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posted: 10/25/2012 1:11 PM

County board Dist. 2 hopefuls discuss diversity in DuPage

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  • From upper left: Democrat Elizabeth Chaplin and Republicans Pete DiCianni, Sean Noonan and Elaine Zannis

      From upper left: Democrat Elizabeth Chaplin and Republicans Pete DiCianni, Sean Noonan and Elaine Zannis

 

With no incumbents running for the three District 2 seats up for election Nov. 6 on the DuPage County Board, residents are guaranteed some fresh faces.

And as the four candidates -- three Republicans and one Democrat -- vie to add more professional and gender diversity to the board, they also shared their ideas in written questionnaires on how to manage growing ethnic diversity in DuPage.

DuPage's minority population increased by 43 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Whereas minorities were just 21 percent of the population in 2000, they now make up almost 30 percent of residents.

Democrat Elizabeth "Liz" Chaplin of Downers Grove, who has served two terms on the DuPage Water Commission, said handling the change starts with having a board that accurately represents the county's demographics.

"The DuPage County Board itself is lacking diversity," she said. "I believe one of the best ways to manage growing diversity is have a diverse board."

Republican Peter "Pete" DiCianni, who is also the mayor of Elmhurst, said his family's history as Irish and Italian immigrants informs his opinion that America was built upon diversity.

"As long as (people are) hardworking, strong in their faith and family values, pay their fair share and enter this country legally as my grandparents did when they came from their respective countries, diversity is great," DiCianni said.

"It is when people enter this country illegally, don't pay their fair share and are a burden on society that I take issue ... I have been blessed and have grown up in a community that has given me great opportunity; now it's time to make sure we pass an even better opportunity to our children as well as being mindful of the seniors that have paved the way for our families," he said.

Republican Sean T. Noonan of Elmhurst, who has served as a precinct committeeman for the York Township Republicans, said providing necessary services is key for managing diversity shifts. That includes creating transportation routes that make DuPage accessible, affordable housing, high-achieving schools and maintaining parks and open space, he said.

"With the large ethnic population in Chicago, I feel there will be a continued increase in population by individuals from diversified backgrounds, creating a strain on services that are offered (and) forcing the service providers to do more with less," Noonan said.

"In an effort to accommodate any increase in population, the county will need to prioritize and get rid of structural waste," he said. "There is a significant amount of abandoned commercial properties throughout DuPage that can be redeveloped as either residential areas or refurbished as businesses so employment opportunities can become available."

Republican Elaine Zannis of Oak Brook, who is also a village trustee, said the population changes can be "productive and very exciting" if handled properly.

"Growth and growing diversity is best managed by identifying it, understanding its characteristics, knowing its drivers and proactively instituting policies, processes and infrastructure to support it," Zannis said.

District 2 includes all or parts of Clarendon Hills, Downers Grove, Elmhurst, Hinsdale, Lisle, Lombard, Oak Brook, Oakbrook Terrace, Villa Park, Westmont and Woodridge.

The District 2 term will be for either two or four years.

With the exception of the chairman's post, all county board seats are up for election. That's because once every 10 years, the county redraws district boundaries based on the latest U.S. Census results.

Next, the county board will hold a lottery to determine which three seats will start with 4-year terms, and which will have 2-year terms.

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