeping with the Mission Statement of the Forest Preserve.

The Forest Preserve is restricted from selling land to private organizations once it has been acquired.

This is specified in the Downstate Forest Preserve Act that controls these decisions.

However, the Forest Preserve can sell land to another governmental agency.

I do not see the need to sell any of the current land holdings.

Comment on the forest preserve's current land acquisition policy: Too aggressive? Too passive? Just right?

The Citizens of DuPage County have supported land acquisitions through past referendums.

Even in this difficult economy, Kane County residents approved a $30M referendum last year for land purchases. Thus, my beliefs are in agreement with the majority of the citizens that land acquisitions should continue. But the focus should be realigned to one of obtaining value for land purchases.

Value in terms of connecting our existing preserves with trails and providing green corridors for wildlife.

Value in working together with other governmental agencies to maximize taxpayer dollars to create wetlands and control flooding at the same time.

And value in terms of the quality of lands that are acquired.

To restore marginal lands to a productive ecosystem is very difficult and success is not common.

The vision that people had 100 years ago in starting the DuPage Forest Preserve has truly benefitted the citizens.

Previously purchases of marginal lands may have helped certain parties, but they are a drain on the Forest Preserve resources today. We need to be more selective in our purchases. The opportunity taken by the Forest Preserve in the past to make headline news with purchases of large tracks of land should be behind us now as we head into what will be considered the final phase of the land purchase program for DuPage County. As the build out of DuPage County continues, the Forest Preserve needs to act quickly to acquire the quality pieces of land remaining and the current price of real estate makes this an ideal time.

However, they also need to be good stewards of the current land holdings.

As a Certified Woodland Steward, a Certified Naturalist and a volunteer I can see that much needs to be done in upgrading and maintaining our current land holdings. We need a long term vision and understanding, just like 100 years ago when the Forest Preserve was started, that the land purchases today will be preserved forever.

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