When it comes to whether the DuPage County Forest District is open and transparent, both candidates in the District 2 commissioner race are accusing each other of spinning the facts.
Republican incumbent Joseph Cantore recently took aim at his challenger Donald Kirchenberg and other local Democrats for criticizing the district's efforts to provide more information to the public.
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"They do it just to make hay in an election year," Cantore said. "People can find out whatever they want about the forest preserve very easily. I don't know how much more easy we can make it."
The commissioner from Oak Brook was referring to the "Transparency Portal" that was launched earlier this year on the district's website.
The portal is designed to serve as a central source of frequently requested information, including financial reports and budgets, employee salary data and a searchable "open checkbook" showing district spending.
"If you want to find out about an expenditure, it's all at your fingertips," Cantore said. "And if you can't figure it out, all you have to do is call, and we will give it to you."
However, Kirchenberg claims details about some expenditures aren't on the website. "There's millions of dollars of spending that's missing," the Downers Grove resident said.
Kirchenberg went on to say that if the forest preserve commission wanted to be more open, it would schedule more night meetings to give residents a greater opportunity to attend.
"The meetings should be videotaped," he said. "They should be broadcast on cable and the Internet."
Kirchenberg said he would seek other changes if he's elected to represent District 2, which includes all or parts of Clarendon Hills, Downers Grove, Elmhurst, Hinsdale, Lisle, Lombard, Oak Brook, Oakbrook Terrace, Villa Park, Westmont and Woodridge.
In addition to trying to reduce the number of single-bid contracts awarded by the forest preserve district, Kirchenberg said he would push for an ordinance prohibiting commissioners from accepting campaign contributions from vendors who do business with the district.
"You stop both and you work harder to make sure that other companies are included (in the bidding process)," Kirchenberg said. "There's many good companies in DuPage. Why aren't more of them involved in submitting bids?"
Kirchenberg also criticized the forest preserve district's land acquisition policy, calling it "more reactive than proactive."
Cantore, however, says the district's land acquisition policy is "just right."
"We look for properties providing connecting linkages for trails, (privately owned land) in existing preserves, buffers along stream corridors and those areas vital in the protection and preservation of our natural resources," said Cantore, adding that he's been "ardently opposed" to the use of eminent domain or condemnation.